PITTSBURGH >> The Sharks survived to play another day in the Stanley Cup Final.
Facing a seemingly relentless offensive attack from the Pittsburgh Penguins, who were seeking the fourth Cup title in their history, the Sharks held on for a 4-2 win today’s Game 5 at Consol Energy Center.
Logan Couture had a goal and two assists and goalie Martin Jones finished with 44 saves in his most clutch performance of the playoffs as the Sharks, who will host Game 6 on Sunday at SAP Center, cut the series deficit to three-games-to-two.
Melker Karlsson, Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski also scored for the Sharks, with Pavelski’s empty-net goal, his first of the series, giving his team a 4-2 lead with 1:20 left in the third period.
The Sharks, NHL’s best road team during the regular season, used three first-period goals and another stellar performance from Jones to improve to 4-0 in Game 5s on their unforgettable playoff run.
For all of the nostalgia of the first-ever trip to the Cup final for Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, it was Jones and Couture who willed the Sharks to a sixth game.
Couture had three points in the first period to help stake the Sharks to a one-goal lead.
Jones was simply exquisite to help keep it that way.
The Penguins scored twice in 22 seconds early in the first period to tie the game 2-2. But Jones finished the opening frame with 13 saves, then stood up to the Penguins pressure to finish with 17 saves in the second to keep the Sharks ahead 3-2.
The Sharks got the lead they so desperately wanted, gave it away, then grabbed it back again, all in a pulsating first period of Game 5.
Goals by Burns and then Couture in the opening 2:53 gave the Sharks a 2-0 advantage, marking the first time in the series that they’ve scored first and the first time they’ve held a lead during the run of play.
The lead didn’t last long as the Penguins responded with two goals in a 22-second span — the first by Evgeni Malkin and the second from Carl Hagelin — that tied the game and sent the sellout crowd in Consol Energy Center into a state of delirium.
The Penguins nearly had a third goal on a power play midway through the period but hit the goalpost on multiple occasions. One shot hit the left post, slid down the goal line, then hit the right post and bounced out.
But the Sharks weren’t done. With 5:13 remaining in the period, Couture made a deft no-look pass from the left faceoff circle to Karlsson, who beat Penguins goalie Matt Murray with a shot from the slot.