PITTSBURGH –- It took only about one minute into Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final for the Sharks to finally play with the lead for the first time in their Stanley Cup Final series with the Penguins. They even increased it to 2-0 less than two minutes later.
Although they surrendered that early edge, the Sharks managed to force a Game 6 back in San Jose on Sunday with a 4-2 win at Consol Energy Center on Thursday night, denying the Penguins a championship in front of their home crowd and thousands more that had gathered outside the arena.
Melker Karlsson’s goal late in the first period, his second in as many games, held up as the game-winner, while Martin Jones played perhaps his best game in the playoffs as he was under siege for much of the night.
Game 6 is in San Jose on Sunday.
The scoring came at a record pace in the opening minutes, with each team striking twice.
Brent Burns was first, when he skated the puck behind the net, wheeled around, and found the short side on Matt Murray at 1:04. The goal was nearly a carbon copy of Joonas Donskoi’s overtime winner in Game 3.
Logan Couture, still the NHL leader in playoff scoring coming into the game, gave the Sharks their first two-goal advantage when he got the shaft of his stick on a Justin Braun wrist shot from the point at 2:53.
Pittsburgh quickly responded, cutting the lead to 2-1. After Dainius Zubrus was pressured into a delay of game, the Penguins converted on the power play when Evgeni Malkin fired in a shot from the circle off of Braun in the crease at 4:44.
Shortly after that Brenden Dillon turned the puck over to Nick Bonino, who angled a shot towards the net that bounded in off of a hard charging Carl Hagelin at 5:06.
The four goals were the fasted four goals to start a game in Stanley Cup Final history, according to Elias.
Pittsburgh kept up the pressure after its two goals just 22 seconds apart tied the score, including on another power play when Chris Kunitz and Phil Kessel each hit the post. For the next nine-plus minutes after Hagelin’s goal, the Penguins had a 12-1 advantage in shots.
But Karlsson put the Sharks back up on top at 14:47. It came on a fancy setup by Couture, who slanted a perfect pass off his backhand to an open Karlsson in the slot.
Jones kept San Jose’s 3-2 lead intact the rest of the way, as the Penguins enjoyed a mammoth 46-22 edge in shots for the game. The goalie’s best stop came on a Kessel rebound, when he stuck his left pad out to keep Bonino from tying the score with 4:52 to go.
In the third, he made consecutive saves on Patric Hornqvist and Conor Sheary about six minutes in, and later got his shoulder on a Sidney Crosby blast with 7:30 to go.
Joe Pavelski’s empty net goal with 1:20 to go capped the scoring. It was his first point in the series.
The Sharks improved to 2-0 in elimination games, including beating the Predators in Game 7 of the second round.
The Sharks had just two power plays, failing to convert on either, and are just 1-for-10 for the series.
Pittsburgh was 1-for-3, and is 2-for-11 overall. Both of the Penguins’ power play goals have come from Malkin, who led the team with 11 in the regular season.
Jones improved to 14-9 with his remarkable performance. His 44 saves is a new career high in the playoffs.
Murray, who allowed a pair of stoppable shots to get by him in the first period, fell to 14-6 with 18 saves. He’s 5-0 in the playoffs after a loss this season.
Tomas Hertl missed his third straight game with a reported knee injury. He has yet to skate with the team since getting hurt in Game 2.
Sharks coach Pete DeBoer made one notable change to his top two lines, putting Karlsson on the Couture line with Patrick Marleau, and moving Donskoi to the Joe Thornton-Pavelski line.
The Sharks will be attempting to erase a 3-1 series hole for the first time in their history. They are 0-5 all-time.
San Jose has an 8-3 home record in the playoffs, while Pittsburgh is 6-4 on the road.
Game 7 would be back in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, June 15.