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Penguins one win away from Stanley Cup after Game 4 triumph

SAN JOSE, Calif. – The Pittsburgh Penguins are now one victory away from hoisting their fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history. 

The Penguins earned a split on the road, and earned the right to play for chalice at home after defeating the San Jose Sharks, 3-1 in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.

Pittsburgh holds a 3-1 series lead. Game 5 is Thursday night in the Steel City. 

Goalie Matt Murray, who had a sub-par Game 3, moved to 5-0 in the playoffs after a loss with a strong effort buoyed by a team defense that again held the Sharks without a shot for long stretches, including nearly half the second period. But it was Murray, standing tall in the third period, that made the ultimate difference. He made 23 saves on the night. 

He got the goal support he needed on tallies by Ian Cole and Evgeni Malkin, both assisted by Phil Kessel, who has 21 points in 22 playoff games.  Eric Fehr had the third-period dagger, his third of the playoffs. 

The Penguins hit the board first in the first period, as Malkin and Kessel created the chance for defenseman Ian Cole:

Malkin made a smart play in the neutral zone, maintaining possession rather than dumping the puck in on a change. Instead, he found Kessel with speed through the offensive zone. Kessel went wide and fired on Martin Jones, whose pad stop to the opposite boards instead found a pinching Cole for the goal at 7:36. It was Cole's first goal of the playoffs, and first goal since March 2015.

Cole complained about the quality of the ice after Game 3. He no doubt found it to be a more palatable sheet on Monday night.

Unlike in Game 3, the Penguins held that lead for the rest of the period, getting a key stop by Murray on Joe Pavelski and then killing a Sharks’ power play following a Ben Lovejoy holding the stick call.

The Penguins then struck on their own power play in the second period.

Melker Karlsson was called for interference – on a pick play, clipping the skate of Eric Fehr - at 2:28 of the period. It took the Penguins nine seconds to convert on the man advantage, as Kris Letang fed Phil Kessel on the half boards, who snapped a pass right to the blade of Evgeni Malkin’s stick as the hulking center stood unguarded to Jones’s left. It was his first goal since Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final.

The Penguins, again, were faced with a late-period penalty kill that could have altered the course of the game. And again, they were up to the task: Shutting down what was the best home-ice power play in the playoffs coming into this series after Brent Burns drew a hooking call on Bryan Rust.

In the third period, Murray did his best work: Stopping Patrick Marleau twice, including breaking in alone; and later on a point-blank Joe Pavelski shot. He needed to, as the Penguins flipped the switch from "attack" to "defend," for some reason.

But a funky bounce and a turnover led to the Sharks’ first goal, cutting the lead to 2-1.

Melker Karlsson, who had been playing with the team’s top line at the start of the night, did strong work on the forecheck, as did line Chris Tierney, who battled Cole near the Penguins’ crease. The Penguins defenseman attempted to clear the puck, but instead sent it to Karlsson, who fought off a Sidney Crosby check and sent the puck through Murray while falling to the ice. 

Eric Fehr, so valuable in his depth role and on the PK, iced it with a snipe over Jones for the 3-1 lead. The Sharks pulled Jones, but couldn't rally. And now they're one loss away from seeing the Penguins raise the Cup. 


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