Ian Cole (via NHL.com)
Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Ian Cole hasn’t made a habit of scoring, which made him an unexpected source of offense for the Penguins in Game 4. Cole’s goal was his first career playoff goal and broke a slump that spanned longer than one year.
Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Ian Cole isn’t exactly what one would call a sniper. In 257 career games, Cole has scored only 10 goals, but his most recent goal drought was starting to get a little crazy, even for someone whose career-high is five goals in a campaign.
When Cole stepped out onto the ice for Game 5, it officially marked the start of his 105th game since he last scored. That’s right: Cole hadn’t scored in more than a calendar year. The last time he lit the lamp was March 26, 2015, in a regular season tilt against the Carolina Hurricanes. So to call Cole an unlikely goal-scorer in the Stanley Cup final would be an understatement, yet there he was in the first frame, finding the back of the net to give the Penguins an early lead.
Cole’s goal came 7:36 into the first period of Game 4 following a shot by Penguins winger Phil Kessel that was blockered away by San Jose Sharks goaltender Martin Jones. But in trying to control the rebound, Jones knocked the puck right into Cole’s path and the Penguins rearguard wasted no time one-timing the puck into the back of the net:
As ‘Doc’ Emrick exclaims upon Cole’s goal, this is indeed the first time the blueliner has scored in the post-season — a 28-game drought — and it put the Penguins in control of the game throughout the remainder of the contest. Before the game ended, Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin had extended the lead and the Penguins got an insurance marker from Eric Fehr late in the contest to secure a 3-1 victory to match their 3-1 series lead.
With the win, the Penguins now have the opportunity to win the Stanley Cup on home ice for the first time in franchise history. Each of their previous victories came on the road, with the 1991 win coming in Minnesota over the North Stars, 1992’s victory in Chicago over the Blackhawks and their most recent championship, in 2009, came in Detroit over the Red Wings.