SAN JOSE, Calif. — Bounce-back performances from two key players moved the Penguins to the brink of winning the Stanley Cup.
Evgeni Malkin scored his first goal of the series and Matt Murray made 23 saves after a shaky Game 3 to lead the Penguins to a 3-1 victory over the Sharks on Monday night for a 3-1 series lead.
Malkin woke up after being held pointless in the first three games of the series by setting up Ian Cole's goal to open the scoring. He added one of his own on the power play in the second period.
Eric Fehr sealed it with a late goal after San Jose made a strong push in the third.
Two nights after allowing a soft tying goal to Joel Ward, Murray was steady throughout to put the Penguins one win from their fourth Stanley Cup title. They can do it at home Thursday night.
A 3-1 lead hardly guarantees that a series will be won, as the Penguins have discovered in recent seasons.
They built a 3-1 advantage against the Lightning in Round 1 in 2011, only to lose the final three games, and did the same against the Rangers in the second round in 2014, with the same outcome.
It is worth noting, however, that the Penguins have lost two games in a row just once in these playoffs, and have not dropped three in a row since a 0-4-1 skid in mid December.
The Sharks were unable to build on their first win in the final, allowing the first goal for the fourth straight game and going more than nine minutes without a shot on goal during one stretch of the second period. San Jose will need to win in Pittsburgh to give its fans who waited 25 years to watch the Stanley Cup final in the Bay Area another home game.
Melker Karlsson scored for San Jose and Martin Jones made 17 saves.
The story for the Penguins after their 3-2 overtime loss in Game 3 was how to get Malkin going after a slow start to the series. And how would the rookie Murray respond after giving up the soft goal to Ward and the winner to Joonas Donskoi.
Both passed with flying colors.
HERTL OUT AGAIN: Sharks star Tomas Hertl sat out a second straight game, and according to reports he has a knee injury that ended his season. Coach Peter DeBoer had said the forward was day to day. Czech Republic reporter Roman Jedlicka, play-by-play announcer for TV NOVA Sport, tweeted early Monday evening that, according to a "very good" source, Hertl will miss the rest of the final. It is not known how the injury to Hertl occurred or if he will need surgery.
a heavy metal anthem: Game 4 featured a rousing national anthem from Metallica guitarists James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett, who are Sharks fans. The guitars used in the performance will be autographed and auctioned for charity by the Sharks Foundation. Drummer Lars Ulrich and bass player Robert Trujillo opened the dressing room door to lead the Sharks on the ice.
First Period—1, Pittsburgh, Cole 1 (Kessel, Malkin), 7:36. Penalties—Vlasic, SJ (interference), 11:37; Lovejoy, Pit (holding the stick), 14:45.
Second Period—2, Pittsburgh, Malkin 5 (Kessel, Letang), 2:37 (pp). Penalties—Karlsson, SJ (interference), 2:28; Rust, Pit (hooking), 17:33.
Third Period—3, San Jose, Karlsson 4 (Tierney, Dillon), 8:07. 4, Pittsburgh, Fehr 3 (Hagelin, Maatta), 17:58. Penalties—None. Shots on Goal—Pittsburgh 6-7-7—20. San Jose 8-4-12—24. Power-play opportunities—Pittsburgh 1 of 2; San Jose 0 of 2. Goalies—Pittsburgh, Murray 14-5 (24 shots-23 saves). San Jose, Jones 13-9 (20-17). A—17,562 (17,562). T—2:35. Referees—Wes McCauley, Kelly Sutherland. Linesmen—Brian Murphy, Pierre Racicot.