SAN JOSE -- This was Joe Pavelski's opportunity to be a difference maker, as he had so often been for the San Jose Sharks on their way to a Western Conference title.
After struggling to get open scoring chances throughout this Stanley Cup Final, Patrick Marleau set Pavelski up for one in the right circle with the Sharks trailing the Pittsburgh Penguins by one goal with 7:36 remaining in the third period of Game 4 at SAP Center on Monday.
Pavelski's quick wrist shot struck Penguins rookie goaltender Matt Murray in the logo on his chest. That was the last of Pavelski's five shots on goal in a 3-1 loss that pushed the Sharks to the brink with Game 5 at Consol Energy Center on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).
"If he can read the shot, he makes the save," a frustrated Pavelski said afterward. "You've got to pick a different spot with him right now."
Murray was good, making 23 saves, but again, the Sharks went long stretches without testing him. When they finally generated sustained pressure in the third period, they got a goal from Melker Karlsson to make it 2-1.
Although the Sharks had some good chances after that, including the one from Pavelski, they couldn't get another shot past Murray. Eric Fehr scored with 2:02 remaining to clinch it for the Penguins.
"We got more shots, more chances," Pavelski said. "[It] felt like we played down there a little bit more. They defend well, they're quick and we just kept going. We had some chances, had some looks. That's all you can ask for."
Video: Couture: We're going to battle till the end
In some ways, Pavelski had his most effective game of the Cup Final. His five shots on goal were one more than he had in the first three games combined.
But, Pavelski again came up empty, leaving him with no points in the series. With Pittsburgh leading the best-of-7 series 3-1, one win away from raising the Stanley Cup, he is running out of time to change that.
"I'm more frustrated with the wins and losses than anything," the Sharks captain said. "It's different if we're (up) 3-1, and you don't have anything. That's a different story. But, right now with the hole we're at, you know a goal or two probably changes the outcome. The way it's been going for most of the postseason I feel like I should probably have a little bit more."
Pavelski was red hot entering the Cup Final. He finished the Western Conference Final against the St. Louis Blues with four goals in the last three games, giving him 13 to lead the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
He continues to lead with four game-winning goals in the playoffs, but those zeros on his stat line for the Cup Final stand out more now.
"Sometimes it just doesn't go in, you know?" Marleau said. "But, he's been all around it. As long as he's getting the looks, that's the main thing."
Pavelski isn't the only big-name Shark struggling to produce in the Cup Final. Marleau's only point in the series was a goal in Game 1. Joe Thornton had two assists in the Sharks' 3-2 overtime win in Game 3, but has been shut out otherwise.
Logan Couture, who leads the NHL with 26 playoff points, has no goals and two assists in the series.
"[Pavelski] has scored 13 goals in these playoffs," Couture said. "That's a pretty ridiculous streak that he's on here. He's had a great playoffs. This game it's not an easy game. It's pretty tough out there to score goals. Guys are trying. We're getting chances. If we keep getting those chances, you've got to believe that it's going to start going in."
Video: Postgame 6/6: Couture
With Tomas Hertl out again with a lower-body injury, Sharks coach Peter DeBoer tried three different players at left wing on the top line with Pavelski and Thornton: Karlsson, Couture and Joonas Donskoi. That led to some scoring chances, but Karlsson's goal came when he was playing with Nick Spaling and Chris Tierney.
Otherwise, it was another frustrating night of the Sharks chasing the Penguins because they can't find a way to get a lead. The only time they've led in the series was after Donskoi's overtime goal to end Game 3.
"Sure, there's frustration," DeBoer said. "I thought those guys played hard. I thought there was goals out there. I thought we had a chance to score, you know, at least a couple tonight. We had some really good looks and their goalie made some saves and we didn't finish."
In a series where the Sharks have twice lost by one goal and were essentially in another one-goal game on Monday, a goal or two from Pavelski could have made things look a lot different. A goal from any Shark early in a game might have changed the perspective of each team.
Now, Pavelski and the Sharks might be down to their last chance Thursday.
"This team hasn't given up and found ways and right now we need to find a way more than ever," Pavelski said. "We've got to win one game because if we can bring it back here it gives ourselves a chance to keep playing. So, we've got one game on the schedule and have got to earn another game now."