Pittsburgh Penguins Drop Game Five, Can’t Win Cup Tonight

Dec 1, 2015; San Jose, CA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) shoots against the San Jose Sharks in the first period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports.
Dec 1, 2015; San Jose, CA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) shoots against the San Jose Sharks in the first period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports. /

A fast start to game five and a hot goalie for San Jose prevented the Pittsburgh Penguins from lifting the Stanley Cup at home tonight. The Sharks won 4-2 and forced a game six back in San Jose.

The start to game five of the Stanley Cup Final was less than ideal for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Just about one minute into the game, the San Jose Sharks got on the board thanks to Brent Burns. He shot the puck in the small window between Matt Murray and his goal post.

Only a minute and forty nine seconds later the Sharks got another goal as Logan Couture deflected it past Murray. That was absolutely not the start the Penguins wanted to see. The first goal was all-important and the second took the energy out.

But these Pens are better than that. Dainius Zubrus took a penalty for delay of game shortly after Couture’s goal and gave the Pittsburgh powerplay a chance. Despite the lackluster powerplay in the earlier part of the series, this one was electric. Phil Kessel made a beautiful pass right to Evgeni Malkin, who outwaited Martin Jones and then ricocheted the puck of Justin Braun‘s shinpads into the open net.

Oh, Geno. That’s dirty.

Before the PA announcers at CONSOL Energy Center could even announce the first Pittsburgh goal, they got another and tied things up. Only twenty two seconds later, Brenden Dillon turned the puck over to Nick Bonino in the San Jose zone. Bonino shot the puck and it deflected off Carl Hagelin, who was right in front of Jones.

It was exactly 5:06 into the game, and four goals had been scored. Holy moly.

Just about eight minutes in, Burns took a penalty for high-sticking and gave the Pens’ PP another chance. Obviously, their units were confident after scoring a goal on their only shot in the previous man-advantage. They were strong and put a ton of pressure on Jones, but three shots rang off the posts and puck luck was just not going their way.

It was sheer luck that kept the game tied, because the Pens were getting lots of looks but just couldn’t make things happen. Unfortunately for us, Melker Karlsson then completed a tic-tac-toe play at the other end of the ice and put the Sharks back ahead. There wasn’t much Murray could have done to stop the second goal, but the first and the third were pretty soft.

That’s not the kind of play you want to see from a goalie at such a critical point. The Sharks had seven shots in the first period and had scored on three of them. Before this game, I was a big advocate of Murray for the Conn Smythe. After the first twenty minutes, I’ve wholeheartedly joined the Kessel camp.

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Thankfully, the second period saw far less scoring in the first few minutes. The first penalty of the middle stanza went against the Penguins, though, as they were finally caught with too many men on the ice… which they’d kind of been doing all game. Phil Kessel served the penalty and his team killed it off.

Soon afterwards, Karlsson took a penalty for slashing Conor Sheary. The Pens didn’t look as strong on this one and even seemed a little slow – save for Bryan Rust. He’s been a strong player for Pittsburgh this post season, of course, and has always been able to turn on the jets when needed.

The elephant in the room is, again, the inconsistent officiating. Up until this point it has been evenly inconsistent, missing calls against both sides and generally trying to keep things balanced. Tonight, though, they missed at least two blatant penalties and one that you could arguably call, all of them against the Sharks. I understand that there will be a lot of criticism if the Penguins would win the Cup thanks to a “subjective” powerplay goal, but there are some things that you just have to call.

Rules are rules; boarding is boarding and interference is interference.

Right at the end of the first period, tensions erupted between several members of each team. Brent Burns was at the center of it all, first crosschecking Carl Hagelin and then throwing hands with Eric Fehr. Granted, I just saw a glance of it, but at one point he looked like he actually used Fehr’s upper body as a weapon to hit someone else. That’s innovative.

The second period ended with the same 3-2 score as the first did, thanks to Jones’s really strong play. The Penguins peppered him constantly with shots but he was very consistent and smart with his play.

Following that crazy first twenty minutes, both goalies were strong. Murray made some great saves throughout the third period as well, including a scary goal-line grab. That’s lucky, because the Sharks dominated on the faceoff dot in the third period and seemingly at just about everything else. Despite the frequency that the Penguins had chances and how tired the Sharks often looked, nothing could go in.

Hagelin took the first penalty of the third period with just under six minutes left. He hooked Joonas Donskoi directly in front of Matt Murray, potentially saving a goal. Murray looked pretty much on top of things, but I would consider that a decent penalty to take. Of course, the next two minutes would determine whether or not I kept that opinion.

Luckily, the Penguins killed the penalty and my interpretation remained unchanged.

Sidney Crosby made it obvious just how much he wanted to win tonight. He played amazingly throughout the game though he could never actually get on the scoresheet. With three seconds left, the captain got into a fight with Marc-Edouard Vlasic, but at that point there was really no damage left to be done.

Additionally, Joe Pavelski notched an empty net goal to give the Sharks a 4-2 lead, which would hold up to be the final score. The Sharks would force a game six back in San Jose, thanks to a crazy first period, a lackluster final forty minutes, questionable refereeing, and outstanding goaltending. The Stanley Cup would not be won in Pittsburgh after all… although there is still a chance.

Next: Pittsburgh Penguins: The Conn Smythe Question

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather win it in six and just have it under our belt even if it isn’t in Pittsburgh. Game sevens are way too stressful.

The next game will be on Sunday at 8 ET, and hopefully the Penguins can pull it together quicker then. And maybe if we stop preemptively re-naming roads after gifted players, they won’t collapse in must-win games. Just an idea, Pittsburgh.