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Insider Only Game 5 Fallout: Keeping Maz’s seat warm, Pressure on Murray for Game 6?

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Game 5 Fallout

Let’s hope Maz kept next Wednesday night free.

Inviting Bill Mazeroski to Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final was a great idea. He’s responsible for the last time a major Pittsburgh professional sports team won a championship in Pittsburgh.

Maybe you’ve heard of the home run he hit in 1960.

It would have been great to invite him to join the Penguins on the ice while they celebrated winning the Stanley Cup.

Lots of people had celebrations planned for Thursday night. There were more people outside watching the big screens than there were in the Consol Energy Center seats.

Ask anybody who owns a sports bar and he’ll tell you how much the Penguins playing in the Stanley Cup Final means for business.

The Sharks sure know how to be party poopers.

And now Maz may be invited to come to Consol Energy Center next week for Game 7.

Twitter was a-flitter with fans wanting to blame the Penguins’ goalie Matt Murray, who left in at least one softie, maybe two.

And there are lots of hungover fans today saying that the Penguins were focused more on the impending celebration and the parade than they were on the game.

Analyze all you want.

The explanation is simple.

The Penguins ran into a hot goaltender. Martin Jones had 44 saves, that’s the most by a goaltender in a Stanley Cup Final regulation game since the Penguins came into existence in the 1967-68 season.

Lots of fans and some in the media came away from the game believing that the Penguins were the better team and winning the fourth game is inevitable.

No it’s not.

You say Jones can’t come up with 44 saves again, I say, maybe, but maybe the Penguins can’t come up with 46 shots again.

And, by the way, the goalie is part of the team and Martin Jones made the Sharks the better team by playing the game of his life.

And the Sharks were the best road team in the NHL this season. They were probably more energized by the desire to ruin the celebration than the Penguins were to have it.

It’s called desperation.

The Penguins probably can’t play any better than they played Thursday night and neither can Jones.

Both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin may have played their best games of the post season. Crosby had nothing to prove it on the score sheet but he set up a lot of those 46 shots. Somebody needed to bury one.

Malkin was all over the ice. He got a goal on a pass intended for Crosby that hit a Sharks defenseman’s skate.

That’s what makes best-of-seven so interesting.

Matt Murray was getting strong consideration for the Conn Smythe Trophy before Game 5, but he lost a lot of votes by letting in three goals, two of them on the soft side.

But, when you score two goals and lose, chances are pretty good that your opponent’s goalie is a bigger problem than yours.

Murray has benefitted from the Penguins playing great defense in front of him and blocking a ridiculous number of shots.

He’s been one of the best stories of the playoffs but Marc Andre Fleury would have been booed off the ice if he had let in the first two goals and Murray might have been yanked if the Sharks had scored their third before the Penguins tied it 2-2.

Murray has been spectacular in games following losses and he may have to do it again in Game 6 in order to keep Maz at home.

If he lets in a softie or two Sunday night and the Penguins fall behind, Mike Sullivan is going to be taking some long looks at Fleury.

Murray was being compared to Ken Dryden a few days ago and he was – and still may be – on his way to becoming one of Pittsburgh’s biggest sports heroes ever.

Boy, does that narrative change if he plays a bad Game 6 and the Penguins head home with a goalie controversy.

And remember, the Sharks know all about blowing a lead in the playoffs.

Two years ago they went up three games to none on the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the Western Conference Finals and not only lost Game 7.

It was a 5-1 blowout.

There are plenty of players on this Sharks team that will be motivated by that.

Keep Maz’ seat warm. This is a long way from being over.

About The Author

John Steigerwald

TIOPS Columnist

John Steigerwald, a life long Pittsburgher, has been covering PITTSBURGH sports since 1977 as a TV anchor/reporter, columnist radio reporter/commentator and talk show host. He is also the author of one of the best selling local books in Pittburgh history, "Just Watch The Game."

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