Mike Halford

Not Don-skoi yet! Sharks win Game 3 in dramatic OT


SAN JOSE — The first-ever Stanley Cup Final game in San Jose was one to remember.

Especially for Joonas Donskoi.

Donskoi scored the crucial OT winner on Saturday night, giving the Sharks a 3-2 victory over Pittsburgh in Game 3 — and keeping San Jose from falling into the dreaded 0-3 series hole in the process.

The game a dramatic and engaging affair, probably the finest of the series thus far.

And, appropriately, the SAP Center faithful were fired up, kicking off this historic evening with an exceptionally loud pregame ceremony. It led many to believe the Sharks would come out with their collective hair on fire, and roar back into the series.

Just one problem. Didn’t happen.

Pittsburgh was, once again, the better team in the opening frame. Ben Lovejoy‘s point shot went in off Roman Polak‘s leg at the 5:29 mark to give the Pens an early lead, and while San Jose did even things up four minutes later — on Justin Braun‘s second goal in as many games — San Jose still looked the slower team, and finished the period down 14-6 in shots.

The second period was a more balanced frame that saw just one goal, when Patric Hornqvist tipped home a Lovejoy shot to give the Pens a 2-1 lead with under one minute left.

Then, in the third, came a game-chaging moment.

With 15 minute left, Nick Bonino took a double minor after his high stick caught Joe Thornton in the face, drawing blood. For the majority of the ensuring power play, the Sharks were unable to score.

But when they did, it was pandemonium.

Joel Ward hammered a shot on goal just strides over the blueline and, while it certainly had some oomph, it was one Matt Murray should’ve stopped.

That set the stage for overtime, and Doonskoi’s heroics.

Looking ahead, it’ll be fascinating to see what impact this has on the series. Aside from, y’know, winning the first game, the Sharks had other positive signs tonight —  Joe Thornton had a pair of assists, his first points of the series, and Martin Jones continued to provide stellar netminding, making 40 saves on 42 shots.

For the Penguins… well, they had some positives too.

They once again dominated the shots-on-goal battle (42 to 26), though that disparity is tempered by the fact they blocked a staggering 38 shots –which illustrates that San Jose had its fair share of possession.

In the end, though, the x-factor is probably how the Sharks deal with success. Saturday was a night of firsts for the club — first Stanley Cup Final win, first OT win of the postseason (the Sharks had lost all four prior to this).

The men in teal have a taste of success now, and chances are they want some more.

On Monday night, they’ll have another shot.

Crosby cheats on faceoffs, Couture cheats on faceoffs, everybody cheats on faceoffs

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 29: Logan Couture #39 of the San Jose Sharks addresses the media during the NHL Stanley Cup Final Media Day at Consol Energy Center on May 29, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Getty Images

SAN JOSE — And in the end, they all agreed on one thing.

Everyone does it.

“Everyone cheats on faceoffs,” San Jose’s Logan Couture said Friday. “I cheat, [Joe Thornton] cheats. That’s how you try and win draws.”

Couture, of course, started this whole mini-controversy after Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final when he accused Penguins captain Sidney Crosby of cheating at draws.

He also insinuated that Crosby receives preferential treatment from the linesmen, because he’s, well, Sidney Crosby.

I wasn’t expecting that,” Crosby said. “We’re all trying to do the same thing on faceoffs.”

Couture had a rough night in the circle on Wednesday, which might explain why he said what he did. He went 6-for-15 overall and just 1-for-4 in head-to-head draws against Crosby.

“Listen, all centers that go in there to take a faceoff are trying to get an edge,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. “That’s just the reality of it. They’re doing the same thing our guys are doing. The way I look at it, that’s all part of being a center and trying to figure out ways to get an edge and be successful.”

It’s worth noting that Crosby’s faceoff technique is predicated more on timing than power.

“I kind of go for quickness more than strength or overpowering a guy,” he said.

Because of that, there’s an advantage to be gained by moving early, as long as the linesman allows it.

Here’s a screenshot of Crosby beating Joel Ward in overtime, right before Conor Sheary scored to win Game 2:


As you can see, the linesman has not yet dropped the puck and Crosby’s left skate has already slid over to the right.

For the record, Ward only blamed himself for losing the draw.

“It was my fault on the play,” he said. “I lost a pretty key draw and I’ve just got to be better and that’s the bottom line.”

Hertl misses practice with ‘a little something,’ DeBoer mum on Game 3 status

San Jose Sharks' Tomas Hertl celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal against the Dallas Stars during overtime of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, in San Jose, Calif.  San Jose won 4-3. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

SAN JOSE — The most notable thing about the Sharks’ practice on Friday is who missed it.

Tomas Hertl, arguably San Jose’s best forward through the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final, didn’t participate in the skate, only briefly taking to the ice prior to practice in a tracksuit before exiting entirely.

“Just maintenance,” Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer explained. “He’s got a little something that’s kept him off.”

Hertl, who has one of San Jose’s three goals in the series, took this hit from Pittsburgh’s Patric Hornqvist in the third period of Game 2:


The 22-year-old San Jose forward also missed some time in the second period, though it’s unclear why. He had just six shifts for 4:33 of ice time — compared to nine for 7:22 in the first, and 10 for 7:05 in the third — and only made his way onto the ice three times in the final 10 minutes of the frame.

With Hertl out, Melker Karlsson skated alongside Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski at practice.

Sabres talking with NHL to keep draft combine in Buffalo

Terry Pegula
Getty Images

Buffalo’s deal to host the annual NHL Scouting Combine is up after this year, but plans are already in the works to come back next June.

“Right now we’re talking with Buffalo for 2017,” Dan Marr, the director of NHL Central Scouting, told the Buffalo News. “A couple other NHL cities have expressed interest, but the facilities here all under one roof, it’s a very nice fit.”

Buffalo won the rights to the combine back in 2014, which was a pretty significant shift. Prior to that, the combine was always held in Toronto — but the problem was the venue had no on-ice testing, and not much room for fans to show up and attend.

Over the last two years, Buffalo’s HarborCenter layout has proven to be much more conducive for such a large-scale event.

It’s unclear what other NHL cities are in the mix to host in ’17. It should be noted that Buffalo’s original proposal was to host the combine for three years, not just two — so the groundwork had already been laid to go back.

This year’s entry draft will be in Buffalo, from June 24-25.

Avs not interested in signing d-man prospect Butcher

TAMPA, FLORIDA - APRIL 07:  Will Butcher #4 of the Denver Pioneers celebrates his goal with teamamtes on the bench in the third period against the North Dakota Fighting Hawks during semifinals of the 2016 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championships at Amalie Arena on April 7, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Getty Images

In April, we passed along word of a potential rift between the Avalanche and Will Butcher, the University of Denver d-man the Avs took at the ’13 draft.

Now, it appears the rift is real.

From the Denver Post:

[Butcher] spoke about possibly attending the Avs’ prospect camp next month despite being told the NHL team is not interesting in signing him before June 2017, when he could become an unrestricted free agent following his senior season.

“I’m just going about my business at DU, being the captain next year,” Butcher said. “They’re doing their business how they want to do it. And I’m doing mine.”

Butcher, 20, was one of the top defenseman scorers in the country this season, with 32 points in 39 games, and was named a Second-Team (West) All-American.

This week, he was named Denver’s captain for the upcoming campaign.

Described by the Post as a “perplexing” move, Colorado’s decision to not sign Butcher comes not long after the organization bailed on almost all of its 2014 draft class.

First-rounder Conner Bleackley and third-rounder Kyle Wood never received entry-level deals, and were dealt to Arizona in the Mikkel Boedker trade. On Wednesday, per ESPN, the Avs decided not to sign fourth-rounders Nick Magyar and Alexis Pepin, meaning both can re-enter this year’s draft.

(At this point, it’s probably worth mentioning Colorado fired director of amateur scouting Rick Pracey just months after the ’14 draft. Pracey was also responsible for drafting Butcher.)

It’s unclear what’s happening within the Avs organization right now. Though Butcher isn’t very big (5-foot-10, 190 pounds), he’s done well at nearly every level he’s played at and was picked to represent the U.S. at the 2015 World Juniors — which begs the question:

Why let him walk?