PITTSBURGH – Two periods into Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, it was obvious to Sharks coach Peter DeBoer his team had zero offense at even strength.
So DeBoer moved Patrick Marleau off Logan Couture’s line for Joel Ward; replaced Ward with Marleau on Chris Tierney’s line.
The result was a dominating third period by the Sharks that saw them finally score a goal to tie, before losing in overtime, losing 2-1 at CONSOL Energy Center.
If the Sharks can put that kind of pressure consistently on Pens’ goalie Matt Murray and eliminate unforced turnovers, they can even the series which moves to San Jose for Games 3 and 4, starting Saturday.
“Well we scored and tied it up, so we did something,” Couture said of Justin Braun’s goal with 4:05 left in regulation that forced OT.
“I thought we created some chances in the last couple of minutes, unfortunately it didn’t go into the back of the net.”
San Jose had a couple in the final 20 ticks of regulation that could have won it right there.
“I think we hit two posts tonight, we hit a crossbar,” DeBoer said. “We've got to find a way. There's not a lot of room out there. We've got to find a way to battle through and create a little bit more space.”
Braun did pick an opportune time to score his first goal of the playoffs. His shot with heavy traffic (Ward) in front of Murray – something the Sharks had not been doing – kissed the right post to make it 1-1.
DeBoer said he needed some urgency from his group that third period.
“We weren’t generating enough after two periods, five-on-five,” DeBoer said. “I liked our third period. We got a few more looks and scored a goal. We outshot them. Good things happens. We have to build on that and create a little bit more.”
The Sharks had two quality chances in the opening five minutes of the third period. Murray stopped Joe Thornton’s backhander off a wraparound, then the crossbar saved Murray on Tierney’s wrister off the rush.
As if the Sharks didn’t have enough bad luck, minutes later, Couture’s stick shattered on an open look from the left circle or it’s 1-1 right then.
“Yeah,” Couture sighed, “That stuff happens.”
DeBoer’s changes saw the Sharks pressure so much, the Penguins went nearly 12 minutes before they got a shot or even a sniff at the net.
“We controlled the puck along the boards and we were able to score a goal,” Couture said. “the biggest thing is, you have to move your feet, break out there and create space.
“We have not been doing that. We’ve been stagnant and standing around. Giving them time to stick check us and then the puck us out of their zone.”
Matt Nieto, coming into the Sharks lineup for Dainius Zubrus, also liked the line switches.
“We got a goal out of it, we were playing in their end more,” Nieto said. "The shuffle was good for us. It was kinda a wake-up call.”
Going into overtime, the Sharks still had the momentum off Braun’s goal.
“It was good to see it go in,” said Joe Pavelski. “It gave us a little shot there. We thought we had a little energy off there and felt it was going to be our night. It ended up not being.”
The Sharks need to sweep back home to even the series. They are 0-4 in the playoffs in overtime, as well.
“We believe we have another level and have to find it there,” Pavelski said. “They’ve done their job here at home.”