The San Jose Sharks held serve in the Tank by beating the Penguins 3-2 in overtime to pull themselves within a game of a tied series.
Two quick icing penalties in the opening minutes were almost two too many to overcome for the Penguins, but they were able to get the puck out of the zone just long enough to get in a quick change.
Following that, Pittsburgh occupied much of the play leading up to Second Star of the Game Joel Ward’s hi-stick against Conor Sheary at the 2:58 mark in the Sharks‘ defensive zone. San Jose‘s penalty kill responded exceptionally well, not allowing any shots on Third Star Martin Jones’ net.
The Penguins seemed to prefer even sides, as only 31 seconds after Ward returned to the ice, Ben Lovejoy snuck an on-edge wrister past Jones’ stick for the opening tally. His play started along the goal line when Brenden Dillon attempted the clear the puck along the near boards. The puck didn’t have the Wheaties to cross the blue line and was intercepted by Lovejoy, who trickled his wrister into net.
The Sharks finally notched their first shot of the game just past the eight minute mark, but rookie goaltender Matt Murray was certainly up to the task, deflecting the puck out of harm’s way to a teammate’s stick.
That shot provided all the confidence the Sharks needed though, as Justin Braun, assisted by Joe Thornton and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (his 11th helper of the playoffs), scored 26 seconds before the midway point of the frame to level the contest. He received a screen from Melker Karlsson so perfect that Murray didn’t know Braun had fired the puck until he heard it in the net behind him. Thornton was the lucky recipient of a scrum along the near boards and centered to Braun, who quickly ripped his wrister over Patric Hornqvist’s diving block and past Murray’s glove shoulder.
Following the leveling goal, although Phil Kessel and the Pens had an exceptional breakaway opportunity, it was San Jose who had extended plays in their offensive zone, but the Penguins notched a total of 12 blocks to keep the Sharks‘ second goal off the board.
After 20 minutes, the Penguins led in shots (14 to six), face-offs (52%), blocks (12 to five) and giveaways (four to eight), while the Sharks had takeaways (nine to two) and hits (20 to nine) to their credit.
Due to play taking place almost exclusively outside the offensive zones for both teams, the second period failed to see a shot on goal until 4:14 had passed.
The Sharks eventually took control of most of the first half of the period, including finding yet another post after beating Murray five-hole, but the netminder and his defense did well to keep the score tied at one-all.
The Sharks headed to the power play with 9:18 remaining in the second frame when Carl Hagelin was found guilty of tripping Karlsson. Although the Sharks had two fantastic opportunities, the score remained tied after a successful Penguins penalty kill.
Even though the Sharks played a superior period filled with multiple plays of extended time in their offensive zone (they led shots in the period nine to six), it was the Penguins who exited the frame with the 2-1 lead off a Hornqvist tip-in (his eighth tally of the playoffs) off another Lovejoy shot and the hockey assist from Olli Maatta. Maatta reset the play from the near boards to Lovejoy at the point, who fired the puck at Jones’ net. Along the way, Hornqvist redirected the puck under the netminder’s arm to give the Pens the lead going into the final 20 minutes of regulation.
San Jose also led face-offs (they took the game lead – 52%), giveaways (five to nine) and hits (10 to three), while Pittsburgh took won the period’s blocks (eight to six) and takeaways (five to three).
The Penguins entered the third frame exactly how they wanted to – with a lead. So far this postseason, they’d done that 11 times, and had a 10-1 record in such instances. Further increasing their confidence, the Sharks were 1-4 in the five games where they’d entered the final 20 minutes trailing.
Nick Bonino gave the Sharks four minutes of the man-advantage at the 4:48 mark when he not only hi-sticked Thornton, but also drew blood. Though the Sharks played an exceptional power play, the Penguins almost completed both kills. But that is all for naught since, just as Bonino’s sentence was about lifted, Ward scored a slap shot to level the game, assisted by First Star Joonas Donskoi and Thornton (his 17th helper of the postseason). Thornton passed to rookie Donskoi from his own defensive zone, who completed the transition across the neutral zone with a pass to Ward. The winger advanced as far as the point before firing his screaming slap shot past Murray.
Following Ward’s tally, the game very much became a back-and-forth affair with neither team establishing a solid, long-term presence in their offensive zone. The Sharks finally had an opportunity around the 15 minute mark, but a poorly timed icing ended their threat and allowed the Penguins to transition from being reactive to proactive.
No more goals were struck in the frame, sending the Stanley Cup Finals to the second straight overtime game. After a third frame that favored the Sharks, it was the Penguins who began the extra time in control of the game. In the first six minutes, the Penguins fired a solid five shots to San Jose‘s one. That is not to say that Murray’s services were not required though. Even as the Sharks earned more opportunities, the rookie continued to answer the call and keep his team in the contest.
Overtime ended up lasting 12:18 before Donskoi earned the Sharks their first ever Stanley Cup Finals win. He went top shelf over Murray’s shoulder after an approach from behind the goal line for his sixth goal of the playoffs, assisted by Chris Tierney.
There were two intriguing statistics in this game: shot totals, specifically those of the Penguins, and hits, those focusing on the Sharks. It has been heavily featured in the analysis of their run, usually because the Pens‘ totals strongly led the opposition. This evening was more of the same, as the Pens led shots 42 to 26.
The Sharks have had much more success this postseason when being the more violent of their opposition. Tonight? 47 hits to Pittsburgh‘s 17. Doing this helped to slow the speedy Pens down and eliminate many of their dump-and-chase plays.
Jones earns the win after saving 40 of the 42 shots he faced (95.2%), while Murray takes the overtime loss after saving 23 of 26 (88.5%).
After earning their first win, the Sharks are now focused on leveling the series and making it a best of three. They’ll get that opportunity this Monday at 8 p.m. eastern, which may be viewed on CBC, NBC or TVAS.
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