PITTSBURGH – Third periods have been the Sharks’ strength throughout their playoff run, and that’s how it came to be in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, too.
Overtimes, though, remain a problem, as the Sharks lost 2-1 in extra time.
After a generally miserable first two periods, the Sharks tied the Penguins on Justin Braun’s score late in regulation to force extra time. In overtime, though, Conor Sheary was the hero, giving Pittsburgh a two-games-to-none lead in the series.
San Jose fell to 0-4 in the playoffs in overtime. Pittsburgh is 4-2.
For the first time in the playoffs, the Sharks find themselves trailing a series by two games. Game 3 is in San Jose on Saturday.
On the game-winning goal, Pittsburgh won an offensive zone draw. Sheary got free between the circle and whizzed in a wrist shot that beat Martin Jones cleanly at 2:35.
Braun’s equalizer tied the game with 4:05 to go in the third. His shot from the top of the circle through traffic and hit the inside of the near post before kissing the twine.
The Sharks are outscoring their opponents 30-15 in the third period in the playoffs.
Teams that win their first two games at home in a Stanley Cup Final are 33-3 all-time, although the 2009 Penguins and 2011 Bruins were among the two teams that came back.
The Sharks fell to 5-2 in the postseason after a loss. They had won their previous four in such situations, outscoring the opposition 20-4 in that span.
Phil Kessel’s team-leading 10th goal held up as the only score through two periods. It began with a bad Roman Polak giveaway in the defensive zone, when the defenseman’s attempted pass to Brenden Dillon was broken up by Kessel. Nick Bonino corralled the puck and snuck it behind Jones, where Kessel was there to tap it over at 8:20 of the second.
The Penguins, who had been outplaying the Sharks to that point, dominated for most of the rest of the period. San Jose went a full 11 minutes and six seconds without a shot on goal, while Pittsburgh had a number of chances, including a two-on-one in which Hagelin hit the crossbar after an ill-timed pinch from Dillon.
An Ian Cole interference penalty at 18:49 in the Penguins’ offensive zone, though, game San Jose its first power play. Joe Pavelski had a chance at the side of the net, but couldn’t squeeze it through Matt Murray, who had gotten hardly any work to that point.
Pittsburgh held a 23-11 advantage in shots after 40 minutes, and outshot the Sharks 30-22 for the game. It was the 11th straight postseason game that the Penguins had more shots than their opponent.
Coach Pete DeBoer shuffled his lines to start the third, putting Patrick Marleau back in the middle of the third line, while bumping Joel Ward back up to the Couture line.
Chris Tierney had a great chance on a partial breakaway about five minutes into the period, but rang his slap shot off the crossbar. It was one of at least three Sharks shots that caught iron, as Hertl had once each in the first and second periods.
Sharks forward Matt Nieto made his debut in the series, playing for the first time since May 9 due to an upper body injury. He played on the third line, while Melker Karlsson was bumped down to the fourth line.