SAP CENTER — The San Jose Sharks fell apart Monday night at the SAP Center, losing 3-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a pivotal Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Despite playing on home ice, the Sharks were dominated by the Penguins, falling into a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 hole in the best-of-7 series.
“It’s disappointing when you lose in front of your home crowd,” Sharks forward Logan Couture said.
Pittsburgh’s Ian Cole struck at 7:38 in the first, with assists by Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin. Cole’s first goal of the playoffs came off a rebound from Sharks’ goaltender Martin Jones’ pad.
The Penguins have scored first in every game of the series.
“We gotta change something, figure out a way to win. We won one out of four, obviously, and it’s not good enough right now,” Sharks forward Chris Tierney said. “We just gotta do everything a little bit better and a little bit harder and hopefully it adds up.”
San Jose forward Melker Karlsson took an interference penalty at the 2:28 mark in the second. Five seconds into the Pittsburgh power play, Malkin put the puck into the back of the net from Jones’ left side, scoring his first goal of the series with assists from Kessel and Kris Letang.
The Sharks missed some good chances in the first and second period, but played their most energetic hockey in the third, taking half of their total shots on goal in the final period.
The puck hit the crossbar, the post and went over the net. The Fins didn’t get on the board until the 8:07 mark in the third, when Karlsson scored his fourth goal of the playoffs, with assists by Tierny and Brenden Dillon, over the glove of Pittsburgh goaltender Matt Murray.
With only a one-goal deficit, San Jose stayed in Pittsburgh’s zone and shot as much as they could in the final minutes of the game, but came up empty handed.
The Penguins put the nail in the coffin with 2:42 left in the game, when Eric Fehr put the puck right past Jones on a breakaway, assisted by Carl Hagelin and Olli Maatta.
“We haven’t played at our best,” Sharks defenseman Paul Martin said. “Everyone has another level that we can rely on, and we can get to it.”
The Stanley Cup will be in attendance at Game 5 in Pittsburgh on Thursday. The Sharks — who notched 28 road wins during the regular season — will have to regain their magic if they hope to keep their Stanley Cup dreams alive.