PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins kept lamenting the first five minutes. Even that was too harsh.
They were beaten for roughly the first three minutes against the San Jose Sharks in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on Thursday. They were the better team for most of the final 57, dominant for a lot of those minutes. It doesn't matter one bit.
Blame Martin Jones.
Jones was San Jose's superman at a time when they needed his game to soar. He made 44 saves, and was bailed out by the post a few times, as the Sharks ruined the party in Pittsburgh and sent this Cup Final back to Northern California with a 4-2 win.
The Penguins still lead the best-of-7 series 3-2. Game 6 is at SAP Center on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).
"That's just life," Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist said.
Video: SJS@PIT, Gm5: Jones makes 44 saves in Game 5 win
That's just hockey. It can be a funny and cruel game sometimes. It was to the Penguins on a night their city was ready to pop the cork on a Stanley Cup celebration.
There were 18,680 in the building and maybe twice that, if not more, outside. The noise was deafening inside, and was probably louder outside as fans lined the streets around the arena and packed nearby Market Square to watch on big screens set up by the city.
They saw their Penguins fall behind 2-0 in the worst start to a game they've had since Game 5 against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final, when they trailed 4-0. It was the first time they had to play from behind in the Cup Final.
The problem: nerves and ordinary goaltending from rookie Matt Murray at a time when his teammates really needed him.
Video: SJS@PIT, Gm5: Sharks, Pens erupt for four early goals
"I thought our team as a whole was a little bit unsettled at the first part of the game," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said, "but we settled in fast."
These extraordinary fans then watched their Penguins erase the Sharks' 2-0 lead in a span of 22 seconds in the first period. Evgeni Malkin scored on a power play at 4:44 then Carl Hagelin tied the game at 5:06, the sixth goal of this year's playoffs for each.
It was domination everywhere but the scoreboard after that.
Yes, Sharks forward Melker Karlsson scored at 14:47 of the first period off of a pretty one-touch pass from Logan Couture, but it was a goal that eventually became the game-winner only because of Jones' brilliance.
Had he not had the game of his life, the Stanley Cup would have been awarded.
Video: Sullivan on Game 5 loss and positive takeaways
"[Jones] was hot," Hornqvist said. "We still have to do exactly the same thing during the next game, except for the first five minutes. They won the game in the first five minutes. Other than that, we were the better team."
The Penguins outshot the Sharks 46-22. They had 76 total shot attempts, 40 more than San Jose. Come to think of it, it's amazing that the Penguins lost this game. If you came away shaking your head, you weren't alone.
"We had a lot of chances and he was unbelievable," Hornqvist said of Jones. "He made some saves I don't even think he thought he made. It just felt like they hit him. … We have to do the same thing next game. If we play like this, we're going to win a game."
And that's what the Penguins have to remember. That has to be the takeaway. The positive has to be the chances they got, plenty of the Grade A variety.
The "HBK Line" had a dominant shift in the offensive zone three minutes after Hagelin's goal tied the game. Phil Kessel had an open look on a rebound with an open net in front of him and whiffed. They created a power-play opportunity.
Chris Kunitz had a shot clang off the left post on that power play. Kessel had a shot ring off both posts.
Seconds after the power play ended, Matt Cullen set up Tom Kuhnhackl for a great chance in the slot. Jones made the save.
Jones stopped Eric Fehr's shot off the rush 51 seconds before Karlsson scored.
Video: SJS@PIT, Gm5: Jones stones Fehr on breakaway
The Penguins had 17 shots on goal in the second period. Jones stopped them all, including a sprawling save on Nick Bonino at 15:08. It was his 26th save of the game.
"One of those nights," Penguins right wing Bryan Rust said.
The Penguins kept trying to change it in the third period when they had 14 more shots on goal, giving them 46 for the game, the most since they had 48 in a 4-2 win in Game 3 against the Lightning on May 18.
Jones stuffed Hornqvist on two shots at the right post and robbed Conor Sheary at the left post, holding on, pretty much for dear life, at 5:45 of the third period.
He got a piece of Sidney Crosby's shot off the rush with 7:30 remaining. He used his mask to stop Rust's backhanded shot from the slot with 3:37 left.
Video: SJS@PIT, Gm5: Jones denies Sheary, Crosby
"I thought we did all of the above," Sullivan said. "I thought we had traffic at the net. We had pucks to the net. There were people there. We had rebound opportunities. We couldn't seem to find that third goal."
Jones wouldn't let them. He was awesome, but he had to be. The Sharks had to win to stay alive in the Cup Final. The Penguins had a mulligan. They still have another one. And they still have their confidence too.
Crosby was asked if the Penguins would win more than they lose by playing the exact same way they did in Game 5.
"We believe that," he said.
So the game plan doesn't change going back to San Jose, except for one part.
"Have a little bit of a better start," Rust said.