The last few steps in the climb toward the Stanley Cup are the toughest. The San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins, the two teams remaining in this year's quest for the Cup, will try to move one step closer when they play Game 2 of the Cup Final on at Consol Energy Center on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
The Sharks, making their first trip to the Cup Final, will have to generate more offense than they did in their 3-2 loss in Game 1. San Jose must spend more time in the offensive zone rather than allowing Pittsburgh to control play. They were outshot 41-26 in Game 1, and 33-13 in the first and third periods.
The Penguins, playing before their home crowd, will try to use their speed against the Sharks like they did in Game 1. Pittsburgh's defensemen did a good job in evading San Jose's forecheckers, and also showed a willingness to sacrifice by blocking 21 shots.
Here are four players trying to help their teams take the final steps in their climb toward the Cup.
Logan Couture, C, Sharks -- San Jose's season took off after Couture returned from injuries in which he missed more than two months, and he's been a big reason the Sharks are in the Cup Final for the first time. Couture's assist in Game 1 was his League-leading 25th point of the playoffs. He has points in 15 of San Jose's 19 games and hasn't been held scoreless in consecutive games.
Brent Burns, D, Sharks -- Burns had two assists in Game 1, giving him 22 points in the playoffs, the most by a defenseman in one playoff year since Brian Leetch of the New York Rangers had 34 in 1994. Burns is a big reason that San Jose's power play is clicking at 27.7 percent; he has four goals and 10 points with the man-advantage.
Nick Bonino, C, Penguins -- The 28-year-old center continues to excel in this year's playoffs. He came up big again in Game 1 scoring the winning goal with 2:33 remaining, tying him with Sidney Crosby for second place on the team with 16 points. The line of Carl Hagelin, Bonino and Phil Kessel, known now as the "HBK Line" has been Pittsburgh's most consistent throughout the playoffs.
Sidney Crosby, C, Penguins -- A brilliant pass by Pittsburgh's captain turned into the goal that gave Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead in the first period of Game 1. Crosby also scored three game-winners in Pittsburgh's seven-game victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final. Crosby has fueled Pittsburgh's offense by winning more than half of his faceoffs in each of the Penguins' past six games.
by John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / NHL.com Managing Editor