PITTSBURGH — From undrafted to unforgettable.
Conor Sheary became exactly that on Wednesday night, scoring the biggest goal of his professional career at 2:35 of overtime to give the Pens a 2-1 win over the Sharks in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.
It was the first-game winning goal the 23-year-old Sheary — a UMass-Amherst product passed over at the draft — has scored in his brief stint in the NHL.
And what a time for it.
Sheary’s heroics came after Pittsburgh had the game somewhat under control. The Pens clung to a 1-0 lead — earned when Phil Kessel tapped in Nick Bonino‘s shot midway through the second period — and while a one-goal advantage is always tenuous at best, the Penguins had to feel confident, given they’d held the Sharks to just 11 shots through the first two periods.
But then came the third.
San Jose, sensing the possibility of falling behind 0-2, made a strong push in the final frame and were rewarded when d-man Justin Braun scored with under five minutes remaining. In the third, the Sharks nearly matched their shot total for the entire game — after 11 SOG in periods one and two, they had nine — and could’ve salted things away in the final moments of regulation, as they created havoc around Pens netminder Matt Murray.
Wasn’t to be, though.
As such, the Sharks now face a truly uphill battle in their quest for the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Pittsburgh’s 2-0 lead is massive — the all-time series record of home teams sweeping Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Final is 33-3, a winning percentage of .917.
If the Sharks are going to get back into this thing, they’ll have to figure out their possession game. A club that averaged over 30 shots on goal during the regular season had 24 in Game 1 and 22 tonight, which isn’t nearly enough.
They’ll need to give Martin Jones some support. He’s only received three goals of offense thus far but has been brilliant, stopping 66 of 71 shots faced.
The Sharks will also certainly need more from Joe Thornton, who’s scoreless in the series.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has to be thrilled about holding serve at home. The club is now just two wins away from its first championship in seven years, and continues to get contributions from across the board. The “HBK” line continued to produce — Hagelin got the secondary assist on the Bonino-Kessel connection — and Sheary now has more goals than any other skater in the series.
Of course, the Pens will be leery of getting too caught up in their lead.
Remember those three teams that rallied to win the Cup after losing the opening two games on the road?
Yeah, well the 2009 Penguins were one of them.