Evgeni Malkin registered 1-1—2, including what stood as the winning goal, to power the Penguins to a 3-1 series lead and within one victory of the fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history, as Pittsburgh defeated the San Jose Sharks on the road in Game 4 by a score of 3-1.
"He's such an instinctive player, when he plays the game the right way and he doesn't force things, he sees the plays that he needs to make," said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan of Malkin.
Malkin, who recorded his first points of the series and also snapped a six-game goal drought, scored his 47th career playoff goal (all w/ PIT) to move past Kevin Stevens (46) and into sole possession of fourth place in franchise history. Only Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, and Sidney Crosby have more.
Malkin also picked up his 10th career game-winning goal in the postseason, which ranks third in Penguins history behind Jagr (14) and Lemieux (11).
In addition to Malkin's heroics, the Penguins received another great effort from Matt Murray who made 23 saves, including 11 in the third period, to improve to 14-5 this postseason (2.09 GAA, .925 SV%, 1 SO).
"My mindset has been this whole time to stay in the moment, take things as they come, focus on being in the present and taking things one shot at a time," said Murray. "I think that's been working for me."
Murray moved within one win of equaling the NHL record for victories by a rookie goaltender within a single playoff year, achieved by Patrick Roy (1986), Ron Hextall (1987) and Cam Ward (2006). Murray also improved to 5-0 – with a 1.76 goals-against average and .935 save percentage – following a loss this postseason.
The Sharks outshot the Penguins 24-20, snapping Pittsburgh’s 12-game streak of outshooting its opponents. Sharks forward Melker Karlsson scored his fourth goal of the postseason (22 GP).
The Penguins again scored the opening goal of the game and have not trailed at any point during the series (254:53). In fact, Pittsburgh has not trailed in its last 435:46 of playing time dating to Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final (despite suffering two overtime losses in that span).
Since the Final went to the best-of-seven format in 1939, teams that have taken a 3-1 series lead have gone on to capture the Stanley Cup 31 of 32 times (96.9%). The lone exception: in 1942, when the Maple Leafs became the first team in NHL history to overcome a 3-0 series deficit (vs. DET).
The teams will meet again in Game 5 on Thursday in Pittsburgh at 8 p.m. ET.
"There's no quit in our group," said Sharks coach Peter DeBoer. "We've been the best road team in the league. We're going to show up and try to get this back here for Game 6. Until you win four, this isn't over."
By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services