PITTSBURGH – After getting over their team-wide, deer-in-headlights look throughout the first period of the series opener of the Stanley Cup Final that ultimately cost them the game, the Sharks on Tuesday expressed confidence they would be much more prepared from the drop of the puck for Game 2.
History says they better be. When a team captures the first two games of the final round, it’s gone on to win 90 percent of the time (44-5).
“I think we kind of just had a couple of mistakes, a couple of turnovers, which is usually uncharacteristic for our squad,” Joel Ward said. “It was good to get it out of the way, I guess you could say, and go from there. Unfortunate we couldn’t battle back for the win.”
The most recent experience the Sharks can draw upon happened in their series against St. Louis. Ahead two-games-to-one in the series going into Game 4, the Sharks were pummeled by the Blues, who raced out to a 4-0 lead after two periods and were never really in danger in a 6-3 win.
The series looked like it had turned on its head, with Game 5 back in St. Louis and the Blues seemingly having the momentum. The Sharks regrouped, though, and closed out the series with a pair of resounding victories.
“Game 4 against St. Louis at home that was actually similar to what it was [Monday],” Dainius Zubrus said. “We weren’t very good, and we bounced back and won the next two. That’s the approach, and we’ll be ready.”
Overall, the Sharks are 5-1 in the playoffs after a loss, with the lone defeat coming in triple overtime to the Predators in a game in which they probably deserved better.
“We’ve responded pretty good in the past,” Ward said. “Hopefully we can have another bounce-back.”
In terms of fixes, dealing with the Penguins’ speed and playing more in the offensive end is the obvious place to start. But once they get there, the Sharks will have to make life much more difficult on rookie goalie Matt Murray, who finished with 24 saves on 26 shots and wasn’t tested nearly enough.
Pittsburgh managed to block 21 Sharks shots, too, while another 11 missed the net entirely.
“We had a lot of chances where we missed the net. I had a couple,” said Logan Couture, who led the Sharks with four shots. “We hit the net and force him to make saves, there’s going to be rebounds. We can probably score on those shots.”
Ward said: “We’ve got to get pucks there, for sure. When we do, we also have to get some traffic.”
Perhaps the biggest difference for Game 2, though, will be that the Sharks won’t be experiencing anything for the first time. They were outplayed on Monday, but had a strong second period and were in a position to win headed into the third.
All of the pomp and circumstance leading up the organization’s first-ever Stanley Cup Final game (and first for everyone on the roster, other than Zubrus) is now in the rear view mirror.
“We were excited to play. We felt we were ready,” Pavelski said. “Then at the start, we didn't execute the way we needed to. We try to take that lesson and learn from it. Hopefully, we can have a better start.”
“It’s fun to be here,” Couture said. “There’s 28 other teams [and] a lot of other hockey players that would do a lot to be in this position. We realize we didn’t bring our best last game. At this time of the year in this spot, you need to be at your best to win games. We have a lot of work to do to be better in Game 2.”