June 6, 2016
San Jose Sharks' Justin Braun (61) and Martin Jones (31) can't stop a power-play goal by the Pittsburgh Penguins' Evgeni Malkin (71) in the second period of Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., on Monday, June 6, 2016. (Getty Images)
SAN JOSE -- Monday night at SAP Center, there were no overtime miracles. There was no overtime.
Here's a final one and it might be the most stunning: There have been no goals by Joe Pavelski in the four games against Pittsburgh.
"Right now, we're in the hole we're at," Pavelski said after Monday's game. "A goal or two probably changes the outcome. The way it's been going for most of the postseason, I feel like I should probably have a little bit more."
So should the Sharks.
Pavelski's lack of scoring is not the only reason the Sharks find themselves trailing in the series. It's not the only reason why, with another raucous crowd at SAP Center ready to lift them, they wasted an opportunity to even the series.
However, the Pavelski problem is a symbol of the Sharks' bigger problem. They can't score goals. After averaging more than 3.5 goals per game in their three previous playoff series, they have scored just seven goals in the four games against the Penguins.
Even worse, the Sharks can't take a lead to make the Penguins sweat.
The only time that the Sharks have had a lead in the four games was on the winning goal by Joonas Donskoi in overtime last Saturday night, which officially ended Game 3. But does anyone remember the last time that the Sharks had a lead during the run of play?
To refresh your memory, it was back on May 25, on the night that the Sharks clinched their Western Conference title against St. Louis. And the last time a Sharks player scored a go-ahead goal when they took a 1-0 lead in that game on a shot by . . . that's right, Pavelski. See how the circle of frustration all comes back around?
The crowd at the Shark Tank was prepared on Monday to roar and ride along with an early Sharks' jump. But the Penguins, as is their way, jumped in front instead. The Sharks made a shaky line change and left Pittsburgh defenseman Ian Cole wide open to seize a juicy rebound and slap it into the net for the 1-0 lead. Not even eight minutes into the game, the Penguins were ahead. Again.
"Shouldn't happen," said Sharks' forward Logan Couture of the sloppy coverage after the troubled line change.
And he was right. But here's also what shouldn't happen: The Sharks should not have so much trouble finding a way to counteract the mistake. The Sharks should be able to score enough goals to overcome such a mistake.
In fact, even after the Penguins took a 2-0 lead on a power play goal in the second period, the Sharks theoretically should have enough firepower to score three or four goals and win.
But it wasn't until the third period when they finally began to create those excellent chances to fire away — but then they failed to cash in when those chances arose.
Patrick Marleau had a one-on-one look at Pittsburgh rookie goalie Matt Murray and didn't bury the puck.
"I just missed my shot and he got a glove on it," Marleau said.
Marleau set up Pavelski with a great look at Murray . . . and couldn't convert.
"He read the shot," Pavelski said. "Got to pick a different spot with him."
Brent Burns, so awesome with his shot from up top in the early rounds, only got one to the net Monday . . . and Murray saved it. Same with shots by Couture and Joe Thornton.
"I thought there were goals out there," said Sharks coach Pete DeBoer. "I thought we had a chance to score at least a couple tonight. We had some really good looks. Their goalie made some saves, we didn't finish."
In the end, the beloved Los Tiburones outshot and outhit the Penguins and even won more faceoffs. But they didn't win. Because the shots taken by the Sharks weren't good enough to get past Penguins' rookie goalie Matt Murray.
What now? The first step is to get a lead in Pittsburgh on Thursday. said Pavelski.
If the Sharks don't, then the series could be over. And fans of the Sharks may have seen their last game at SAP Center this season. If there is a Game 6, it would be next Sunday at the Tank. But there may be no Game 6.
"It's disappointing when you don't win in front of fans like this," Couture said. "It's never fun to see fans leaving unhappy. You feel like you've let them down. We hope that we're back here. But we've got to focus on one game first."
Actually, first they've got to focus on getting ahead. Otherwise, they will get to face summer sooner than anyone thought.