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Edmonton Oilers blank San Jose Sharks again, grab series lead

By Ross McKeon, The Sports Xchange
Edmonton Oilers blank San Jose Sharks again, grab series lead
Zach Kassian was the first Oiler to score game-winning goals in consecutive games goals since Fernando Pisani in 2006. Photo courtesy NHL Public Relations via Twitter

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Zack Kassian has the early lead on the unexpected hero label in Edmonton's first trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs in 11 seasons.

The forward known more for physical play than skill around the net broke a scoreless tie midway through the third period, and the Oilers held on for a 1-0 win over the San Jose Sharks on Sunday night.

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San Jose incurred its second consecutive shutout loss to fall into a 2-1 hole in the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal series that resumes with Game 4 at SAP Center on Thursday.

"His play speaks for itself," Edmonton coach Todd McLellan said. "He's stepped up to the plate, and he's delivered for three games straight, obviously scoring big goals but doing a lot of other things -- the penalty kill, the forecheck, the momentum. He has been tremendous for us."

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Edmonton goalie Cam Talbot stopped all 23 shots he faced after blanking the Sharks on 16 shots in Game 2 on Friday. The Sharks were shut out in consecutive playoff games for the first time since Games 1 and 2 against the Dallas Stars in 2000.

"It doesn't matter how well a goalie is playing, you've got to find a way to get to him," Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said. "We need a little bit more there. We've got to do better, we flat out do."

Kassian took advantage of a turnover by San Jose defenseman David Schlemko, who appeared to try and hit teammate Tomas Hertl with an ill-advised pass along the end boards to the left of Sharks goalie Martin Jones.

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"I went back to get the puck and bypass a few guys," Schlemko said. "I don't know if it went off a skate or what. It's a tough bounce. It's a game of mistakes, and it ends up in the back of the net."

Kassian walked out and backhanded his second goal of the series under Jones' pads at 10:45 on the Oilers' 21st shot of the game. Kassian also had the game-winning goal, a short-handed strike, in Game 2.

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"Tonight was kind of a chess night," Edmonton forward Jordan Eberle said. "Kind of move a pawn here and try not to give up anything and take advantage of our opportunities. We got a big goal from Kassian once again. That line's been playing well, and he's been skating well and he's gotten rewarded."

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The Sharks, who haven't scored since Melker Karlsson's overtime winner in Game 1, managed only one shot in the final 1:47 with Jones pulled for an extra attacker. Jones finished with 21 saves.

"Obviously, we have to score to win, so offensively that's the area we've got to concentrate on," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "We have to find a way to get a couple goals here."

Edmonton turned the tables in terms of territorial dominance while enjoying a 12-4 advantage in shots during the second period, but the game remained scoreless after 40 minutes.

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San Jose saw its series' struggles on the power play continue with a shot-less advantage after Edmonton's Drake Caggiula boarded Karlsson six minutes into the session. The Sharks dropped to 1-for-14 in the series with the failure.

"We want to get that fixed," DeBoer said. "They've done a good job on the PK, we're not playing with a lot of confidence there right now. At the end of the day, we had enough looks five-on-five, there shouldn't have been an area that decided the game. And I don't think it was."

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San Jose's first and only other power play came nearly 17 minutes into the scoreless opening period. But after failing to generate a shot in the first 72 seconds, Joel Ward's tripping penalty cut the advantage 48 seconds short.

"That's on us -- the 10 or 11 who get out there," San Jose center Logan Couture said of the power-play units. "We've got to create some offense, we've got to shoot the puck, we've got to score some goals. We know that. That's been a concern for us all season. The power play is not where it needs to be. It's simple to say, but we've got to be better."

NOTES: Sharks C Joe Thornton made his series debut after missing the first two games and the final three of the regular season due to a left knee injury. He assumed his usual spot on the top line between RW Joe Pavelski and LW Melker Karlsson. Thornton managed two shots on goal, delivered two hits and won his only two faceoffs during 16:27 of ice time. ... San Jose F Mikkel Boedker was a healthy scratch after appearing in the first two games of the series. ... Edmonton made no lineup changes from Game 2 to Game 3. ... San Jose C Logan Couture replaced the full face cage he wore the first two games to protect his injured mouth with his usual half-visor look. ... C Micheal Haley, RW Kevin Labanc and D Dylan DeMelo joined Boedker as San Jose's healthy scratches. ... LW Matt Hendricks, RW Iiro Pakarinen, LW Jujhar Khaira and D Eric Gryba did not dress for Edmonton.

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