PITTSBURGH — Joe Pavelski’s first goal of the Stanley Cup Final was an exclamation point last night on San Jose’s 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Down three games to one and facing elimination, the Sharks found a way to score first, and last, sending the series back to San Jose for Game 6. Pavelski, the Sharks captain, had been scoreless in the final until he put the puck into an empty net at the 18:20 mark of the third that salted away the victory.
Then victory wouldn’t have been possible with some magnificent goaltending from Martin Jones, who made 44 saves.
The Sharks took a 3-2 lead on Melker Karlsson’s goal scored with 5:15 left in what was a highly entertaining first period.
Logan Couture set up the goal with a no-look pass to a wide-open Karlsson in the slot. Karlsson quickly snapped a shot that banked in off the bottom of goalie Matt Murray’s glove.
The Sharks scored goals 1:49 apart in the first period of Game 5 to take a 2-0 lead, stunning a Pittsburgh crowd eager to celebrate a Stanley Cup championship with the Penguins up three games to one.
Brent Burns gave the Sharks their first lead of the final with a goal just 64 seconds into the game. Couture then deflected in Justin Braun’s shot from the right point to put the Sharks up 2-0 at the 2:53 mark.
The lead didn’t last long: The Penguins answered with goals just 22 seconds apart. Evgeni Malkin cashed in on a power play and Carl Hagelin added another to make it 2-2 just 5:06 into the game. Those were the fastest four goals scored to open a game in the final series, according to Elias Sports.
Penguins had taken over the momentum, though they couldn’t capitalize. Chris Kunitz snapped a shot from the left circle that banged off the left post with 11 minutes left in the first period. Seconds later, Pittsburgh’s Phil Kessel had a shot from near the same spot deflect off both posts.
The Penguins were trying become the first Pittsburgh team to win a championship at home since Bill Mazeroski’s epic ninth-inning home run against the Yankees in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series.
Jones stopped all 17 shots he faced in the second period to help the Sharks preserve their 3-2 lead despite being outshot 32-15. Jones was particularly sharp with about 5 minutes left in the period when he first stopped Phil Kessel’s shot from the left circle, and then kicked out his left pad to stop Nick Bonino attempting to backhand in the rebound from the slot. Off the next faceoff, Jones got a piece Connor Sheary’s shot that was deflected in front. Finally, Jones stood his ground and got his blocker out just in time to stop Patric Hornqvist driving alone and getting a shot off from his knees.