SAN JOSE — You wouldn’t have blamed the Sharks’ depth guys for getting a bit jealous. Not after the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final, in which Pittsburgh’s role players stole the show.
They were doing what the Sharks’ role guys weren’t, but that changed on Saturday night.
“It’s been huge — it’s the reason we’re here,”Joe Thornton said of San Jose’s role players. “Just different guys scoring big goals. Wardy with that second one was a huge goal, and then Donnie to score in overtime.
“It’s game in, game out, different guys stepping up to the plate. That’s the reason we’re here.”
Prior to the final, San Jose’s depth guys had been regular contributors. Donskoi, tonight’s OT hero, had 10 points through 20 games. Ward had seven goals prior to tonight and, of the seven, three had either tied the game or given the Sharks the lead.
Fitting, then, what tonight’s goal did:
“Wardo just seems to find the big goal when we need it,” Braun said. “Pretty impressive, his track record coming over from Washington and now doing it for us.
Other role players chipped in on Saturday as well. Chris Tierney got the lone assist on Donskoi’s winner, his first point of series. Tommy Wingels and Nick Spaling provided a big physical presence, combining for 14 hits (Pittsburgh had 17 as a team).
But of all the depth guys that stepped up on Saturday, Donskoi was the hero. The 24-year-old rookie has been a terrific pickup, snagged out of the Finnish League by GM Doug Wilson, and after enjoying a good regular season — 11 goals and 36 points in 76 games — he’s been even better in the playoffs.
“He’s the real deal, a real good player for us,” Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said of Donskoi. “We wouldn’t be here without him.”