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Optimistic Sharks look to 'take care of home ice'

Believe they'll be better in Game 3 when Cup Final moves to San Jose after losing first two in Pittsburgh

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

SAN JOSE -- There is only one way to look at this game, at the rest of this series, if you're a member of the San Jose Sharks: We've got this.

That is not to say that the Sharks are proud of the way they've been playing, certainly not to say that they should be satisfied with the way they've been playing. They know they need to be better. They've said they need to be better. They purport to believe they will be better in Game 3 on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"Both teams are playing well," defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic said after Game 2. "Both teams are very good. And it could have gone either way in both games."

That is technically true. Each of the first two games was decided by one goal, with the Pittsburgh Penguins getting a late goal from Nick Bonino (with 2:33 seconds left) to win Game 1 and an overtime goal from Conor Sheary (2:35) to win Game 2.

Video: Sheary nets OT winner to give Pens 2-0 series lead

"I think we competed with them," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "Again, both games are one-goal games. Both ended late in one and overtime in the other. I think from a compete point, we're right there."

Well, maybe. But that sentiment and the one by Vlasic might be a rather optimistic view of what happened in Games 1 and 2 in the Stanley Cup Final, games in which the Penguins mostly dominated the Sharks.

But that is what the Sharks need at this moment. That is the only way they can think and act and believe, while the coaching staff does its best to tinker and tweak behind the scenes.

"We have no choice," Vlasic said when asked why he and the Sharks could be confident in their ability to bounce back from the hole. "Or else we'll be down 3-0."

There is some solace in returning to SAP Center for the first home Cup Final game in Sharks history. After a regular season in which they went 18-20-3 in San Jose, the Sharks have bounced back to play well there in the playoffs, going 7-2 against the Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues in the first three rounds.

"We're going back home," Vlasic said. "Take care of Game 3, and then move on from there. They took care of home ice. We've got to do the same."

They saw this happen against them too, having defeated the Predators in the first two games of their Western Conference Second Round series only to head out on the road and lose the next two. The Predators extended the series to seven games, before finally bowing to the Sharks.

"Obviously, we're not coming home under the best circumstances, but we also know we're a tough out, we're going to be a tough team to beat at home," DeBoer said.

But are they frustrated?

"You can't get frustrated this time of year," defenseman Justin Braun said after Game 2. "You've just got to keep going with it. Sometimes you get the bounces, sometimes you don't. Just got to stay with it. It's going to be a long series."

Video: SJS@PIT, Gm2: Braun ties game late on Couture's feed

There. There it is.

There's that confidence -- whether valid or not -- that the Sharks can extend this, can get back in it, can survive.

Except, of course, for Logan Couture, who appeared to be the lone voice of dissent, the Eeyore to the rest of his teammates. As he said, "We need to be a lot better. We know if we play this way, we're not going to win games."

It was a rare breach of protocol.

The idea was for the Sharks to look at the good, to feel the confidence, to bask in the positive. It was not -- it seemed -- to acknowledge the negative.

"The message to them was to tune out the noise," DeBoer said. "There's a lot of noise. People are going to want to tell you how well Pittsburgh is playing, how poorly you're playing, how you have no chance to win. We need to tune all that out, make sure we're ready for Game 3.

"That's the only thing that matters right now."

They need to believe. They need to believe in themselves -- that they can win, that they can get back into this series. Because if they allow any of the doubt to start creeping in, this series could be very short, indeed.

There was little said in the dressing room after Game 3, at least little that the players would reveal.

Only this, as Vlasic said, "We've got to take care of home ice. That's what was said. Let's go home and do what they did here."

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