Penguins lead series 3-1
The Pittsburgh Penguins are on the threshold of a milestone moment, needing one win to become the first major sports team in the city to win a championship at home since the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1960. Armed with a 3-1 series lead, the Penguins go for their fourth Stanley Cup title when they host the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night in Game 5.
Pittsburgh pushed the Sharks to the brink of elimination with a 3-1 victory at San Jose on Monday night to edge closer to its first Stanley Cup championship since 2009. “We have to try to do our best to ignore some of the noise surrounding the group and I think our players are well aware of it,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of the tantalizing opportunity of hoisting the Cup in front of the home fans. The Sharks are trying to become the second team in league history to win the Cup after facing a 3-1 series deficit — a seemingly insurmountable task given that they have yet to hold a lead in regulation against Pittsburgh. “We want to win one game and get a Game 6 back here at home,” San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said. “I think we would be comfortable in that spot that we could get it to go seven.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, TVAS
Sharks – Martin Jones (W/L: 13-9, GAA: 2.06, SAVE %: .918)
Penguins – Matt Murray (W/L: 14-5, GAA: 2.09, SAVE %: .927)
ABOUT THE SHARKS (59-35-10, 51-42 O/U): After averaging a playoff-best 3.5 goals through the first three rounds of the postseason, San Jose has scored only seven times in four games versus Pittsburgh. Captain Joe Pavelski scored 13 goals and had a seven-game point streak entering the Finals, but he has been held off the scoresheet by the Penguins. “If it’s different, if it’s 3-1 and you don’t have anything, it’s a different story,” Pavelski said. “But right now, with the hole we’re [in], a goal or two probably changes the outcome. The way it’s been going for most of the postseason, I feel like I should probably have a bit more.” Forward Logan Couture has a postseason-best 26 points, but both he and defenseman Brent Burns have been limited to two assists in the Finals.
ABOUT THE PENGUINS (63-30-11, 45-41 O/U): Center Evgeni Malkin, the Conn Smythe Award winner in Pittsburgh’s 2009 run to the Cup, admitted he wasn’t producing enough through the first three games of the series and responded to his own “I want more” declaration by setting up one tally and scoring what proved to be the game-winner in Game 4. “We’ve seen him do it so many times,” Penguins forward Matt Cullen said. “He’s such a big part of the team. He demands a lot of himself, so to see him come out like that in a big game when he kind of called himself out a bit, it’s pretty impressive. That’s what good players do.” Forward Phil Kessel is near the front of the line for this season’s Conn Smythe after collecting a pair of assists Monday to boost his team-high total to 21 points.
* Sharks are 8-2 in their last 10 road games vs. a team with a home winning % of greater than .600.
* Penguins are 6-0 in their last 6 home games vs. a team with a road winning % of greater than .600.
* Under is 12-3-2 in Penguins last 17 Stanley Cup Finals games.
* Under is 4-0 in the last 4 meetings in Pittsburgh.
* Sharks are 1-4 in the last 5 meetings in Pittsburgh.
COVERS CONSENSUS: At the time of publication of this preview, the Pittsburgh Penguins are grabbing 71 percent of the public picks and Over 5 is leading the way in totals wagering at 66 percent. View full consensus data here.
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