People tend to throw around the term “must-win game” around even when a game is merely important. Ultimately, elimination games are the only clear contests that merit that title.
The San Jose Sharks know that tonight’s Game 3 matchup against the Vancouver Canucks is important, but they’re also aware that a 3-0 series deficit doesn’t mean automatic defeat. After all, both the Canucks and Sharks saw 3-0 leads evaporate into Game 7 nail-biters. Obviously the team needs to play more disciplined hockey and get their act together, but head coach Todd McLellan downplayed the team’s perceived struggles in third period situations.
Many wonder if the Sharks’ late game troubles stem from inferior conditioning or a “lack of killer instinct” but Mclellan told CSN’s Ray Ratto that those final frame follies might just be a matter of coincidence.
“The first period wasn’t good to us in Los Angeles,” he said, “and now it’s a not very good third period. That’s the nature of the game. If we’re good enough to play beyond this, it might be the second period that gives us problems next.”
Hard-hitting defenseman Douglas Murray reflected on this important (but not quite “do-or-die”) Game 3 contest.
“Game 7? No,” he said with a smile that could have turned smirk with a few more muscle twitches. “Detroit lost three in a row, and they came back and made it a pretty tight series.”
Of course, banking on the healing powers of going down 3-0 in a best-of-seven series makes little sense, but Murray’s greater point is taken. Game 3 is very important, but it is not the death-hammer.
The Sharks just need to approach it as closely as possible to being a death-hammer.
“This is a huge game in the series, no question,” he said. “We’ll prepare for anything, and treat this game that way. But we need to treat every game that way. Everyone’s seen what happened. We just have to go out and do what we’re capable of doing as quickly and consistently as possible. We don’t want to be down 3-0, obviously.”
The Sharks are obviously not approaching tonight’s game with a sense of panic, but they hope to bring plenty of urgency nonetheless. We’ll see if they can get back into this series or if the Canucks will dig them a bigger hole beginning at 9 p.m. ET on Versus.
The San Jose Sharks became the only team in the second round to jump out to a 2-0 lead in their series. The Sharks did it by beating the Predators 3-2 in Game 2 on Sunday night.
San Jose opened the scoring in the second period when Logan Couture buried a rebound by Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Brent Burns took the initial shot from the point and extended his playoff point streak to four games.
The Predators finally got on the board at the 12:56 mark of the third period when Mattias Ekholm tied the game at one.
Here’s the goal:
Nashville’s good fortune didn’t last very long. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later.
Pavelski also picked up two assists in the game. The 31-year-old has at least one point in six of his seven postseason games in 2016.
Joe Thornton then added an empty-netter in the final minute of play before Ryan Johansen scored with four seconds remaining.
Despite the loss, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too disappointed by the way his team played.
The Predators outshot the Sharks (39-25), they outhit San Jose (46-26), but they just couldn’t outscore them.
Like the old saying goes: “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” The Preds still haven’t done that, which means they’re not done yet.
The series now shifts to Nashville for Game 3, which will be played on Tuesday night.
It’s a scary night for players getting hit in the head with pucks.
After Brian Elliott was hit in the head by a Jason Spezza slapshot, it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s turn to narrowly avoid disaster.
In the third period of Sunday’s game against the Predators, Vlasic took a puck to the face. The end result could have been catastrophic had Vlasic not had a visor.
You can see the incident by clicking the video at the top of the page.
It’s nice to see that Vlasic was in a joking mood after the game:
Hockey Twitter breathed a collective sigh of relief after Vlasic got back up:
You’ve all seen it by now (if you haven’t, click the video at the top of page). Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta was forced to leave Game 2 against the Capitals after taking a late hit from Brooks Orpik. Not only was the hit late, but Orpik also caught Maatta in the head.
After the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t optimistic about Maatta’s chances of playing in Game 3 on Monday night.
“Olli’s being evaluated as we speak, so I don’t have any real update as far as his status is concerned,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s being evaluated today, we’ll probably have more information in the morning.
“I don’t have a lot of sense of his availability. I’m probably not optimistic, though.”
After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz stood up for his defenseman.
“We’ll let the league handle it,” Trotz said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He’s not a dirty player.”
And the league certainly did handle it, as they suspended Orpik for three games.
—Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta
Brooks Orpik has been suspended for three games for his hit on Olli Maatta (top). The Caps defenseman will be forced to miss Games 3, 4 and 5 of the best-of-seven series against the Penguins.
Orpik delivered a late, high hit to Maatta in Game 2. The Penguins defenseman was wobbly getting off the ice and he was unable to return to the game.
Here’s how the Department of Players Safety saw the play:
“Orpik steps up to pressure Bonino, who quickly moves the puck to Maatta. Orpik peels off Bonino to pressure Maatta, who releases a shot from the top of the circle. The two continue on their path toward the goal line, as the puck is kicked into the slot. A full second after Maatta releases the puck, Orpik delivers a high, forceful hit making significant head contact. This is interference.”
To watch the NHL’s Department of Player Safety’s full explanation, click the video below.
This is the third time Orpik’s been suspended in his NHL career.