After two games of the Stanley Cup Final it’s 2-0 for Steel City.
Conor Sheary the Hero: Penguins take Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final
Conor Sheary netted the winner in the overtime on the Pittsburgh Penguins first shot of the extra frame. Sidney Crosby won a face-off in the offensive-zone back to Kris Letang who elected not to shoot, instead deferring to the rookie, and Sheary made no mistake, wiring a wrist-shot through traffic to far side of the net.
— CCM Hockey (@CCMHockey) May 31, 2016
Pittsburgh opened the scoring in the second period, on a goal from Phil Kessel. Kessel’s 10th of the post-season came as an easy tap on the goal-line after Nick Bonino’s shot squeaked through San Jose Sharks goaltender Martin Jones.
Sharks Escape Another Slow Start
The first period was all Penguins. After what was a slow start for them in game 1, where they had just seven shot attempts through the first nine minutes of play, the Penguins were much better tonight, tallying 12 attempts in the same amount of time and ending the period with 22.
Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin were particularly impressive showing off some impressive puck movement that resulted in chances for both Conor Sheary and Chris Kunitz. Kunitz came the closest to breaking the deadlock, he rung one off the iron on a wrist shot from the slot, after a slick centering feed from Malkin.
The second period was more of the same. The Penguins skirting by the Sharks defenders and frequently getting to pucks first in the offensive, and the defensive zone, and it resulted in a quite a few turnovers. One of those turn overs, would be the cause of the first goal of the game. Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino did an excellent job fore-checking, but it was Hagelin who stripped Brendan Dillon of the puck, and centered for a wide open Bonino.
Tomas Hertl had the best Sharks chances of the period, first he rang one off the far-post on a backhanded chance from the goal-line. Then just a few minutes later he was at it again behind the net; his falling wraparound attempt also finding the far post.
Outside of those opportunities the Sharks struggled to get in the offensive groove, they went over eight minutes without a shot a goal, and over four minutes without generating a shot attempt.
Let There Be Life!
Thankfully for Shark fans, that was the end of their absence. Dr. Frankenstein flipped the switch, and the Sharks came alive in the third, getting better as the period went on. Chris Tierney continued San Jose’s battle with the little-red-defender, striking iron on his breakaway early in the period.
Logan Couture, who wasn’t a huge factor in the first period suddenly found his high gear, leading the Sharks cycle. He had a great opportunity midway through the period on a one-timer from Joonas Donskoi, but his stick shattered when he went to take the puck.
The Sharks did manage to tie it up late; Couture once again was front and center. San Jose won the faceoff after the Pens iced the puck, and Couture did a great job to keep the cycle going behind the net, then getting the puck to Justin Braun at the top of the dot, who netted just the second playoff goal of his career to level the score.
The Couture-Ward pairing was again dominant at the end of the period. They kept the puck in the offensive-zone for the majority of the final 30 seconds of the period and generated a couple of grade A scoring chances thanks to their physicality in front of Matt Murray, but the Pens net-minder stood his ground.
One thing worth mentioning, is that even in the best period of the game, the Pens were still contending with the Sharks. This period wasn’t nearly as lopsided as you might expect given that the Pens held the lead for the majority of it. Shot-attempts in the period were 17-15 in favour of the Sharks.
Conor Sheary will be the focus of the overtime, but the Thornton line was by far best line to take the ice. They dominated the possession, and helped forced the Penguins to use their timeout after an icing. Over the course of the night, Thornton, Hertl, and Pavelski were by far the best Sharks, and led their team in possession. Martin Jones was stellar throughout the night, and it’s tough to fault him for the winning goal; Sheary placed an excellent shot through traffic. San Jose is now down 2-0, a situation from which they’ve never recovered, but if Martin Jones can keep up his solid play, and the Thornton line continues to do what they’re doing, do not count them out.
A lot of fuss is going to be made about the number of posts both teams hit, from both fan-bases. With regards to posts, it’s easy to count them as more than what they are – misses. A shot that hits the post is no different than a shot that missed the net by three metres. At the end of the day a miss is a miss, but the irony of the Sharks drawing-even on a goal that went in off the post isn’t lost.
Overall the Penguins were the better team. They looked faster, did a good job of spreading the puck around and were the better team in the neutral-zone, slicing through the Sharks defense for the majority of the night. The biggest difference-maker in this game for me was the shot-blocking for the Penguins and the defensive contributions from their forwards. They played a really solid two-way game, and will need to continue to do so going forward if they want to keep the Sharks top six at bay.