The Pittsburgh Penguins are on the verge of winning the Stanley Cup for the fourth time in franchise history and can do so tonight on home ice. The icing on the cake is the fact that the Penguins can become the first Pittsburgh team to win a championship in the “Burgh” since Bill Mazeroski hit a walk-off home run to win the 1960 World Series.
Before the series began, many thought that the San Jose Sharks would be the more dominant team en route to winning the series. While they are the more physical team, Pittsburgh is faster and has more depth. The speed of the Penguins is really bothering the heavy-hitting Sharks.
In Game 1, the Penguins matched the Sharks hit-for-hit as both teams ended with 36. In that game, Pittsburgh jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first period when Bryan Rust and Conor Sheary both found the back of the net. The Sharks would tie the game in the second behind goals from Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau. The game remained tied until the clock showed 2:33 remaining and Nick Bonino found the back of the net.
Pittsburgh emerged victorious 2-1 in Game 2, a game that went to overtime. Neither team registered a goal in the first period. Phil Kessel, who is playing in his first Stanley Cup Final notched his first-career Finals goal in the second to give his team a 1-0 lead. Pittsburgh looked to be the better team, but couldn’t put the Sharks away. Justin Braun tipped in a shot with just over four minutes remaining to tie the game and essentially force overtime. Sheary didn’t have time for an extra period and ripped a slap shot past Martin Jones just 2:35 into the extra session. That came off a won faceoff by captain Sidney Crosby, which the Sharks claimed he cheated on.
As far as addressing that, it’s like Barry Melrose said on SportsCenter after the game; “in the NFL there is holding on every play and it doesn’t get called, in the NBA there are travels on most possessions that don’t get called”. Crosby won the faceoff and that propelled his team to victory.
The Sharks needed to go home and protect home ice much like the Penguins did. In Game 3, they did just that as they won 3-2 in overtime when Joonas Donskoi gave the Sharks their first Stanley Cup Final victory in franchise history at the 12:18 mark of the overtime period. The two teams exchanged the lead throughout regulation and Joel Ward tied the game at 2-2 8:48 into the third period.
Pittsburgh jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in Game 4 when Ian Cole scored 7:36 into the game. Evgeni Malkin notched his first goal of the series on the power play 2:37 into the second period. That would prove to be enough as the Sharks only managed one goal off the stick of Melker Karlsson at the 8:07 mark of the third period. Eric Fehr put the game on ice with 2:02 left to give his team a 3-1 victory and series lead heading back to Pittsburgh.
The Sharks have yet to lead in regulation and the only time they led was when they won in overtime in Game 3. Pittsburgh isn’t even getting the scoring production from Crosby as he has just two assists in the series, but he is still playing magnificently. He is making plays, winning face offs and making his teammates around him better.
Matt Murray, who is a 22-year old rookie is playing well yet again, as he has stopped 91 of the 98 shots he has faced. He is certainly in the running for the Conn Smythe Trophy. If he is able to put together another quality game at home tonight, the Pens could very well hoist the Cup on home ice.
This isn’t the series many thought it would be and tonight the Penguins can make history and really energize the city. The last time a Pittsburgh team won a championship was in 2009 when both the Penguins and Steelers brought home the hardware.
Can the Sharks take a bite out of this lead and force a Game 6 back in San Jose or will the Penguins and its fans be celebrating tonight? We find out at 8 pm on NBC.