Sam Kasan gives his three impressions from the press box of the Pens’ 3-1 against the San Jose Sharks in Game 4.
1. Redemption Song
Center Evgeni Malkin has 0 total points in the first three games of the Stanley Cup Final. This morning head coach Mike Sullivan said if he keeps doing the right things, he will score. As if on cue, Malkin put on his best performance of the Final – at least from a production standpoint. He notched his first assist of the series with a great play in the neutral zone. He followed that up by connecting for the Pens’ first power-play goal of the series in the second period.
2. Wall Play
One area of adjustment for the Pens came on their wall play. The Sharks were able to trap the Pens in the defensive zone with pinch plays along the walls in Game 3. Part of that was winning those battles for pucks and denying the Pens’ their normal exit strategies and release points. This time the Pens had better support on the walls and were winning more battles than they lost. From there, they were hitting the open ice high in the zone to push the play up ice. The extra support was key, but really it came down to desire, will and winning those pucks. The Pens did a much better job in Game 4.
3. Post Play
Rookie goalie Matt Murray is now 5-0 following a loss in the postseason. He made several key saves throughout the game, but overall his technique on plays low in the zone was on point. The Sharks, whether by strategy or circumstance, put a lot of shots on net from the low circles or to the outside of the crease. In all of those scenarios, Murray was in position, square to the shot and gobbled up the puck. On plays from behind the net, he was tight to his post, used his stick well and gave up nothing. Murray wasn’t rattled when the Sharks cut the game to 2-1 in the third period and coolly stiff-armed their late onslaught.