The Penguins are one win in the next three games away from being Stanley Cup Champions. Yes, you read that correctly. Last night, they went into the SAP Center and played a tremendous road hockey game and came away with a HUGE win. The difference now: heading back home 2-2 for a best of 3 series, and coming back with the Sharks on the brink and now needing the Penguins to lose three straight games, something that hasn't happened since Mike Sullivan's 2nd, 3rd, and 4th games as head coach, I believe. That was in December.
Let's break down the opening goal from Ian Cole.
The presence of Evgeni Malkin came up big on this one. With the Sharks making a line change, three players tried to go after Malkin. With patience, he waited out the contact, and fed the puck to a streaking Phil Kessel coming up the ice.
As Kessel gets the puck near the center red line, Chris Kunitz inches towards the attacking blue line attempting to create an odd man rush. Ian Cole senses the lack of Sharks defenders back and starts to sneak in the back door.
Kessel uses his speed to gain outside position against Brenden Dillon, and uses the time and space gained from this position to put a shot on goal.
The presence of Kessel is just as strong as the presence of Malkin. With Chris Kunitz trailing close, and Ian Cole trailing wide, Kessel alone draws three defenders!
As Kessel winds up to put the shot on goal, Ian Cole starts to shift towards the space where a rebound just might pop out to, if there is one.
And sure as hell, would you look at that. A bouncing puck bounces right to Ian Cole, but flattens out just at the last second where he can fire it past Martin Jones without hesitation.
If he hesitates, a goalie like Jones probably gets over and makes a ten-bell save.
But what a moment it was for Ian Cole to get his first playoff goal. The aspect of scoring first has been very important, as the Penguins have yet to trail in this series, save for the overtime goal scored by the Sharks in Game 3.
This opening goal in the period set the Penguins up to play a great first road period and set the pace for the game.
So, now, we're heading home and the Cup will be in the building. Godspeed to all.