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Five Questions With...

Five Questions with Matt Cullen

On cusp of winning Stanley Cup for second time, Penguins veteran looks back at 'special' season

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.

The latest edition features Pittsburgh Penguins center Matt Cullen:

SAN JOSE -- Matt Cullen is waiting for his toughest critics to skewer him. He knows it's coming too.

"They're going to be all over me for that 2-on-1," Cullen said.

He means his kids, Brooks, Wyatt and Joey, ages 9, 7 and 6. He knows what's waiting for him back in Pittsburgh because he knows they won't let him forget about the shot he took on the 2-on-1 rush with 2:17 remaining in the third period of Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against the San Jose Sharks on Monday.

Cullen kept the puck instead of passing it to Sidney Crosby. He pulled back, toe-dragged a bit, and put a shot on goal that went directly into the chest of Sharks goalie Martin Jones.

The good thing is it didn't matter, because Penguins forward Eric Fehr scored 15 seconds later to cap the Penguins' 3-1 win that gave them a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series.

Video: PIT@SJS, Gm4: Fehr nets Hagelin's dish for a 3-1 lead

Pittsburgh can win the Stanley Cup in Game 5 at Consol Energy Center on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports). Cullen's family, and most definitely his boys, will be in attendance.

None of them were born when he won the Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes 10 years ago. This run and this championship would be as much for them as it is for him.

And so with one win to go, Cullen reflected on the season and how far the Penguins have come during a portion of his session with the media in the visitors' dressing room at SAP Center following Game 4. was in the session, but it was not an exclusive interview.

Here are Five Questions with…Matt Cullen:

When you think back to the way this season started, the first month, to be one win away, do you get a sense of what that journey has been like for this team?

"Yeah, it's been a special one; it really has. The last part of the year I don't know that I've had a portion of a season that has gone like this. It's been a pretty special ride. Our group has developed some pretty close bonds. We've really gone through a lot to turn it around the way we have and stick with it through everything. It says a lot about our team. So it's been a special ride so far and we should want to finish it off the right way."

At that time earlier in the season did you think this group could turn it around?

"Well, I mean, it seemed pretty farfetched at the time. But when you took a look around the room and you saw the people and the character that we had, if there was a group that could do it, this was it. It was a lot of work and it seemed a long ways away at the time. But again, when you look at the group and the success this group has had and the guys that were added, you had to believe. We all believed that there was a group here that could get it done. But there was a lot of work. We were a long ways away from being anywhere near a good team. But we gradually developed into a good team. We worked at it."

On Sunday, Evgeni Malkin said he wants more and he knows he can do more. In Game 4 he scores the game-winning goal and gets an assist on the first goal. We know what type of player he is, but what does it tell you about the guy, to put it on himself and then go out and do it?

"It shows how much he cares and it shows he's a competitor. All the great players are like that. They hold themselves accountable and he holds himself accountable almost to a fault at times. But to call himself out a little bit there and then back it up, I mean, it's big for our team. He's been so good for us all season long. I don't think anybody expected anything else out of him."

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

The push that the Sharks had in the third period, you obviously have to expect it. But was it more of a push by them or were you guys at least a little bit guilty of sitting back?

"I thought maybe for a little bit we were a little guilty of sitting back. But for the most part they pushed pretty hard. When a team pushes that hard sometimes you have to stay back. When you have four guys coming you have to stay back a little bit. I think there were points where we could have pressured the puck more, whether it was in their end or the neutral zone, and I think that maybe gave them a little bit of life. But boy, after they scored that goal I thought we really stiffened up and pressured the puck pretty hard, we didn't give them a whole ton. They're a good team. They put a lot of pucks at the net."

You guys haven't played with a deficit yet this series. How have you been able to do that?

"I think probably our starts have been pretty good. I think most of the games our starts have been pretty good. It's nice to play with the lead of course. But whatever the case is, we've played some good hockey. It's been a really even series. If you can get out and get a lead it's to your advantage. It's a big one in this series with the way that the goalies have been playing. It's not easy finding space out there. So if you can get that first one that's big and we've done a good job of that so far. But either way it's on us just to play our game."

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