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Sharks Don't Believe Writing Is On the Wall

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks



PITTSBURGH --
The San Jose Sharks believe the expectations of their imminent demise are premature.

Sure, there doesn't appear to be a lot for the Sharks to be optimistic about after their 2-1 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on Wednesday. San Jose trails the best-of-7 series 2-0 with Game 3 on Saturday at SAP Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports) and is grasping for any positives to build upon.

But the Sharks aren't ready to give up. That was the message in their locker room after the game.

"Got to take care of things at home," defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic said. "That's what was said, `Let's go home and do what they did here.'"

What the Penguins did was control play for much of the first two games and got deserved victories. The Sharks had their moments, but were within striking distance in both games mostly because of goaltender Martin Jones, who made 28 saves Wednesday and 38 in a 3-2 loss in Game 1 on Monday.

Still, the Sharks feel with a bounce here or there that they could have split the first two games of the Final. Penguins forward Nick Bonino scored the game-winning goal with 2:33 left in regulation in Game 1. Conor Sheary was the hero for Pittsburgh in Game 2, scoring 2:35 into overtime.

"Game 1 was decided in the last [three] minutes. Tonight's an overtime game," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "So, I think we'll hold off on the funeral. We've got a lot of hockey left to play."

The Sharks hope there's a lot of hockey left, but know if they don't find a way to elevate their play in the next two games at home the series might be over quickly. They had some of the same problems in Game 2 that they had in Game 1 with the Penguins pressuring them into repeated turnovers and giving them fits with their speed.

As a result, the Penguins outshot the Sharks 23-11 over the first two periods Wednesday.

"They just don't stop coming," Sharks defenseman Justin Braun said. "They had good pressure, they had good sticks. I think the amount of pucks they knocked down compared to teams we've played in the past is pretty amazing and we've just got to make harder plays, stronger plays, and get around that."

The Sharks played better in the third period after DeBoer tweaked his line combinations. He moved Joel Ward up from the third line to play with Logan Couture and Joonas Donskoi, and shifted Patrick Marleau from left wing on the second line to center on the third line with Melker Karlsson and Chris Tierney.

"We needed a change somehow," DeBoer said. "We weren't generating enough after two [periods] 5-on-5."

The change paid off on Braun's tying goal with 4:05 left in regulation. Ward and Couture helped set it up with their work down along the goal line. Couture won a battle with Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin behind the net before passing back to Braun for the shot from the top of the right circle.

The Sharks pushed hard late in regulation and at the start of overtime for their best stretch of play since the second period of Game 1, but couldn't find a way to put the go-ahead goal past Penguins goaltender Matt Murray.

Then Sheary scored the winner off a set faceoff play that started with Sidney Crosby winning the left circle draw cleanly from Ward.

"We scored to tie it up. We did something," Couture said. "I thought we created some chances there in the last couple minutes to give ourselves a chance to win. Unfortunately, it didn't find a way in the back of the net."

The Sharks are at least a little bit frustrated. That was evident in Couture's postgame accusation that Crosby "cheats" on faceoffs and "gets away with it [because] he's Sidney Crosby."

The Sharks' power play carried them to the Western Conference championship, scoring on 27 percent of its opportunities through the first three rounds. But it has been limited to three opportunities in the first two games against the Penguins, including one in Game 2.

Although that's partly because of the Penguins being disciplined, it's also because the Sharks don't have the puck enough in dangerous situations to force the Penguins into taking penalties.

"I thought we were better tonight, but we've got to find a way to create some more space 5-on-5 and some more 5-on-5 offense because they're not taking penalties," DeBoer said. "So, we've got to find a way to do this 5-on-5 or push them into taking some more penalties."

The Sharks have yet to play with a lead in the series and have gotten little so far from top players Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Couture. Before the third period Wednesday, those three had combined for two shots on goal - one each from Pavelski and Thornton.

All three played better in the third period, but the Sharks are going to need more from them if they're going to turn this series around.

"We've definitely shown that we can play," Pavelski said. "We've got another level and we're going to have to find it here. It goes to this next game. They've done their job here at home, but we've got to go win the next one."

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / NHL.com Staff Writer

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