Pittsburgh, PA – – The energy outside on the streets surrounding the Console Energy Center prior to Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final was electric. The infectious energy from the thousands of people attending the outdoor watch party only grew upon entering the arena.
Looking to capitalize on the crowd’s energy and the momentum from their Game 1 victory, the Penguins speed out of their zone and aggressive forecheck were quickly on display as it was in the previous game. San Jose absorbed the Penguins early first period onslaught of scoring opportunities with an equally effective, although more patient, counterattack.
By midway through first, the Pens had established momentum with sustained pressure and multiple chances. An ensuing power play for a delay of game penalty stirred the hometown crowd into a frenzy. However, Pittsburgh was unable to convert.
Bolstered by their successful penalty kill, the Sharks responded with a couple of solid chances of their own. With just over five minutes remaining in the first, both teams remained scoreless as the crowd sat waited anxiously to erupt.
As the period ground down to the final minutes it was the Sharks that started to exert some will of their own with some strong play along the boards. Despite being out-shot 11 to 6 the Sharks were able to withstand the, often sustained, Penguins attack to send the teams to intermission with a scoreless tie.
The second period started with a more even tempered flow. The Pens continued to aggressively push the puck up ice with the Sharks patiently, yet consciously looking to capitalize on passing miscues. The Sharks are not a team you want to let hang around and the fans seemed to sense that as they continued to wait for the Pens to score. They wouldn’t have to wait much longer. When Phil Kessel lit the lamp off of a turnover that led to a two on one, the Console Energy Center exploded in a release of pent up energy.
After successfully killing off a second penalty, the Sharks continued to get the puck deep trying to get their big bodies like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau to create chances off the forecheck. It didn’t work as, the Penguins, for their part didn’t make it easy by consistently working the puck free which led to quick breakouts the opposite way.
“We were able to win some battles and get pucks deeps.” Which will be key for the Sharks to continue if they are to have a chance of winning Game 3,” Sharks goalie Martin Jones stated.
As a result, the Pens, once again, out-shot the Sharks, this time 12 to 3 before being given a power play opportunity with just over one minute remaining in the second. The Sharks managed to get two additional shots on goal before time expired.
San Jose was fortunate to enter the third down only a goal and with still 49 seconds remaining on their power play. Unable to convert on the man advantage the Sharks continued on the forecheck early in the third. San Jose made some line changes to start the period which gave the team an added boost.
Both teams tightened up the neutral zone. As a result, by midway through the period, the Sharks managed to hold the Pens without a shot until about the 8:41 mark while tallying just four of their own, despite a handful of quality chances by both teams.
At the 4:04 mark of the third period, the Sharks finally got on the board thanks to a goal by Justin Braun, his first of the playoffs. On an off night the Sharks, that saw them out-shot and outplayed for most of the game, goalie Martin Jones kept the Sharks in the game.
“We played more in their end. The shuffle was good for us. It was a wake-up call,” said San Jose’s Matt Nieto.
The Sharks, reinvigorated by the game tying goal generated a flurry of activity in front of the Pens net who looked to have an opportunity to steal one on the road. Penguins goalie Matt Murray did his part securing the tie to send the game to overtime.
If the Penguins first goal created an explosion of energy, Conor Sheary’s overtime goal just 2:35 into the extra frame, caused the crowd reaction to register on the Richter scale as the Penguins took a 2-0 series lead.
“We’ve definitely shown we can play. We believe we have another level and are going to have to find it here (in Game 3) . . . we gotta win the next one,” said Sharks captain, Joe Pavelski.
Game 3 is scheduled for 8pm PST, Saturday, June 4th as the teams head to San Jose.