The San Jose Sharks' loss to the Vancouver Canucks in Game 1 re-kindled fears of playoff disappointment with another third period meltdown. Without home ice advantage, losing the late lead magnifies the importance of Game 2 for the Sharks, which could determine the fate of the series.
A win likely means a grind-it-out 7-game series with the Sharks having the advantage at home for Game 3 and 4.
A loss could deflate the team leading to a possible early exit in Game 5 in Vancouver or even another repeat of last year's 4-0 series sweep by the Chicago Blackhawks.
Team leaders Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau both contributed early in Game 1 but both failed to do anything in the pivotal third period.
Thornton and Marleau will need to create more shooting opportunities for themselves and other like Logan Couture, Dany Heatley, and last year's playoff hero Joe Pavelski.
Antti Niemi has settled down since his troubles against the Los Angeles Kings and Detroit Red Wings, but the Sharks defense needs to step up and prevent the Canucks from maintaining pressure deep in their zone as they did in Game 1.
Finally, the Sharks will need to be more physical both on offense and defense, penetrating the Vancouver defense and protecting the puck. One key to the game will be Shark's wing Ryan Clowe who was not a factor in the first game.
Our line was awful last night. We've got to be better than that, Clowe said on Monday. Last game it was just one of those games where it was tough to get sustained time, some rhythm or momentum going.
In order to do these things, Sharks' coach Todd McLellan will have to get his players ready and not let this opportunity slip by.
If the Sharks can get by Vancouver, the possible match-up against Eastern Conference foes Boston Bruins or Tampa Bay Lightening present a favorable match-up for the Sharks.
The Sharks, consistently successful in the regular season but never in the playoff, have never won a Stanley Cup. Winning Game 2 against Vancouver would be a big step in the right direction.