Evgeni Malkin scored with four seconds remaining in the second period, and the Pittsburgh Penguins caged the San Jose Sharks in the third period with a 5-2 win at PPG Paints Arena, Tuesday night. Malkin scored two more in the third period, including the empty-netter for his 14th career hat trick.
Bryan Rust also had a pair of goals but hit the crossbar after the Sharks pulled the goalie. His bad luck let Malkin to score and will allow endless ribbing from teammates.
The Sharks outshot the Penguins 42-31 and controlled play for a majority of the first two periods, but the Penguins surged when it mattered most. In the third period, the Penguins outshot the Sharks 16-6.
Penguins goaltender Matt Murray, who made his first start since a six-save win in relief on January 7, stopped 40 of 42 shots for his 16th win of the season. It was an emotional night for Murray who lost his father three weeks ago.
“It was a great feeling, getting back to normal. Getting in a good game like that, and a win for the team,” said Murray. “I tried to get lost in the game and that’s what happened.”
After two periods, the Sharks led 36-21 in shots, in part due to four second-period power plays. Murray made a handful of sparklers, including a couple of point-blank chances by Melker Karlsson.
The game turned on a surprising (and brutal) turnover by Sharks All-Star defenseman Brent Burns. Behind his net, Burns just dropped the puck into the corner to avoid the forecheck and check by Patric Hornqvist. Unfortunately for Burns, and fortunately for the Penguins, only Phil Kessel was in the area.
Kessel quickly snapped the pass to Malkin in the slot. Malkin (24) put the puck behind Sharks goalie Martin Jones before the Sharks realized the mistake. The goal tied the game in the waning moments of the second period and changed the entire tone of the game.
Patric Hornqvist again created a turnover behind the Sharks net for the game-winner, and this time he got credit.
Jones attempted to play the puck to his defenseman Brenden Dillon in the corner. Hornqvist raced behind the net at full speed to intercept the pass, then centered it to Malkin before Jones could get back to the net. Malkin (25) didn’t miss the open net. 3-2.
Bryan Rust (4) scored the first goal of the game. He streaked past the Sharks forwards and defensemen–from the Sharks blue line–for a short breakaway goal. Rust slipped it 5-hole past Jones, midway through the first period.
Midway through the third period, Rust scored the backbreaker. Defenseman Kris Letang stepped forward at the blue line to intercept a clearing attempt. Letang fed Tom Kunhackl along the goal line, and Kuhnhackl provided the highlight worthy through-the-legs backhand pass to Rust (5), alone in front. 4-2.
Malkin (26) converted with the empty net, as Rust could not.
Sharks All-Star defenseman Brent Burns (8) tied the game midway through the second period, with a power-play goal. The Penguins took four penalties in the second period, alone.
Late in the second period, the Sharks scored another power-play goal. Logan Couture dribbled a shot through Matt Murray, who lunged to his right and nearly made an incredible save.
The Penguins have won six straight at home.
Postgame Analysis and Pressbox Nachos
–Ian Cole was again solid. He set up a pair of goals by holding the blue line, in the final game before the All-Star break. He made another strong defensive play to set up the Penguins first goal tonight.
Cole quipped to Pittsburgh Hockey Now, “I’m certainly fresh!” Cole did expand on his answer, “I’m certainly refreshed and excited to be back out there.”
And, he should remain out there. His contributions are noticeable.
–It didn’t take long for Sullivan to begin double shifting Crosby. Five minutes, to be exact–that was the first time Crosby took a shift between Rust and Kuhnhackl.
Fourth line center, J.S. Dea played just 6:18.
Third line center Riley Sheahan played only eight minutes in the first two periods, then played seven minutes down the stretch to finish with a respectable 15 minutes. However, if the Penguins trailed, Sheahan was on pace for only 12 minutes.
Something has to give. Crosby was on pace for 23 minutes, until the Penguins put away the Sharks.
–Patric Hornqvist. General Manager Jim Rutherford should call a meeting with Hornqvist and his agent, soon, to present a briefcase stuffed with cash. Ok, a check will do.
Hornqvist’s forecheck skills were abundantly clear. He pressured Burns into the turnover at the end of the second period. That goal changed the game. And Hornqvist stole the puck for the game-winner.
The Penguins were looking for a spark, and it was Hornqvist. It’s so often Hornqvist. To let him test free agency would be a colossal mistake.
–Matt Murray was outstanding. He admitted the night was emotional, but the overwhelming sense he conveyed was–It felt good to get on with life.
He saved the Penguins bacon in the second period.
–Jake Guentzel and Phil Kessel on the same line may attractive on paper. However, on the ice, it is a defensive liability. At times, it is a nightmare.
Gut feeling, Dominik Simon must start well against Washington, or Sullivan will go to the original Sid and the Kids line.
–Metro Division hockey–Finally! The Western Conference warmups are over, and not a minute too soon. Now, the intensity will be turned up, and things really matter.
Film study tomorrow!