PITTSBURGH - The San Jose Sharks finally scored first, and second; with two goals in the opening 2:53, they appeared to be well on their way to staying alive in the Stanley Cup Final with a Game 5 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on Thursday.
The Sharks went on to defeat the Penguins 4-2 to force a Game 6 at Consol Energy Center on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports), but it wasn't as easy as it initially appeared it would be.
The Penguins answered with goals 22 seconds apart from Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin to tie the game at 2-2 by 5:06 before Melker Karlsson put the Sharks back ahead for good by scoring with 5:13 remaining in the wild first period. The Sharks mostly hung on from there with goaltender Martin Jones making 44 saves.
"It was one of those starts you like to see," Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said. "Obviously, they got a couple right back, but you made that initial push and then for us to answer again after they get the crowd into it, it was [big]."
The Sharks had talked since Game 2 about getting a lead on the Penguins, who hadn't played from behind since a 4-3 loss in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Penguins scored first in each of the first four games of the Final, leaving the Sharks feeling like they had been chasing all series.
The Sharks were able to rally for a 3-2 overtime victory in Game 3, but knew their chances of winning the Stanley Cup were slim if they kept playing catch-up. With their season on the line Thursday, they finally got a lead when defenseman Brent Burns circled out from behind the net and whipped a shot from the lower left circle that beat goaltender Matt Murray high to the short side 1:04 into the game.
Logan Couture followed by deflecting Justin Braun's shot from the right point into the net at 2:53 to make it 2-0. But just when it appeared the Sharks were going to blow the Penguins out of their own building, left wing Dainius Zubrus cleared the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty at 4:21.
Malkin cut the Sharks' lead in half 23 seconds later when his right-circle shot deflected off Braun's left skate and went past Jones. When Nick Bonino's shot from the right circle deflected off Hagelin and into the net 22 seconds after that, the game was tied at 2-2.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the four goals in the opening 5:06 set a record for the fastest four goals to start a Cup Final game.
At that point, the Penguins appeared to have all of the momentum and the crowd was deafening in anticipation of seeing them capture the Stanley Cup. Somehow, the Sharks were able to pull together and retake the lead.
Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said his message to his players on the bench was to, "Just stick with it."
"One [goal] we stuck in our own net off a deflection," DeBoer said. "The other one went in off Hagelin as he came across the front. [It was] two kind of seeing-eye goals. It was critical at that point that our group recognize we were doing some good things and stick with it. … Again, we regrouped and found a way."
Karlsson put the Sharks back ahead by converting a backhand feed from Couture with a shot from the slot that went in off Murray's glove. Jones didn't allow that lead to slip away, and Pavelski scored an empty-net goal with 1:20 remaining in regulation.
"You get a two-goal lead [and] it's gone in a matter of a minute, minute and a half," Couture said. "But be calm, get back out there, get another good shift. We were able to score again. Melker gave us the lead again. Jonesy did the rest."
by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / NHL.com Staff Writer