Pittsburgh, PA — The Pittsburgh Penguins played their game almost to perfection. They dominated the first period and left that leading 2-0. The Sharks managed to tie it up in the second 2-2. Nick Bonino scored the game-winner with 2:33 left in the third period to put the Pwnguins up 1-0 in the 2016 Stanley Cup Finals.
“It was one of those shots. Not my hardest. But it found its way in. Great pass by Tanger (Letang),” Bonino recalled.
The Sharks stood around for tpart of the first period and their coach wasn’t pleased with their early lack of effort.
“We stood around and watched in the first,” said Sharks coach, Peter DeBoer. “They (Pittsburgh) played their game for longer stretches tonight and that’s what happens.”
Next game the Sharks have to do more than clog up the neutral zone. Active sticks are great, but the Penguins were able to skate around them. When Patrick Marleau scored on a brilliant wraparound goal late in the second period to tie the game 2-2, he put a patch on a lot of problems the Sharks weren’t counting on in Game 1.
“Part of it is us fixing our execution,” DeBoer added.
The Penguins will look to play even more disciplined hockey. Having to kill off an eventual 6-on-4 when the Sharks pulled Jones (38 saves) late wasn’t ideal.
“Especially with their power play. You don’t want to give them any opportunities,” said Matt Cullen. You hate to do that with a couple of minutes left. But the guys stepped and we were able finish it.”
The Penguins home ice advantage was on full display in the early portion of the game when Bryan Rust scored the first goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Finals.
“Yeah, probably, the fans were behind us. They were loud. I thought the building was rocking. We did a pretty good job of getting pucks where we could use our speed and we drove and pushed the pace pretty good. It was a good start.”
Both teams will refine their game plans tomorrow. By Wednesday neither team will have any momentum. The Penguins have more veterans who’ve been through this grind and that’s an edge they have over the out of town Sharks.
The Sharks only had two power plays. What if they had just one next game? The Penguins had some sloppy moments with the puck even though they were winning most of those battles. What if their goalie, Matt Murray (24 saves) wasn’t so calm and let in just one more goal. In the middle of the third when Joe Thornton and company were bearing down on the Penguins netminder he weathered the storm by playing a solid positional game.
“You try to let them make the first move. You never want to make the first move as a goalie….It’s never going to be easy to find pucks in traffic,” Murray said honestly.
Game 2 is Wednesday night at 8PM et. The Sharks will likely insert Matt Nieto back in. Barring injury the Penguins should stay the same. If Bonino and Letang are playing with injuries, you’d never know it by their performances this evening.