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Evgeni Malkin’s smack counts for something apparently. The forward/center on the Pittsburgh Penguins had some strong words on Monday afternoon, words that were tantamount to guaranteeing victory for his side in Game 6 of the Pens’ best-of-seven series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Malkin stated on Monday “I believe in my team, I believe in myself. We’re coming back to Pittsburgh for sure.”

Game six on Tuesday night was played in Tampa Bay and since road games are the tough ones to win, issuing a guarantee definitely took some bravery from Malkin. For his part, he assisted on the opening goal late in the first period to budge his team ahead. The second period then saw Pittsburgh score twice more, including what would be the game-winner from Sidney Crosby late in the frame. The Lightning attempted a third-period comeback behind two Brian Boyle goals, however their efforts were swept aside as the Pens scored twice in the closing minutes for a 5-2 victory.

Game 6 also saw Matt Murray return to the net for Pitt. The young goalkeeper missed Game 5 after a period of below-par play. However, he stopped 27 of 29 shots in goal on Tuesday night and was a big part of Pittsburgh’s success. The series will now shift back to Pittsburgh, as guaranteed, for what promises to be a dramatic conclusion on Thursday night (8 pm ET). With a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals on the line, the Pens will host by virtue of their better regular-season record.

The series in the Western Conference could be heading to a Game 7 as well. St. Louis and San Jose will meet in Game 6 on Wednesday night (9 pm ET) with the Sharks leading the series 3-2. They will certainly want to avoid going the distance with a Game-6 victory to wrap things up.

The game, which will be played in San Jose, could, in fact, prove to be a pivotal one when it comes to San Jose’s franchise history. With roots that go back to the early 1990s, the Sharks have never won a conference championship and hence, they’ve never qualified for the Stanley Cup Finals. This is a franchise that has had strong regular-season teams on several occasions since the turn of the century with numerous post-season flops. But the Sharks have a golden chance to get the monkey off of their backs as hosts in a clinch situation. If Game 7 is needed out west, then it will be played on Friday night from St. Louis (8 pm ET).

With Pitt surely the favorites to win at home on Thursday and with San Jose holding two chances to advance, the Stanley Cup Finals are starting to look like the Sharks vs. Pittsburgh.

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