SAN JOSE, Calif. — These Penguins rarely did anything the easy way.
They needed a coaching change and series of personnel moves to lift them out of an early season sputter, then had to go on a late surge just to secure a spot in the playoffs.
It seemed only fitting, then, that they had to fight hard to earn the victory that made them champions.
But the Penguins got it done Sunday night, beating the Sharks 3-1 in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final to secure the franchise's fourth championship.
Brian Dumoulin, Kris Letang and Patric Hornqvist scored, Sidney Crosby got assists on each of the first two goals, and rookie goalie Matt Murray made 18 saves for Pittsburgh.
Crosby won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, posting 19 points (six goals) in the playoffs and dominating with his play at both ends of the ice.
Mike Sullivan — hired in December after the Penguins, then out of a playoff spot, fired Mike Johnston — became the sixth coach to win the Cup when joining a team midseason and the second such coach to win one with Pittsburgh. Dan Bylsma replaced fired Michel Therrien in February 2009 and led the Penguins to the Cup.
"It wasn't easy getting here, especially the way things started out," Crosby said. "The first half (of the season) wasn't easy, and I think everyone just stuck together, kept going and found some momentum there in March and continued to keep it going.
"We tried to keep fighting and slowly started to turn things around. Everyone has a part in this. It feels really good to win your last game of the season."
The Penguins — who advanced to the Cup final with a seven-game win over the Lightning in the Eastern Conference final — were in control for almost the entire Cup final. They did not trail until Game 5 at home and responded to a strong push from San Jose in the clincher to avoid a decisive seventh game. Pittsburgh held San Jose to just one shot on goal in the first 19 minutes of the third period to preserve the one-goal lead.
The Penguins sealed it when Crosby blocked a shot from Marc-Edouard Vlasic that set up Hornqvist's empty-netter.
Murray tied the NHL record for playoff victories by a rookie goalie with his 15th, pulling him even with Patrick Roy, Ron Hextall and Cam Ward.
Logan Couture scored the lone goal for the Sharks, whose first trip to the final in their 25-year history ended two wins short of a title. Martin Jones made 24 saves and was San Jose's best player in the series.
The Penguins' Cup-winning coaching staff includes two assistants kept on after Johnston's firing: former Lightning coach Rick Tocchet and Jacques Martin, whose NHL coaching career began in 1986 and who won his first Cup.
First Period—1, Pittsburgh, Dumoulin 2 (Schultz, Kunitz), 8:16 (pp). Penalties—Zubrus, SJ (tripping), 7:50.
Second Period—2, San Jose, Couture 10 (Karlsson, Burns), 6:27. 3, Pittsburgh, Letang 3 (Crosby, Sheary), 7:46. Penalties—None.
Third Period—4, Pittsburgh, Hornqvist 9 (Crosby), 18:58 (en). Penalties—Sheary, Pit (hooking), 5:26; Burns, SJ (slashing), 11:02; Fehr, Pit (high-sticking), 19:50. Shots on Goal—Pittsburgh 9-11-7—27. San Jose 4-13-2—19. Power-play opportunities—Pittsburgh 1 of 2; San Jose 0 of 2. Goalies—Pittsburgh, Murray 14-6 (19 shots-18 saves). San Jose, Jones 14-9 (26-24).