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'Donkey' carries Sharks into second round

Determined Donskoi helps San Jose eliminate Kings

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / Director of Editorial

LOS ANGELES -- San Jose Sharks right wing Joonas Donskoi made the team this season by never taking no for an answer.

Friday at Staples Center, he made a name for himself by scoring the winning goal in a 6-3, Game 5 victory that put an emphatic end to the season of the rival Los Angeles Kings.

He did so by refusing to take no for an answer from Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty.

Donskoi, a rookie from Raahe, Finland, playing in his fifth Stanley Cup Playoff game, scored 3:58 into the third period, stopping the bleeding that occurred through a second period filled with self-inflicted wounds by the Sharks.

They led 3-0 by the time the game was in the 25th minute. Depth had delivered the lead. Donskoi, Chris Tierney and Matt Nieto had each scored his first goal of the Western Conference First Round series.

Video: SJS@LAK, Gm5: Donskoi toe drags to light lamp early

But the Sharks gave it all back, and Donskoi was on the ice for all three goals against.

To say he did not feel good during the second intermission would be an understatement.

"We just tried to forget that after the second period and keep going," Donskoi said.

Nothing was said to Donskoi during the break.

"I didn't talk to him specifically," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "When you spend 82 games and six months with a group, there is a trust factor there. They had a bad period, their line, and we gave them a chance to regroup and come back and they did that."

Donskoi also didn't say anything to his teammates.

"We don't really understand 'Donkey' that much anyways," defenseman Brent Burns said.

Video: SJS@LAK, Gm5: Donskoi nets his second for the lead

Instead, Donskoi used the intermission to try to process the role he played in cruel change of fortune, a nine-minute onslaught from the Kings.

Burns said he wasn't surprised when Donskoi had a big start to the third period.

"I think he speaks with his stickhandling," Burns said.

Donskoi did his talking during his first shift of the period. He carried the puck over the attacking blue line and was engaged by Doughty, the Kings' No. 1 defenseman, and they battled almost until the goal line. Donskoi refused to be cowed by Doughty, shielding the puck before shoveling it into the slot. Eventually, Burns put his stick on it and pushed it to the left.

Who was waiting there?

Yes, Donskoi. He disengaged from Doughty and curled around the net. He got to the puck and took a wrist shot that beat Jonathan Quick's glove at 3:58.

There weren't many Sharks who were surprised Donskoi was able to hold off Doughty long enough to make something happen. They go up against the relentless 24-year-old all the time in practice.

"I don't think he is sneaky strong; I think he is strong," Burns said. "I don't think he is sneaky at all. He's an unbelievable skill guy. He's a little older, so he's a bit more mature. His confidence with the puck is better than a lot of old guys."

DeBoer wasn't even Sharks coach when he first saw Donskoi, playing for Finland at the 2015 IIHF World Championship. But he noticed him.

Then, as San Jose coach, the first place DeBoer saw him was at rookie camp in August. He noticed him again, more than he planned on noticing him, in fact.

"I didn't know a lot about him as a player," DeBoer said. "All I knew is he had a good year in the Finnish league. An NHL coach automatically says, 'OK, he'll help our American League team and we'll see how he does.' He just kept knocking on the door and wouldn't take no for an answer."

It all paid off Friday when the Sharks finally put down a Kings team that tormented them with a comeback from San Jose's 3-0 series lead in 2014 and a Game 7 victory in 2013.

The Sharks were able to survive their second-period meltdown, which looked strikingly similar to a third-period meltdown two nights earlier that almost cost them Game 4, because they could rely on more players than in the past.

"The depth allowed us to get through," DeBoer said. "I think there was a reason they weren't able to get over a hump like this in the past, and I think that is the reason because with our group right now, we have contributing depth we can play."

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