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.