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Karlsson's Near-Misfire Becomes Game 5 Winner

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks

PITTSBURGH -- San Jose forward Melker Karlsson would rather be lucky than good, especially with Sharks' season on the line.

Karlsson nearly misfired on his shot from the slot, but the puck fluttered past Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray at 14:47 of the first period and stood as the winning goal in San Jose's 4-2 victory in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday.

"I got [the puck] on my tape and fanned on it, but it went in," said Karlsson, who was on the ice for all three of San Jose's goals in the first period.

The Sharks avoided having their season end, postponed a giant celebration party by thousands of fans massed outside the arena and a record crowd inside Consol Energy Center, and forced a Game 6 on Sunday at SAP Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports). The Penguins lead the best-of-7 series 3-2.

Center Logan Couture carried the puck behind the net before finding Karlsson in the slot, in virtually the same spot he scored from in Game 4.

"I expected it," Karlsson said of the pass, though it was a bit softer than he anticipated. "He's a great player. He makes those plays [because] he sees the game good."

Karlsson didn't get all of the shot, but Murray admitted that the fluttering puck fooled him a bit. It went between the goaltender's arm and body, and gave the Sharks a 3-2 lead.

Karlsson was on the second line in Game 5 with Couture at center and Patrick Marleau on the other wing. He started the series on the third line, but moved to the first line in the absence of Tomas Hertl, who sustained a lower-body injury in Game 2 and hasn't played since.

Karlsson's versatility has been a key for the Sharks, who have been desperate for goals throughout the series.

"He can move up and down the lineup; he plays with everybody," captain Joe Pavelski said. "He's found some pucks around the net and he's put them in. You get an extra goal from a guy like that and it's huge."

Karlsson has grown stronger as the series has progressed. His ability to get in on the forecheck, get a body on Pittsburgh's defensemen and disrupt the Penguins' transition game has been crucial.

"I just try to work hard, and I feel like I have the energy to keep going," Karlsson said. "I feel good."

He feels even better because he's flying home to play in Game 6 instead of heading back to San Jose to clean out his locker as part of the end-of-season routine.

"We stole a game here," Karlsson said. "Now we have to go home and take care of it."

He believes the pressure has only grown on the Penguins, who managed 46 shots on goal but only two first-period goals against Martin Jones. Instead of having three opportunities to close out the series, they're down to two, with the next one in San Jose. The Sharks are 8-3 at SAP Center this postseason.

"We didn't have that much pressure [in Game 5]," he said. "The pressure was on them. It's hard to win the [clinching] game. We just have to keep playing."

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director of Editorial

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