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Stanley Cup Final

5 Keys: Pittsburgh Penguins, Game 6

Murray's response to Game 5 loss, Malkin's ability to possess puck important for Pittsburgh

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

SAN JOSE -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will again try to win the Stanley Cup when they play the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of the Final at SAP Center on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

The Penguins lead the best-of-7 series 3-2. San Jose kept the series going with a 4-2 win in Game 5.

Here are 5 keys for the Penguins in Game 6:


Pittsburgh will be hoisting the Cup by the end of the night if rookie goalie Matt Murray has the same type of response he's had following each of his previous five losses in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Murray is 5-0 with a 1.75 goals-against average and .935 save percentage after a loss this postseason. However, his numbers in games the Penguins can eliminate an opponent are significantly different; he's 3-2 with a 2.58 GAA and .905 save percentage.

The first set of numbers is further proof of Murray's unflappability. He doesn't seem to be bothered by questionable goals or losses. He has to improve the second set of numbers if the Penguins are going to win the Stanley Cup.

"He has shown a maturity level beyond his years in a lot of ways, but probably the most impressive way is just his ability to deal with any of the adversity that he faces along the way," Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. "If one goes in that he thinks he should have had, he has the ability to stay in the moment, try to make the next save. He's a real competitor. We love that about him."

Video: Murray talks to the media after practice in San Jose


The Penguins have, for the most part, done a good job of beating the Sharks forecheck with their speed. It has enabled them to avoid getting burned by what San Jose does best, which is score off of low-to-high plays.

However, there have been times in recent games when the Sharks have been able to either outnumber the Penguins on the puck below Pittsburgh's goal line or beat them to it altogether. They've scored goals as a result.

San Jose forward Joonas Donskoi scored in overtime of Game 3 by curling out from behind the net after the Sharks won a puck battle down there.

Sharks defenseman Brent Burns scored the same way in Game 5 because forward Melker Karlsson put the puck into the corner, won the foot race to get it, and then got it to Burns.

San Jose center Logan Couture scored on a net-front deflection in Game 5 because the Sharks won the puck low, got it high and got off a shot that he could deflect.

"They're really good and crafty with their sticks and they know where each other are," Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz said. "But you can't be too worried about what they're going to do. If we can do it faster and quicker, get to pucks, hopefully they don't get those opportunities."

Video: PIT@SJS, Gm4: Malkin tips in Kessel's shot for PPG


The Penguins have scored on two of their past five power plays after going 0-for-6 in Games 1-3. The key has been great movement of the puck (passing from Phil Kessel off the left-wing wall) and with bodies (switching between Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin).

Malkin, typically a point man on the power play, has scored the two goals from the right post, each off of brilliant cross-zone passes from Kessel.

Instead of being stationary and just going to their assigned positions on the power play, Crosby and Malkin have played off each other, and it has allowed Kessel to find some room. Even when they haven't scored, the power play has looked dangerous, especially in Game 5.

"I thought the execution was really sharp," Sullivan said of the power play in Game 5. "What I really liked about it was the puck movement was quick, it was sharp, it was on the tape. When they move the puck like that, they're very difficult to defend against because it turns the penalty-kill unit into a reactive mode. Our guys weren't allowing them to steer us into pressure points. They were moving the puck against the flow, creating opportunities for each other."

The Penguins need more of the same on the power play because it can be the difference for them in Game 6.


The Penguins are averaging 35.8 shots on goal per game but just 2.4 goals per game in the Final. They've had three games with 40 or more shots but have seven goals to show for it in those three games.

They can't get discouraged. They can't let Sharks goalie Martin Jones, who made 44 saves in Game 5 and has a .933 save percentage in the series, get in their heads.

"He's a [heck] of a goalie," Penguins left wing Patric Hornqvist said. "We just have to shoot as much as we can and create those second and third chances."

Hornqvist added one more thought on how to beat Jones more in Game 6.

"When you get those chances and you have time, get 'em up, because a lot of goalies go down and the part of the net that's open is over top of him," Hornqvist said. "If you have time and space, make sure you get it up quick."

Malkin suggested the Penguins should try more shot fakes to get Jones moving.

"He plays a little forward," Malkin said, meaning aggressive. "Maybe skate and after that shoot. But 40-plus shots, I think it's coming."

Video: SJS@PIT, Gm5: Malkin banks it past Jones for PPG


Among the plethora of positives the Penguins have going for them in Game 6 is Malkin's hot hand. He played arguably his best two games of the playoffs in Games 4 and 5, showing the power game that he has, that so few can match. He got rewarded with power-play goals.

"I feel so much better every game," Malkin said. "And after I score a couple of goals, of course I feel better. It's more confidence."

The key is Malkin is playing with the puck more. He's doing what he said he needed to do after an ineffective first three games of the series.

"It's not just me, it's my linemates, [Kunitz and Bryan Rust], they showed a good game too," Malkin said. "We controlled the puck and spent time in the offensive zone."

The Sharks struggled to find an answer. If Malkin plays the same way in Game 6, they'll again struggle to come up with a solution for him.

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