Center Nick Bonino’s chip-in goal with less than two minutes remaining was all that separated the Pittsburgh Penguins from the San Jose Sharks and helped the Eastern Conference power build a 1-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Heading into Wednesday night’s Game 2 at CONSOL Energy Center, the Sharks admitted they didn’t play as well as they had in the previous rounds leading up to their first appearance in the Cup finals and that must change.
"We realize that we didn't bring our best last game and at this time of year in this spot, you need to be at your best to win games," Sharks center Logan Couture told reporters Tuesday. "So, we have a lot of work to do to be better in Game 2."
Falling into a 2-0 hole could spell disaster for the Cup hopefuls. San Jose has faced a 0-2 deficit 10 times and has lost every one of those series and any other squad that’s lost the first two games of the final has gone 5-44.
However, the Sharks have responded well to adversity throughout these playoffs. Head coach Peter DeBoer’s squad is 5-1 in games after a loss and only loss consecutive games to Nashville in the second round this year.
And despite the scoreboard reading 3-2 in Pittsburgh’s favor at Game 1’s conclusion, the Sharks overall hung well with the favored Penguins. Pittsburgh built a 2-0 lead in the first period off right wing Bryant Rust’s sixth goal of the postseason and left wing Conor Sheary’s third, but San Jose stayed cool and knotted the game 2-2 behind Thomas Hertl’s power play goal and center Patrick Marleau’s follow up with 1:48 left in the second period.
Bonino provided the heroics, but Sharks goalie Martin Jones still turned in an excellent performance that he carry over into Game 2. Jones recorded 38 saves off 41 Penguins shots, his second-highest single-game save total of the playoffs and he denied Pittsburgh’s dynamic trio of Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin goals on their combined 11 shots on goal.
Still, the Sharks offense, which sports playoff points leaders Couture and Joe Pavelski, didn’t offer Jones much help. San Jose generated 26 total shots, half of which came in first and third period combined, and didn’t take very good care of the puck, allowing 10 Penguins takeaways.
Start Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC Sports Network
Live Stream: NBC Live Extra
Betting Line: Penguins -125; Sharks +105 via Bovada.lv
Prediction: San Jose over Pittsburgh, 4-1