In Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals Monday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins escaped victoriously in a close and high-intensity match. Evgeni Malkin, Eric Fehr and Ian Cole all scored and helped Pittsburgh swim past the Sharks, 3-1. The Penguins are now one win away from the Stanley Cup.
After a shaky Game 3, rookie goalie Matt Murray was unbelievable in Game 4, making 20 saves on 21 shots. The third period was huge for Murray, stopping 11 of 12 shots. In the third period, the Sharks played more physically, outhitting the Penguins, 10-3, but the Penguins withstood the barrage.
The Penguins took a bite out of the Sharks’ momentum early, with Cole’s first career postseason goal coming in the first half of the first period. After that, the Sharks seemed to lose some swagger and the electricity of the crowd escaped through the ceiling of SAP Center.
“I hit a lot of posts, a lot of sticks; pucks were going to the open net and tey’d get tipped wide,” Cole said. “It was a weird year in that sense. It’s nice to finally get that one. I was saving a special one for a special game.”
The Penguins increased their lead with a power-play goal from Malkin in the second. Sharks forward Melker Karlsson, playing in place of the injured Tomas Hartl, scored at 8:07 in the third period to give his team a decent crack at bringing the game back to a draw but the Sharks couldn’t put anything else together despite outshooting the Penguins 12-7 in the period.
Unfortunately for the Sharks, Fehr scored what could be the biggest goal of his career, giving Pittsburgh a two goal advantage with just minutes left in the game.
Next Man Up
The Penguins have had consistent success in having a new player step up in each game and put their stamp on the game. Monday night fans saw two players who are not meant to be pure goal scorers come up big and put the Sharks away.
Through injuries and healthy scratches, coach Mike Sullivan is the cornerstone to so many young players making such a big impact on the game. Being able to make in-game adjustments and not allowing ego to get in the way, the locker room chemistry looks to be at an all-time high, now with Pittsburgh one game away from lifting the Stanley Cup.
Murray is another one of these unsuspecting players that made a great impact. If not for Murray’s ability to stay calm and collected in the heat of the moment, the Penguins may not have escaped the grasp of the Washington Capitals.
The young 22-year-old goaltender has made his name known and should be in line for the series MVP award. His skillset in addition to his ability on the ice itself makes him the envy of the league.
One More Win
For the first time since 2007-08 the Penguins have the chance to hoist the Stanley Cup. While there is surely not a drought of championships the city possesses, the last time any major sports franchise has clinched a title in the city of Pittsburgh was 1960.
The Penguins have a chance to end all of that on Thursday night. With a home crowd at Consol Energy Center and only a win away from winning it all, expect the Penguins to jump early on any mistakes San Jose coughs up.
Sullivan will have his team prepared both on the ice and mentally. A journey that began all the way back in the fall is close to wrapping up. The road to glory has been so very challenging for a team that saw its coach leave and two biggest stars either struggle mightily early on or face tough injuries.
Pittsburgh will be ready to play what will be a legacy game in many respects. Now, with the real chance of Sidney Crosby and Malkin being able to win the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup, there is nothing that will stop the dynamic duo from achieving their goal.
The stage is now set for a Game 5 that will be hosted by the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center. The game will begin at 8 p.m.
Photo credit: @Penguins