After coming back from an early two-goal deficit, San Jose wasn’t able to complete the comeback as Pittsburgh took Game 1.
But with 2:33 remaining in a game that felt destined for overtime, Nick Bonino found himself alone in front and was able to sneak one past Martin Jones to give the Penguins a 3-2 victory and a 1-0 series lead.
It couldn’t have been a more disastrous opening 20 minutes for team teal who were outskated in all aspects of the ice.
The Penguins, led by Sidney Crosby, were able to hem San Jose into their own and force the Sharks defense into some uncharacteristic turnovers. You could tell the visitors were in trouble and Pittsburgh would get the deserved breakthrough off a great rush up the ice.
After a bad pinch from Justin Braun at the offensive blue line, the Penguins came in on a 3-on-2 where Justin Schultz’s initial shot was blocked by Marc-Edouard Vlasic but Melker Karlsson was unable to corral Bryan Rust in front who slammed in a rebound for his sixth of the playoffs.
It would go from bad to worse for Braun and the Sharks as just 62 seconds later the Penguins would double their lead. Crosby would win a foot race with Braun who lost an edge, and found Conor Sheary all alone on the far wing as he wristed one past a screened Jones who had no chance.
Just like that, team teal was stunned as they looked sluggish and sloppy as the Penguins came at the Sharks in waves. If not for Jones, this would have been a blowout as Pittsburgh outshot San Jose by a 15-4 margin in the opening frame as team teal was all out of sorts.
More from Blades of Teal
- San Jose Sharks fans need this Erik Karlsson shirt from BreakingT
- Norris Trophy odds show Erik Karlsson a step above the rest
- Are you the 2021 FanSided Sports Fan of the Year?
- Korenar deserves a chance at the NHL level
- Three prospects the Sharks should consider drafting
However, team teal was able to regroup in the intermission and come out as a completely different group in the second.
The Sharks were able to generate a few quality looks within their first two shifts from Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski that Matt Murray was able to stop.
But San Jose would continue to carry the play and were presented with an opportunity to get back into the game when Ian Cole would take an early hooking minor.
Team teal’s first unit wasn’t able to get much going, but the second unit would cash in when Joel Ward would do a great job of keeping the puck in at the blue line.
The puck would make its way to Tomas Hertl down low and he would take it to the front and bank one between the legs of Murray to cut the Penguins deficit in half at the 3:02 mark of the second.
San Jose would continue to build confidence and momentum following the goal as they finally settled into the contest. The Sharks would generate some quality chances by making sound decisions with the puck and getting in on the forecheck.
One such chance found Brent Burns all alone in the slot but Murray was deny the Sharks blue liner before stoning a rebound chance from Joe Pavelski right on the door step.
The Penguins would get some clean looks of their own as the teams traded opportunities in the second, including another huge Jones stop, this time denying Evgeni Malkin with a slick glove save to keep the deficit at one.
Those early saves from Jones would come in handy as late in the second, the Sharks were able to find the equalizer after some great work down low from Logan Couture who fed Burns at the point. His initial shot was stopped, but Patrick Marleau was there for the wrap around, beating Murray to the far post as San Jose evened the score after 40 minutes of play.
It was a tremendous response from the boys in teal after being dominated in the first. The Sharks were able to outshoot the Penguins 13-8 in the middle frame as they were much more effective in establishing their game.
With the score knotted up at two, Pittsburgh would get a couple of extra-man chances in the early going as Pavelski had a carry over minor from the second and Marleau would go off for a hit to the head of Rust.
A tough call against Marleau as Rust was fumbling the puck with his head down, but the Sharks did a great job of killing off both penalties without giving Pittsburgh any quality looks.
The Penguins would continue to push in the final frame as they began to assert themselves more and more. Jones would come up with multiple stops in front to keep the Sharks alive, but unfortunately, San Jose was undone by a defensive breakdown.
Kris Letang led a rush up the ice and in the process, Burns had the stick knocked out of his hands. As they went to the corner, Letang was able to fire a perfect pass by Paul Martin to Bonino who chipped one just past the shoulder of Jones with 2:33 remaining to give Pittsburgh the advantage.
The Sharks would get a power-play chance with 2:09 left to go, but the Penguins did a great job of limiting the options for San Jose who dropped Game 1 for the second consecutive series.
It was a tough pill to swallow for team teal in this one as they spoiled a phenomenal effort from Jones, who finished with 38 saves, between the pipes. While the Penguins were the better team on this night, the Sharks were able to fight their way back but ultimately came up short.
San Jose will look for the split on Wednesday night in Game 2 where they will have to be ready to respond after a gut-wrenching loss tonight.