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Stanley Cup Final

Penguins defend too much in Game 3

Pittsburgh chases puck, blocks 38 shots in loss to Sharks

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

SAN JOSE -- The Pittsburgh Penguins blocked 38 shots from the San Jose Sharks in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on Saturday. It's an impressive number, no doubt, but it might be too high for the Penguins' liking.

Thirty-eight blocks in one game from a team that averages less than half of that is telling of a plan that got slightly away in a game that was winnable until Joonas Donskoi scored in overtime to lift the Sharks to a 3-2 win.

The Penguins averaged 17.5 blocks per game in the first two games, up slightly from the 16.4 they averaged through the first three rounds.

"Obviously when you can block less and play down in their end that's beneficial," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. "But sometimes you've got to defend."

Video: Sullivan's thoughts on Game 3 loss to Sharks

The Penguins had to defend too much for their liking in Game 3, and way more than they had to in Games 1 and 2 at Consol Energy Center. The Penguins had 16 more shots on goal than San Jose (42-26), but the Sharks had three more total shot attempts (79-76), including 12 on the power play.

Simply put, San Jose had the puck more than the Penguins in Game 3, forcing Pittsburgh's skaters to dive into lanes to block shots. The Penguins got in front of 12 of Brent Burns' 17 shot attempts. Eight of those blocks came at even strength.

When a player, even one as shot-happy as Burns, gets 17 shot attempts (including 12 at even strength), you know something isn't going right.

Video: PIT@SJS, Gm3: Lovejoy hammers it past Jones

"When we're playing smart hockey, we're making great decisions going through the neutral zone and we didn't do quite enough of that tonight," Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. "This is a team that wants to play in our zone, they want to use their big bodies and grind, and we gave them a few too many turnovers, a few too many pucks in the neutral zone, and it came back to hurt us."

The Penguins, though, weren't surprised by how the Sharks attacked and how many shots they attempted in Game 3. They figured at the start of the series they'd have to become a shot-blocking team against the Sharks because of how often they like to shoot and how good they are at getting deflections in front of the net.

"It certainly is a big part of their offense, their cycle game," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "They use the points a lot, then they look for those wrist shots, those half-slappers, and they're looking for deflections. They use their size. That's a big part of how they generate offense."

Video: PIT@SJS, Gm3: Murray slides cross-crease to make save

The Penguins didn't see all of that in Games 1 and 2 because they had the puck more and held the Sharks to 53.5 shot attempts per game and blocked 32.7 percent of the Sharks' shot attempts (35 of 107).

They had to block a lot more in Game 3 -- 48.1 percent of San Jose's shot attempts.

That's an impressive percentage and it speaks to the Penguins willingness to dive into lanes and sacrifice their bodies, but it's also deceiving.

The fewer shots the Penguins have to block, the better off they'll be.

Or, there's Lovejoy's way of looking at it.

"We needed one more block tonight," Lovejoy said.

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