SAN JOSE, Calif. – For the fourth time in franchise history, the Pittsburgh Penguins are Stanley Cup champions.
The Penguins defeated the San Jose Sharks, 3-1, in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final at the Shark Tank on Sunday night.
Goals by defensemen Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin and forward Patric Hornqvist (empty netter) were enough to overcome an intense, desperate effort from the Sharks and goalie Martin Jones, brilliant in defeat. The Sharks, in their first-ever trip to the final round, were trying to become only the second NHL team since 1938 to rally from a 3-games-to-1 Stanley Cup Final deficit and win the chalice.
Captain Sidney Crosby was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP.
For the Penguins, it completes a season that saw them change coaches, make significant player personnel additions and have a rookie goaltender take over for an injured starter and lead them to glory.
That goalie, Matt Murray, made 18 saves and moved to 6-0 in playoff games after losses. With his 15th win, Murray tied the NHL record for most wins by a rookie in a Stanley Cup playoffs season.
The first period featured one soft goal and some golden scoring chances spoiled.
The goal, on the power play by Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin, was scored at 8:16 after Dumoulin was tripped into the boards in the attacking zone by the Sharks’ Dainius Zubrus.
The Penguins won the draw. Justin Schultz sent it from one point to the other. Dumoulin loaded up a slap shot, waited through a Melker Karlsson block attempt and then fired. With Nick Bonino sliding through the low slot, Dumoulin’s shot beat Jones cleanly for his second of the playoffs.
It was one Jones wanted back. But he was as brilliant as he was in Game 5 for the rest of the period, stopping two terrific Phil Kessel chances and a point-blank one by Crosby off the rebound of a Kessel shot. On the other end, solid back-checking by Chris Kunitz and Schultz thwarted the chances. The Penguins had nine shots to the Sharks’ four.
The Sharks made up that shot deficit in only four minutes during the second period, buzzing the Penguins’ zone and getting several deflected shots through on Murray. At the 6:27 mark, Logan Couture broke though for his 10th goal of the playoffs and fourth point in two games.
Brent Burns made a nice play in the neutral zone after failing to keep the puck in, corralling it and passing it over to Couture. On a toe-drag, he snapped the puck off Murray’s pad and through his five-hole, using Schultz as a screen. And the Sharks knotted it up …
… for one minute and 19 seconds.
What a shift for Kris Letang. He faked a shot, skated down the left wing past Joe Thornton and dished a pass to the front of the goal. Sharks defenseman Paul Martin left his spot to Jones’s right to help, while Letang curled around the net and planted himself there. Crosby pulled the puck out of the mess, went behind the net himself and fed Letang. His shot went off the blocker of Jones and in for the 2-1 lead at 7:46 and his third goal of the playoffs.
The period was also memorable for what didn’t happen. Namely, a shot by Joe Pavelski that beat Murray … and went right through him to the corner; and also a 2-on-1 chance in which Chris Kunitz had a gaping net at which to shoot and opted to pass the puck to an unprepared Evgeni Malkin, who was wondering like the rest of us why Kunitz didn’t just knock it home.
The period ended with a 2-1 Penguins lead and a 20-17 shot advantage.
The third period saw more back and forth play, and the Penguins having to kill a penalty to rookie Conor Sheary and the Sharks having to kill one off a Brent Burns penalty.
But in the end, the Penguins proved too much. Hornqvist ended it at 18:58.
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