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Penguins shut down Sharks to win Stanley Cup

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NHL

SAN JOSE, CA-They say that defense wins championships. The Pittsburgh Penguins had done a good job of keeping a high-powered San Jose Sharks offense in check heading into tonight’s Game 6 on their way to grabbing a 3-2 series lead. Pittsburgh’s defense did its job yet again in Game 6 to deliver the team’s fourth championship.

The Penguins held the Sharks to just 19 shots on goal in their 3-1 win Sunday night at the SAP Center to take the series four game to two and claim the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2009.

Coming into the Stanley Cup Final, Pittsburgh was consistently outshooting teams in their games and that continued in the Final. They would do it again in the first period of Game 6, outshooting San Jose 9-4.

Not only did they outshoot the Sharks, the Penguins would grab a 1-0 lead 8:16 into the opening frame when defenseman Brian Dumoulin fired a point shot on the power-play through San Jose goalie Martin Jones for his second goal of the playoffs.

With about 7:30 left in the first, the home fans thought they would have a reason to cheer when forward Joel Ward was sprung on a breakaway. However, winger Chris Kunitz hustled back and dove to poke check the puck away from Ward in the slot to help keep the visitors up by one goal.

The Sharks would push back in the second period, eventually outshooting Pittsburgh 13-11 in the middle frame. They would tie the game 6:27 into the second when Logan Couture fired a shot through Penguins net minder Matt Murray‘s legs for his 10th goal of the postseason. It was Couture’s playoff-leading 30th point of the postseason.

Like they have throughout most of the season and playoffs, however, Pittsburgh came right back at San Jose and regained their one-goal lead 1:19 later when defenseman Kris Letang fired a shot from near the goal line off of Jones to put the Pens up 2-1 going into the intermission.

In the third, Pittsburgh would just defensively smoother the Sharks.

The Penguins held the Sharks to just two shots on goal in the final period. A big part of that was the team’s willingness to sacrifice their bodies by blocking shots.

With 1:02 left in the game, Patric Hornqvist would seal the series win for the Pens when he scored an empty-net goal to send the Pittsburgh bench, and the Penguins fans in attendance, into a frenzy.

It capped an incredible playoff run for Pittsburgh.

Prior to the start of the playoffs, Penguins start Marc-Andre Fleury went down with an injury, leading to Murray getting the starting nod in goal. Murray was outstanding in the postseason, going 15-6.

His 15 wins would tie him with Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward of the 2006 champion Hurricanes, Patrick Roy of the Cup-winning 1986 Montreal Canadiens, and Conn Smythe winner Ron Hextall of the 1987 Philadelphia Flyers for the most playoff wins by a rookie goalie.

As mentioned earlier, this is Pittsburgh’s fourth Stanley Cup championship and first in seven years. All four Penguins championships have been won on the road. Captain Sidney Crosby was given the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP.

Speaking to NBC after the game, Crosby spoke about how amazing this run had been, saying, “It wasn’t easy getting here, especially the way things started out, the first half (of the season) wasn’t easy. “I think everyone just stuck together, kept going and found some momentum there in March and continued to keep it going.”

Pittsburgh became the sixth team to win the Stanley Cup after making a coaching change during the season after Mike Sullivan took over behind the Penguins’ bench in mid-December.

Apart from winning the Stanley Cup, the team had a special moment on the ice after the game. Former Pittsburgh forward Pascal Dupuis, who had to retire earlier this season due to blood clots, joined the team on the ice to celebrate the championship.

He was the second player to get handed the Cup after Crosby first handed it to veteran defenseman Trevor Daley, who missed the Stanley Cup Final after breaking his ankle in the Eastern Conference Final.

For the Sharks, it was a painful loss, not just for losing the series at home, but because it was the first time in their 25-year history that they had reached the Stanley Cup Final.

It must have been exceedingly hard for veterans Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, specifically. Both players, both in their late 30s, were in the Final for the first time in their careers.

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