PITTSBURGH -- It was hard to tell that the San Jose Sharks were facing elimination from the Stanley Cup Final during practice at Consol Energy Center on Wednesday.
The Sharks trail the Penguins 3-1 in the best-of-7 series. A loss in Game 5 here Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports) will end the Sharks' season and their quest to win the first title in their 25-year history.
But there was little trepidation or tightness on display as the Sharks hooted and hollered their way through a brisk 30-minute practice in the afternoon.
"We're still right here [in the series]," captain Joe Pavelski said. "If we find a way to win this game, it brings a little bit of life into us. This group has always had a lot of fun playing regardless of the situation."
During practice, players playfully checked each other into the boards. Finnish forward Joonas Donskoi, the hero of Game 3, tapped his stick against the glass to get the attention of a Finnish journalist. Players let out loud 'oohs' and 'aahs' each time a teammate scored.
Coach Peter DeBoer was happy to see the antics, happy to see his players embracing the opportunity to play another game in the same manner they have for the 104 games they've played this season.
"I mean, this group is like that every day all year," DeBoer said. "I'm glad that I saw that today. You're never sure, considering the circumstances. I would have been worried had they come in quiet or dragging a little bit."
The players seemed a bit surprised their demeanor was a topic.
"There's no point to be negative," said defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who said the Sharks were positive in their other elimination game this postseason, Game 7 against Nashville in the second round. "I don't know why we would be negative."
However, history suggests negativity would be appropriate.
In Stanley Cup Final history, 32 teams have trailed the series 3-1. Each has talked about three-game winning streaks. For 31 of the 32 teams, it proved to be nothing more than talk.
The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs backed up their words, rallying from a 3-0 series deficit against the Detroit Red Wings.
The Sharks believe they can come back because of how close this series has been.
The first three games were decided by one goal, two in overtime. The Penguins had a 2-1 lead in Game 4 until Eric Fehr scored 17:58 into the third period. And the Sharks won 28 regular-season games on the road this season, a team record.
If they can get the lead, which they have not had during regulation play in this series, and then take advantage of a few more of the opportunities they believe they are generating, they can extend the series.
"We just have to be a little bit better," Pavelski said. "All of these games have been so close. We are right there. We just have to score and capitalize on our chances."
That requires the proper mindset. The Sharks know they can't be gripping their sticks extra tightly or second-guessing their choices. They can't live in the disappointments of the past, only in the possibilities of the future.
So they hit the ice Wednesday and treated it like any other day.
"We've had fun all year," forward Joel Ward said. "We were just being ourselves. We're excited about the opportunity to win one and get the series back to San Jose."
by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director of Editorial