The Pittsburgh Penguins are the 2016 Stanley Cup champions. Did we see this coming?
Brian Dumoulin, Kris Letang and Patric Hornqvist scored and Matt Murray made 18 saves as the Penguins beat the San Jose Sharks 3-1 Sunday night in Game 6 to win the fourth Cup in franchise history.
The Penguins last won it in 2009. Letang, captain Sidney Crosby, forward Chris Kunitz and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury were part of the last championship too.
4 Wins— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) June 13, 2016
4 Stanley Cups pic.twitter.com/Ylv0fjk90q
San Jose’s third period was dismally fruitless. A power play early in the third period yielded no shots, as Pittsburgh muzzled one of the NHL’s most lethal power plays to just one goal in 11 opportunities in the series. The Sharks had just two shots in their final period, and put zero pressure on goal in the final minutes.
An empty-net goal by Patric Hornqvist gave Pittsburgh a 3-1 lead and iced the game with 62 seconds remaining.
Martin Jones did everything to keep the Sharks in the game, making one miraculous save after another. His right pad stop on Nick Bonino early in the second period and his denial of a two-on-one break by Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz were just two of many on the night that had the crowd chanting “Jones-y, Jones-y!”
Jones’ heroics were for nothing though, as Kris Letang’s go-ahead goal in the second period held up as the game-winner.
Logan Couture had earlier evened the score at 1-1 for the Sharks at the 6:27 mark of the second period, as San Jose finally broke through after a fast start to the frame. Couture’s wrist shot on the rush slid under the pads of Matt Murray and in, putting the Sharks on the board.
But 79 seconds later, the Penguins answered to calm down the raucous crowd. A strong shift in response to the goal ended Letang’s score — Letang caught Jones in a poor position and finished off a pass from Crosby behind the net.
The Penguins outshot the Sharks 27-19.
After a dull start, the Penguins drew the game’s first power play, a tripping call on Dainius Zubrus after Sidney Crosby’s line pressured the Sharks’ fourth line. The result was a goal less than 30 seconds into the man advantage, as Brian Dumoulin avoided a sliding Melker Karlsson at the point, and his slap shot went in past the blocker of Jones.
The game picked up pace from there, as the Sharks pressured the Penguins but couldn’t find a clean scoring chance. Joel Ward thought he had a breakaway opportunity midway through the period until Chris Kunitz broke it up with a diving poke check.
Jones kept it at a one-goal deficit by fending off a flurry of Penguins’ chances later in the period, stoning both Crosby and Conor Sheary from point blank. Jones bailed the Sharks out of several poor turnovers, including an egregious giveaway in by Couture his own zone.
The Penguins’ win proved that a 3-1 deficit in the Stanley Cup Final is almost impossible to overcome.
The Sharks put themselves in a hole when they dropped Game 4 at home last Monday. But they stayed alive to force a Game 6 with a win in Pittsburgh on Thursday.
A Game 7, though, will not be in the works, as the Sharks will have to make do with a second place ribbon to finish their most impressive playoff run in franchise history. They can hold their heads up high.
And the Penguins? Let’s just say it will be a late night.