SAN JOSE – After the Sharks managed to keep it locked in its trunk on Thursday night, the Stanley Cup made the 2,609-mile journey from Pittsburgh to San Jose for Sunday’s Game 6 at SAP Center.
This time, it came out for air.
The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Sharks, 3-1, to win the Stanley Cup Final series four-games-to-two.
Kris Letang had the game-winning goal at 7:46 of the second period, after Logan Couture’s goal just one minute and 19 seconds earlier knotted the score at 1-1.
The Sharks managed just one shot on goal in the third period before a Patric Hornqvist empty-net goal with 1:02 left capped the scoring.
After defeating the Kings, Predators and Blues in the first three rounds, the Sharks lost their first-ever trip to the NHL’s final round in the 25-year history of the franchise.
Pittsburgh struck first. After a Dainius Zubrus tripping minor, Brian Dumoulin’s point shot got through Martin Jones at 8:16 for the Penguins’ third power play goal of the series.
Although that shot shouldn’t have been overly difficult for Jones, the Sharks goalie made up for it with a series of phenomenal stops later in the period. On one sequence with about three minutes to go, he managed to stop Sidney Crosby and Conor Sheary with his left pad, keeping the deficit at one at the break.
After more 10-bell stops on Nick Bonino and Bryan Rust early in the second, Couture potted the tying marker at 6:27, sneaking a wrist shot through Matt Murray’s five-hole.
It didn’t take long for the Penguins to regain the lead, though. A monster shift by Letang, thanks in part to a slow-footed Roman Polak failing to get to a loose puck along the wall, was capped off the Penguins defenseman directing one in off of Jones’ arm at 7:46.
Pittsburgh nearly upped the lead with 4:30 to go on a two-on-one, but rather than slip a feed from Evgeni Malkin into a wide open net, Chris Kunitz inexplicably returned a pass to a Malkin who couldn’t get a handle on the disc.
Justin Braun also did his part to keep it 2-1 at the intermission, getting his stick on what looked like a sure Crosby goal with a minute and a half to go.
The Sharks got their one and only power play in the third period – before a meaningless Eric Fehr minor with 10 seconds to go - on Sheary’s hooking penalty at 5:26. They didn’t register a single shot on goal, though, and failed to score a power play goal on 10 chances over the final five games.
Couture finished the playoffs with 30 points, becoming just the fourth player since 1997 to hit that mark in a single playoff year.
The Sharks finished the playoffs 8-4 at home, including a 1-2 mark in the Final.