The Penguins missed a chance to take a stranglehold on the Stanley Cup Finals when Joonas Donskoi beat Matt Murray in overtime of Game 3. They made sure not to let that opportunity slip by again. Evgeni Malkin had a goal and an assist, Phil Kessel had two assists, and the Pittsburgh Penguins moved within one victory of clinching a fourth Stanley Cup Championship in franchise history. Murray's been huge in the playoffs in games coming off defeats, and tonight was no different as he stopped 23 of 24 shots, including several huge saves down the stretch. And it's only fitting that after not scoring at his usual pace, it would be Malkin getting the game winner, along with goals by Ian Cole and Eric Fehr.
For the first time since Game 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Penguins didn't have the upper hand in shots on goal in the first period, though there were likely few complaints about the way it played out. It would take a few minutes of feeling out at the start of the game, but the teams would eventually settle in and start producing some great chances. Bryan Rust would make a great individual play to find Brian Dumoulin all alone on the left side of the ice, but Martin Jones came out to challenge the shot and was able to block it out of play.
Malkin made a terrific play by the benches to draw the defense in before finding Phil Kessel coming through the neutral zone with speed. Kessel wristed a shot from the right circle, and a big rebound popped out to Ian Cole in the left circle, and he one-timed the puck from the faceoff dot past Jones to make it 1-0 Pittsburgh. Moment later, Matt Murray would preserve the one goal lead with a big glove save on Joe Pavelski from between the circles.
Midway through the period, during some solid zone possession by the Pens, Dumoulin managed to get Jones badly out of position and tried skating his way into an open net, but just wasn't able to find the space to get it past the Sharks that had collapsed on the crease. After the puck came out of the zone, Sidney Crosby was checked into the San Jose bench by Marc-Eduoard Vlasic to put Pittsburgh on the power play with the interference minor. Evgeni Malkin had called out the Pens' man advantage for not being aggressive enough through the first three games, and while they wouldn't score they did a much better job of moving the puck and firing the puck on the net than they had previously.
Five minutes left in the period, Ben Lovejoy couldn't keep the puck in at the blue line, and he was whistled for holding Patrick Marleau's stick in the neutral zone trying to prevent the rush. It would pale in comparison to some of the infractions that had gone uncalled in the series, but nonetheless it would put the the Sharks on the power play, though the Penguins were able to get the kill. San Jose would continue buzzing over the final few minutes of the 1st period, but a couple heady defensive plays would keep the score 1-0 heading into the first intermission.
Pens with the early power play in the 2nd period when Melker Karlsson took an interference minor when he rubbed out Eric Fehr off a faceoff in the Pittsburgh zone. The Penguins were buzzing on their previous power play in the 1st period, and they picked up right where they left off as 9 seconds in Malkin deflected a Kessel shot-pass behind Jones to increase the lead to 2-0. Pittsburgh nearly scored again seconds later as Kessel fed Justin Schultz driving the slot, but his shot clanged off the post and to the corner. Moments after that, Tom Kuhnhackl hit the same post nearly in the same spot on a 3-on-2 rush.
It was a series of plays that would seem to leave the Sharks badly rattled, but they'd begin to get their feet back under them as the 2nd period progressed, and their bottom 6 in particular did a good job of stemming the tide and getting chances in the Pittsburgh zone. San Jose would go back on the power play late in the period when Rust took a bad hooking penalty against Brent Burns, but for the second time on the night the Penguins would kill of the minor, and they'd take the 2-0 lead into the second intermission.
As has been their tendency this postseason, Pittsburgh would start going into a defensive shell with a lead in the 3rd period and allow the opponents a chance to claw their way back into the game. Marleau would have a great chance early in the period when he got in behind the defense alone on Murray, but the netminder was able to get his glove on it to keep the Sharks off the board. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to keep them all out on the night. Midway through the period, a Brenden Dillon shot bounces off several bodies before coming out to Karlsson in front of the net, and he wristed it past Murray to cut the Pittsburgh lead in half.
The Sharks would continue to push, but the Pens would continue to do just enough to keep the puck out of the net until late in the period when they were able to go back on the offensive. Carl Hagelin took the puck up the left boards and found Fehr streaking up the right side. Fehr took the puck with a clear shot on Jones and wristed the puck past the Sharks goaltender to give the Pens a huge insurance marker. San Jose would pull Jones from the net in the final minutes, but they wouldn't be able to erase the deficit.