PITTSBURGH - The San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins play Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). The Penguins won 3-2 in Game 1.
Here are five keys for the Sharks in Game 2:
1. START BETTER
It would be difficult for the Sharks to have a worse start than Game 1. In the first period, the Penguins pressured them into repeated turnovers, outshot them 15-4 and jumped out to a 2-0 lead. Blaming it on nerves or rust from a long layoff, the Sharks spent much of the first period standing around and watching before they found their game in the second period, and were able to push back and pull even.
They need to be the aggressors from the drop of the puck in Game 2.
"I don't know what it was, but it's not us sitting back and letting a team take it to us in the first period," Sharks center Chris Tierney said San Jose's morning skate Wednesday. "We usually get on teams in the first and that's our game. So, obviously, we're looking for a better start tonight and to carry our start for a full 60 [minutes]."
2. CONTROL THE PACE
This probably should be the No. 1 key every game, because the Penguins have so many offensive weapons that can burn opponents with their speed. The Sharks faced some fast teams in the Western Conference, but saw in Game 1 that the Penguins can push it to another level if you feed their counterattack game with turnovers.
To prevent that, the Sharks have to clean up their defensive zone exits and manage the puck better through the neutral zone. If they can do that and establish their puck possession game in the attack zone, as they did in the second period of Game 1, they can tire out the Penguins, slow them down a little and force them to work the entire length of the ice to create offense.
"Whenever you can get out of your 'D' zone as quickly as possible and play in the 'O' zone, that's the best defense," Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon said. "Knowing that, we just want to get the puck in our forwards' hands. That allows us to use our feet to skate it out and get in the 'O' zone."
3. GET PUCKS TO THE NET
Coach Peter DeBoer wasn't satisfied with the number of shots on goal (26) or the quality of scoring chances the Sharks generated in Game 1. The Penguins having the puck a lot more contributed to that, but it was also because Pittsburgh blocked 21 shots.
Penguins goaltender Matt Murray had an easy first period with San Jose getting four shots through to him. The Sharks were much better in the second period, when they scored both of their goals and peppered Murray with 13 shots.
Their second goal started with a simple point shot from defenseman Brent Burns. Patrick Marleau picked up the rebound and scored on a wraparound.
Getting more pucks to the net, even from bad angles, as the Penguins appeared to be trying to do against Sharks goaltender Martin Jones, might create more opportunities.
How do the Sharks get more pucks through? "Don't hit guys," Burns said.
4. DOUBLE SHOT OF JOE
Although the Penguins' three goals in Game 1 came from rookies Bryan Rust and Conor Sheary and third line center Nick Bonino, their star players, particularly Sidney Crosby, were their best players. The Sharks need similar output from their big guns in Game 2.
Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski were OK in Game 1 with two shots on goal and three attempts apiece, but appeared to get frustrated at times (both took penalties in the second period) and need to play better for the Sharks to win this series. San Jose is 1-4 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when Pavelski doesn't get at least one point.
"I think our whole team has to be better. That's all those guys included," DeBoer said. "As a coach, when you get to this point, really throughout the playoffs, you want to put your best game out there and see if it's good enough and so far it has been. I think as a group we didn't do that last game. We want to make sure we throw that at them tonight."
5. MORE JONES
Jones was very good in making 38 saves, including 17 in the third period, and was the main reason the Sharks had a chance to steal Game 1. As much as his teammates need to play better in front of him, Jones will likely have to maintain that level throughout the series.
Tampa Bay Lightning backup Andrei Vasilevskiy played well filling in for the injured Ben Bishop in the Eastern Conference Final, but still allowed at least three goals in five of his six starts. Before that, the Penguins defeated the New York Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist, who was pulled twice in the first round, and the Washington Capitals' Braden Holtby, who gave up at least three goals in four of the six games in the second round.
by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / NHL.com Staff Writer