The San Jose Sharks looked to even up the series on home ice and head back to Pittsburgh with the series tied at two games apiece. While the Pens, on the other hand, looked to take a commanding 3-1 series lead going back home. The Sharks are without Tomas Hertl for the second game in a row as he is out with a lower-body injury. San Jose will look to keep their home crowd in the game early with Metallica playing the National Anthem and by Martin Jones coming off a huge Game 3. If the Sharks keep the crowd in it early they will have an easier time while the Penguins will look to take them out of the game.
Well both teams had their hopes fulfilled:
It was a very odd start to this Game 4, here on Monday night. What I mean were both teams each started off very slow but it was a very fast-paced start to the game. There were only two stoppages within the first six minutes of the game and both teams only managed one shot in these six minutes, a very unlikely start to the game. So the crowd was not loud but still excited as this game got underway.
The Penguins would then get their wish right away and score just 7:36 into the opening period. Pens star Evgeni Malkin would dish the puck to a sprinting Phil Kessel at the red line. Kessel would grab the puck and go into the offensive zone on a one v one rush with the Sharks D. Kessel was pushed to the outside on the right dot but was able to get a wrist shot on net. The shot was easily blockered away by Sharks goalie Martin Jones over to the circle on the left dot. Unfortunately for Jones, the puck went right to the stick of Pens defender Ian Cole who jumped up into the play. Cole quickly released a snapshot and beat the sprawling Jones over the blocker for the 1-0 lead. This was Cole’s first ever career playoff goal.
Pittsburgh would then go right back on the prowl looking to increase their lead just four minutes later. Sharks D-man Marc-Edouard Vlasic would get caught for interference on Pens captain Sidney Crosby. This sent the Pens to their first power play of the game where they are a terrible 0/6 overall in the Finals on the PP. Pittsburgh would only manage three shots, and thanks to some stellar saves from Jones, the Sharks killed off the penalty.
San Jose would then get their chance three minutes later on their first man advantage of the game. Pens defender Ben Lovejoy would get caught holding the stick of Sharks vet Patrick Marleau. The Sharks would get a ton of pressure in the offensive zone but only threw two shots on target and the Penguins killed it off.
After the Penguins fairly early goal to start the contest, the game settled down a bit. Both clubs had flurries of a couple minutes on the attack, but most of the times their shots either missed or went over the net. The two teams were unable to achieve more than 10 shots on net with San Jose leading 8-6 in shots. The first period ended with the Pens still up 1-0 on the scoreboard.
The second period started with the Sharks taking another penalty 2:28 into the period in the attacking zone. San Jose’s Melker Karlsson would get called for a two-minute interference call on Penguins winger Eric Fehr. The Penguins wasted no time as they would tally just nine seconds into the power play. Pittsburgh D-man Kris Letang, on the top of the point in the middle, would fire a pass over to Phil Kessel on top of the left circle. Kessel would slide a foot or two forwards and rifle a pass, through a maze of players in the slot, over to Evgeni Malkin who was standing right on the backdoor post to Jones’ left. Malkin would angle his stick to the net, receive the pass and deflect the puck into the goal for the two-goal lead at 2-0. This was Malkin’s first goal since May 20th, which was a six-game goalless drought.
The Penguins would then come close to making it 3-0 and 4-0 just a couple minutes later. Eric Fehr and Tom Kuhnhackl would both hit the left post behind Martin Jones within minutes of each other. Luckily for the Sharks, both pucks hit iron and rang out to keep the deficit at two goals.
Midway through period two, the game was being controlled by the Penguins 100%. The Sharks looked like an already depleted team with more than half the game to play. If San Jose wants to muster any sort of offense and even attempt to come back, they will have to get Pittsburgh out of their rhythm.
The Sharks would jump right to my summary and almost complete it. The Sharks 4th line was in on the offensive attack with 5:51 left in the second period. Sharks center Nick Spalling would grab the puck low at the hash marks/slot on the right circle. Spalling would then rip a wrister that beat Pens goalie Matt Murray short side over his glove but not the crossbar and rang out. Then just 50 seconds later Sharks center Logan Couture would notice a loose puck left in the zone and picked it up and went in on a mini breakaway. Couture did not have time to cut into the middle and tried beating Murray short side over his blocker on the left side. Murray was having none of this and made the save look easy and blockered the puck up into the netting behind the net for a whistle to keep his perfect night intact.
San Jose would go back on the manpower advantage just two minutes later. Penguins rookie Bryan Rust would get caught standing still and took a lazy hooking penalty on Sharks All-Star Brent Burns. This was the Sharks second PP of the game and a prime chance to cut into the Pens lead before the intermission and give the home crowd something to cheer about. The Sharks were unable to get the puck into the Penguins zone for nearly half the power play and were unable to score.
The Penguins held firm for most of the period and were in control, yet again, for most of the second. Pittsburgh held the Sharks to just a measly four shots in the WHOLE middle frame. They had a slight lead in shots at 13-12 over the first two periods and led 2-0 at the second intermission.
Just about five minutes into the final period, the Sharks had one of their best chances of the night. Sharks center Logan Couture would stop on a T at the right-hand blue line. Couture would feed a streaking Patrick Marleau with a beauty of a saucer pass to spring him on a breakaway. Marleau would come barreling into the slot and tried lifting a shot over Murray’s glove but was shut down with an awesome glove save.
Then three minutes later after the Sharks held the puck in the Penguins zone for a long time, they were finally able to get one past Murray. Sharks D-man Brenden Dillon would put a helpless wrist shot on net that purposely went wide. The puck hit a body in front and laid loose helplessly in the slot. Sharks grinder Chris Tierney would chop the puck over to linemate Melker Karlsson who would then grab the puck and put a shot on net while falling down. The puck would sneak under Murray’s left arm and trickle into the net to cut the Pens lead in half at 2-1.
Now at the halfway point of the final period, the Sharks reversed the tape and were the team in control to start the period. San Jose was relentless on the attack looking for that game-tying goal and gaining a lot of momentum back on their side. The Sharks players and fans will hope they can keep the pressure up and tally again.
All of San Jose was then let down when Pittsburgh would grab another goal to increase their lead to 3-1 in a crucial part of the game. Penguins winger Carl Hagelin would catch the loose puck along the top of the left point. Hags would dish a gorgeous pass over to a streaking Eric Fehr coming down the middle of the ice. Fehr would then be in all alone with goalie Martin Jones. Fehr put a laser of snapshot under Jones’ blocker for the two-goal lead with two minutes left in the game.
San Jose would then pull their goalie for an extra attacker immediately after the goal in hopes of a miracle of a comeback. San Jose was unable to get more than one shot on goal and the Penguins stood their ground and nullified any hope of a comeback.
The game ended with the Pens holding on for a vital 3-1 win and now hold a 3-1 lead in the series. The Penguins will now have a chance to be the first Pittsburgh-based sports team to win a title at home since the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates when Bill Mazeroski hit a historic walk-off home run in Game 7.
Sharks goalie Martin Jones stopped 17 out of 20 shots for a terrible .850 SV% while Pens’ Matt Murray stopped 23 out of 24 shots for a great .958 SV%. San Jose led in shots (24-20), faceoffs (37-30), hits (46-31), and giveaways (20-9). The teams tied in penalty minutes (four each) and blocked shots (20). The Penguins were 1/2 in shots while the Sharks were 0/2.
Pittsburgh will have a chance to win the Stanley Cup back home on Thursday night at 8 pm.