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San Jose Sharks after Game 3 win: 'We can still get better'

By
Alan Robinson, The Sports Xchange
San Jose Sharks head coach Peter Deboer at Media Day on the eve of Game One between the Pittsburgh Penguin and the San Jose Sharks of the Stanley Cup Finals at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh on May 29, 2016. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI
San Jose Sharks head coach Peter Deboer at Media Day on the eve of Game One between the Pittsburgh Penguin and the San Jose Sharks of the Stanley Cup Finals at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh on May 29, 2016. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo

The Sharks are back in the Stanley Cup finals after winning what essentially was a must-win overtime game on Saturday against the Penguins in San Jose. They also know they're going back to Pittsburgh.

But they also know going into a pivotal Game 4 on Monday night at SAP Center that they can't allow the Penguins to get back to playing the way they did in winning the first two games in Pittsburgh.

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Despite giving up a one-goal lead in the third period in losing 3-2 in Game 3 on rookie Joonas Donskoi's goal 12:18 into overtime, the Penguins relied upon their speed and stable of stars to control the pace until well into the third period. Only then did the Sharks' superior size and superior group of defensemen begin to make a difference.

"They fire (the puck) from everywhere, every angle, all over the place, then cause confusion around the net," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said Sunday, referring to the Penguins' 42-26 edge in shots. "We've got to do a better job.

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"But does the fact they have 30 more shots than us (113-74 in the series) bother me? Not as much as it bothers you guys (the media)."

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The Sharks' worry, of course, is that if one or two more of those abundance of shots somehow eludes goalie Martin Jones, they could be down 3-1 going into Game 5 -- and a potential Stanley Cup clincher -- Thursday night in Pittsburgh.

"We've been playing from behind too often in the series," said DeBoer, whose team's only lead so far came at the end of Game 3. "We're going to talk about that."

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The Sharks again might be without top-line left winger Tomas Hertl, who missed Game 3 with an upper-body injury after being the Sharks' most effective forward in the first two games. DeBoer said only that he is day-to-day. Melker Karlsson took Hertl's place alongside Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton, and probably will again Monday if Hertl can't go.

Penguins defensemen Kris Letang, coming off one of his worst games in the playoffs, and Olli Maatta did not practice Sunday, but coach Mike Sullivan said only that they were both given a day off.

Having wasted an excellent chance to go up 3-0 in the series -- the Penguins couldn't hold leads of 1-0 or 2-1 Saturday night -- they certainly know the distinct advantages of winning Monday and being up 3-1 in the series rather than being tied at 2-all.

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In 2009, after all, they dropped the first two games in Detroit, and each of the first three games in Joe Louis Arena, but came back to win the series by taking Games 6 and 7.

"Our desperation level was as high as it could be," DeBoer said.

As a result, DeBoer said he expects Game 4 to be the best of the series, and Penguins captain Sidney Crosby doesn't disagree.

"It's to be expected as the series goes on, and teams learn more and more about each other," Crosby said. "The desperation level goes higher and higher with every game."

Crosby, often the fastest and strongest skater on the ice despite not scoring a goal in the first two games, was mostly held in check in Game 3. He didn't get a goal or an assist and was limited to three shots, often going against defensemen Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun.

The Sharks, who are mostly bigger across the board than the Penguins, also were more physical than they were in the first two games, with DeBoer saying, "I know that's part of our identity, being hard and heavy."

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Just as the Penguins' identity is outskating teams and getting to the puck faster.

"Teams have been trying to outmuscle us, trying to intimidate us for three months," Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. "The Rangers did it, Washington did it. ... But we're a team that prides ourselves on being brave. Going back for pucks, winning the puck against bigger players, taking hits. And we need to continue to do that."

For the Sharks, though, their belief is Game 3 was so pivotal, it could shift the momentum of the series.

"Now we get going," Donskoi said. "We can still get better."

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