Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Locke tosses three-hit shutout against Marlins

By Christopher Stock
May 30, 2016
Locke tosses three-hit shutout against Marlins
Pittsburgh Pirates' Jeff Locke (49) pitches against the Miami Marlins during the fourth inning of a baseball game, Monday, May 30, 2016, in Miami. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
MIAMI (AP) Jeff Locke had a feeling early in the game he had a chance to do something special.
Locke tossed a three-hitter and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Miami Marlins 10-0 on Monday night.
''Surprisingly it was in the fourth inning because I can see the pitches and said, `Well geez, if things go really well for the next hour and a half we can line up a pretty good game,''' Locke said.
Locke (4-3) struck out one and did not walk a batter while throwing 67 of 105 pitches for strikes. It was the first complete game by a Pirate since Vance Worley on July 28, 2014.
''Fantastic to go through that lineup as efficiently as he did with no walks and one strikeout getting them to swing, the mis-hits, and we threw some leather out there behind him, which was fantastic as well,'' Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. ''I'm just proud of him. He continues to work hard and this is the culmination of some hard work.''
It was his first complete game in 101 career starts.
''It wasn't like anything I had been a part of,'' Locke said. ''It was pretty special. One hundred and one starts into this thing and I finally get to go a complete game. Very special.''
Locke retired 19 straight at one point and needed just six pitches to get through the seventh inning.
''Obviously, he throttled us pretty good,'' Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. ''He's a guy not real complicated, but he doesn't play around in the middle (of the plate) too often. He's on edges. It seemed kind of he had us where he wanted to tonight.''
Gregory Polanco's grand slam, Sean Rodriguez's two-run homer, and David Freese's four hits helped power the offense for the Pirates, who won the first of a four-game series in Miami. The first two games were originally scheduled to be played in Puerto Rico, but were moved due to concerns of the Zika virus.
The announced crowd of 10,856 was a season-low for the Marlins, who entered the day averaging just under 20,000.
Marlins starter Justin Nicolino (2-3) allowed three runs and six hits in five innings.
Nicolino left in the sixth after giving up a leadoff single to Andrew McCutchen with the Marlins trailing 2-0. Jose Urena relieved Nicolino and eventually loaded the bases for Polanco, who deposited a 2-1 change-up into the seats in right-center field for a 7-0 lead.
''I was looking for a fastball, but he left the change-up in the middle and I put a good swing on it,'' Polanco said.
It was Polanco's first career grand slam and his eighth home run of the season. He has hit in eight straight games with three home runs and 12 RBIs during the stretch.
Jung Ho Kang and Freese had RBI singles to start the scoring for the Pirates.
Two of the Marlins' three hits were erased by double plays.
Locke received the game ball from the final out and plans to send it home to his parents.
''They'll put it with the Little League balls and all of the other ones,'' Locke said. ''There's not a ton from the big leagues up there. My first pitch is up there, but it's got a scuff mark on it from the dirt it hit in front of the plate. It'll go up there somewhere special, that's for sure.''
Marlins' CF Marcell Ozuna had his 11-game hitting streak and 36-game on-base streak snapped with an 0-for-3 night.
''Thank God I died like a hero because I died battling,'' Ozuna said. ''The streak consisted of good at-bats. I was looking for the hole but the ball didn't find it. Hopefully we can start another one.''
Marlins: RF Giancarlo Stanton (right side soreness) missed his sixth consecutive game, but could return Tuesday. ... 2B Derek Dietrich entered the game in the fourth inning after being struck in the head by a foul ball while in the dugout during Sunday's game. Dietrich replaced Miguel Rojas who appeared to hurt himself during his at-bat in the third. ''He got a little stinger on that swing,'' Mattingly said. ''They're calling it shoulder irritation right now, minor. They think he's going to be OK. Obviously, we'll know more if something happened overnight.''
Pirates will send RHP Gerrit Cole (5-3, 2.53 ERA) to the mound Tuesday. Cole is 3-0 with a 1.04 ERA in his last four starts.
Marlins will counter with RHP Jose Fernandez (7-2, 2.82). Fernandez is 21-1 with a 1.64 ERA in 31 career starts at Marlins Park.

Murray comes up large when Penguins need him

May 31, 2016

Penguins goaltender Matt Murray stops the Sharks' Tomas Hertl during the third period. Murray finished with 24 saves. (Philip G. Pavely/Tribune-Review)

Jumbo Joe called Mighty Matt “a big boy.”
Man, did the Penguins' rookie goalie take a big-boy bow on hockey's grand stage on Monday night.
The statistics probably don't tell enough of the story about Matt Murray's brilliance in the Penguins' 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks at Consol Energy Center. But with Murray, the statistics almost never nail the narrative.
Which is saying a lot.
After all, through (his first) 16 Stanley Cup playoff games, Murray's goals-against average is 2.20 and he is stopping 92.4 percent of shots faced. Those are Conn Smythe-worthy numbers.
But what's a Smythe without Lord Stanley's Cup? And where would these Penguins be without their rookie goalie?
Not within three victories of claiming the Cup, that's as certain as Murray's unfathomable maturity for a 22-year-old.
He needed to make only 24 saves in Game 1 of the Cup Final. If a similar total is the best the Sharks can do in Game 2 on Wednesday night, the Western Conference champions probably are headed home down a couple of games in the best-of-seven series.
In Game 2, the Sharks likely will look more like they did in the final 40 minutes of Game 1 when they fired 44 shots in the direction of Murray.
The Penguins blocked a good many (14), and their willingness to sacrifice might have forced the Sharks' eight misfires over the final two periods. Still, there was little evidence the Sharks hadn't found a finer form after a plodding first period in the franchise's first Cup Final.
In fact, the Sharks were every bit as dominant in the middle of Game 1 as the Penguins were at the start of it. And while their first goal was no mark against Murray, their second was one even a veteran goalie would have wanted back.
Not that failing to freeze a puck fired by the Sharks' monstrous (and monstrously gifted) defenseman Brent Burns is any easy ask.
Most times, the task seems like an impossibility. If Murray, listed at 6-foot-4, is a “big boy,” as Sharks center Joe Thornton described him, what is the 6-foot-5 Burns?
The Astrodome.
Burns weighs 230 pounds, and his shots tend to carry all of the power that might be expected of a hockey player who looks more like Ben Roethlisberger.
So with little more than two minutes remaining in the second period, when Murray could only deflect Burns' shot with his left pad and kick the rebound to Sharks winger Patrick Marleau, it wasn't the most unexpected of sequences.
Unfortunately, neither was what happened in the ensuing seconds.
Could defenseman Ben Lovejoy have secured the puck and prevented Marleau's wraparound shot? Sure.
However, Murray also could have been quicker across his goal crease to stop the shot from going into the open cage. After it did, it felt as though the Sharks had taken a big bite out of the Penguins.
Also felt like the sports world would learn a lot about Murray.
It's no secret that in America, many sports fans wait until the Cup Final to tune into hockey games on TV. It's as much of a secret as Penguins assistant general manager Jason Botterill's readiness to run his own NHL club.
After Game 1, which HBK line center Nick Bonino won with a late-regulation goal, Botterill calmly walked toward the Penguins' dressing room. I asked him about Murray's habit of being better after he gets beat.
“I can't speak for what he was like in junior (hockey),” Botterill said, “but from Day 1 in the AHL, that's been his M.O.”
Botterill went on to recall the regular-season home opener of the Penguins' AHL affiliate, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. In that contest against Lehigh Valley, Murray surrendered three goals in the first period. His club notched the next five, but Murray gave up the tying score early in the third period.
But he never allowed Lehigh Valley to pull ahead. That afforded Wilkes-Barre/Scranton an opportunity to win that the AHL's Penguins took advantage of and won on Oct. 9.
Murray was a long way from Mohegan Sun Arena on Monday night.
San Jose's Sharks are big step up in class from Lehigh Valley's Phantoms.
Same story, though.
Against Murray, opponents often score just enough to lose. He has become a young master at the most difficult aspect of his sport's most important position.
Don't give up the next goal.
Murray didn't.
That's the way a big boy plays on any stage.
“It's what he does,” Botterill said.
Rob Rossi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter@RobRossi_Trib.

Penguins, Sharks give glimpse of fast-paced action in Game 1

May 31, 2016
Nick Bonino celebrates his third-period goal with 2:33 left in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals (USA Today)
PITTSBURGH – Penguins forward Nick Bonino stood in place with both hands raised high, spinning slowly like the holiday display in a department store window, shining bright for everyone to see. The unclaimed stick of San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns lay just outside the blue paint, nestled underneath the pads of his goaltender Martin Jones, and nearby Paul Martin dropped to one knee in defeat. Into the celebration from the far corner charged Kris Letang, the Pittsburgh defenseman who had no business being that deep, at least not this late into the third period of a tie game. And yet here was the opener of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, decided by a bold rush, a smart read, and a chip shot by the center with the Civil War chinstrap. “It was a flipper or something like that,” Letang said. “I’m just glad he put that in.”
Two minutes and 33 seconds later, once the Penguins snuffed defenseman Ben Lovejoy’s hooking minor, survived a two-man disadvantage when Jones fled to the bench, and whipped Consol Energy Center into a roaring frenzy, the horn blared on their 3-2 victory, the first by an Eastern Conference team in Game 1 since 2006. It was then that the Carolina Hurricanes, helmed in their front office by GM Jim Rutherford, began the final push toward their first title in franchise history. And it was Tuesday night, with Rutherford watching his new team in the same capacity, that several shrewd moves pushed Pittsburgh to a 1-0 series lead.
The third-period goal by Bonino, acquired from Vancouver last July, was merely the climax. The backhanded feed that sprung Letang at the offensive blue line came via speedster Carl Hagelin, shipped back into the Metropolitan Division midseason from Anaheim. In the opening frame, forwards Bryan Rust and Conor Sheary became the first pair of rookies to open the Stanley Cup scoring since 1924, or roughly around when forward Matt Cullen, the $800,000 summer signee who stepped onto the second line after Rust exited with a head injury, was born. Before the game, television cameras captured coach Mike Sullivan, promoted from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Dec. 12 upon Mike Johnston’s firing, instructing his charges to play “fast and fearless.”
Message heard.

Message heard.
“We certainly didn't want to go into this series with a wait-and-see approach,” Sullivan said. “We didn't want to go through a feeling-out process.  We wanted to try to go out and dictate the terms right away. That’s when we play our best, when we’re on our toes and we skate. We try to do it in a calculated way.
“When I use the term ‘fearless,’ I think that word encompasses a lot of things. Most specifically is, Let’s not get overwhelmed by the circumstance. Let’s not have any sort of anxiety out there because the stakes are high. Let’s embrace the moment. Let’s challenge each other to be our best and let’s have fun with this. I thought our guys did tonight.”
Seven years after their last Final appearance, the Penguins slugged their visitors from the outset, pelting more pucks on goal in the first period (15) than San Jose attempted shots altogether (14). In the Final for the first time in franchise history, the Sharks had basked in the moment since arriving here. Even a cadre of Pittsburgh fans showering their bus with boos at the team hotel two days ago was treated with enthusiasm. “It’s exciting times,” defenseman Brenden Dillon said. “We build off that stuff. Doesn’t matter the amount of Red Bulls or coffee you can drink. You get the national anthem going, you get the jitters.”
Standing inside an empty visiting locker room, Dillon speculated the obvious about San Jose’s slow start. “Looking around, taking everything in, you don’t know if you want to blame it on that, but it was a lot of firsts today for us,” he said. Ordinarily smooth through the neutral zone, the Sharks were unable to sustain any semblance of a forecheck, rendered inert by Pittsburgh’s speed. Even before Rust and Sheary scored 62 seconds apart, the former by following up a rebound and the latter by potting a magical no-look pass from captain Sidney Crosby,  San Jose was playing catch-up.
GALLERY: Stanley Cup Final Game 1
“The overall message was just, hey, let’s get back to work,” Dillon said. “We weren’t working in the first period, weren’t using our legs. We almost hoped that maybe they would’ve had some nerves, would’ve turned some pucks over, but here in the Final, teams aren’t going to give you goals.”
Much like the Penguins obliged Sullivan’s pregame request, the Sharks emerged from the first intermission looking much like the high-flyers who still lead the postseason with 3.42 goals per game. Three minutes in, Tomas Hertl put San Jose on the board with a nifty stuff-in on the power play. Later, forward Patrick Marleau, until Tuesday the owner of the NHL record for most playoff games without a Final appearance, caught Murray on a slow post-to-post recovery and wrapped a rebound around to the far side. Jones, meanwhile, was magnificent against 41 shots, more than he had faced in any regulation game this postseason. At least, until he dropped onto his knees, squared up to Bonino, and watched the winning puck square up to his shoulders.
“I think our guys have done a good job of recognizing what we have to get better at and getting it fixed,” San Jose coach Pete DeBoer said. “This isn't going to be easy. You don't get to this point and have any easy nights. We know Game 2 is going to be tough. I think we can be a lot better.”
And yet, the Sharks were still right there, their vaunted power play on the ice and Jones on the bench, Lovejoy in the box and the clock winding down. A quick Pittsburgh clear off the faceoff burned away some time, soon followed by another clear from Hagelin, a third from Eric Fehr, the rangy bottom-six forward signed in free agency last summer, and a fourth from Letang. Aside from Logan Courture’s spin-and-fire wrister from 13 feet that Murray denied, the Sharks did not attempt another shot on goal before two yellow towels fluttered onto the ice, dropping the curtain on a pulse-racing Game 1 befitting the stage.
“I think that’s how it’s going to be,” Dillon said. “It’s as advertised.”

Plus/Minus: Bryan Rust proving to be a handful for opponents

By Brian Metzer
May 30, 2016
Stanley Cup final series, Game 1
Bryan Rust celebrates his first-period goal with Evgeni Malin (71), Justin Schultz (4) and Ian Cole (28). (Kevin Lorenzi/The Times)
Plus – Rust isn’t a bad thing
The legend of Bryan Rust continues to grow. The rookie forward scored the opening goal 12:46 into the first period against the San Jose Sharks on Monday night and was involved throughout the night. He used his speed to create chances for he and his linemates and the Sharks definitely had some trouble keeping him under wraps. He added a blocked shot and a takeaway and again was one of the best forwards on the ice for the Penguins.
Minus – Power play doesn’t pay
The Penguins power play scored just once on 11 opportunities through the final three games of the Eastern Conference Final against the Lightning. They were no better in Game 1 of the final against the Sharks, going scoreless through three chances. They again focused setting up the perfect play and didn’t seem to get enough shots to the goal. This is in stark contrast to the power play of the Sharks, which is rolling in the playoffs, scoring on 27 percent of its chances. They scored on their only chance during Game 1.
Plus – Roll the Bones
There was a great deal of concern about the fact that Nick Bonino had to be helped off the ice late in the Penguins Game 7 victory. He did come back, but proceeded to miss two days of practice and wasn’t available during media day events on Sunday. Coach Mike Sullivan said he’d be fine and he did take the ice, ending up the hero of Game 1. Bonino scored the game-winning goal with just 2:33 remaining in regulation and then played a huge role in helping to kill off a Ben Lovejoy penalty at 17:51 to secure the victory. He also added six shots, blocked six shots and won 50 percent of his faceoffs.
Plus – Captain Crosby
Sidney Crosby brought his game to another level during Game 1. He managed just one assist, a sparkling backhand effort to set up Conor Sheary’s first period marker, but he seemed to be creating opportunities throughout. He played a fast game that saw him put four shots on goal and won 56 percent of his faceoffs. His deft passing touch put teammates in position to score often in the game and would have had plenty more points if not for the work of Jones. A great start to the series for the captain.

Don't blink! Pittsburgh Penguins' Game 1 win over the San Jose Sharks was played at warp speed

Pierre LeBrunESPN Senior Writerhttp://espn.go.com/nhl/May 31, 2016
Bryan Rust #17 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates his first-period goal in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals (Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH -- Sit back and get ready to love this series.
Because if Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals was any indication, we're in for a royal treat, with two transition teams built on speed and skill giving the sport of hockey one unreal sales job over the next two weeks.
The Pittsburgh Penguins' 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks on Monday night was played at warp speed -- the third-period buzzer leaving you gasping for air, if you were fortunate enough to be inside a loud Consol Energy Center.
Imagine what it was like for the players.
"Yeah, considering the situation, you've got to be sharp," said Penguins captainSidney Crosby, who seemed to have rocket fuel in his skates. "You can't hesitate, you can't have a misstep where somebody loses an edge or you're not quite on your guy. There's so much speed out there, they're going to get a chance. I think everyone felt it out there tonight, that it was another level, as to be expected here."
One could also argue Game 1 was representative of what we're going to see in this series, with both teams trying to impose their wills and each taking turns in dictating long stretches.
"Yeah, I think that's fair," said Sharks star center Joe Thornton. "You're going to see momentum changes. That's what you saw tonight. They started with the momentum, then we took it back, and obviously with that third goal, they grabbed it. But that's the game. It's all about momentum."
The Sharks sandwiched one great middle period between two owned by the Penguins. In all three, the team with the edge carried the puck-possession battle and offensive-zone time.
That's going to be the name of the game in this championship series.
Crosby agreed.
"It's exactly what both teams want to do," he said. "You see in the second, they got to it and we were on our heels and they generated some offense. There's going to be swings of momentum, it's going to happen, it's whoever can kind of get to it more often. That's our game, and if they do get some long end-zone time, we've got to find ways to get it out of our end and get in their end."
Both teams want the puck, of course, but what they do with it differs at times. The Penguins are so dangerous at creating chances off the rush and on the counterattack off turnovers. When they can make it a track meet -- like they did in the first period and somewhat in the third period -- the Sharks are going to be in trouble.
But when San Jose gets control the puck and sets up shop on the cycle in the Pittsburgh's zone -- like it did for most of the second period, when it erased a 2-0 deficit to tie the game -- that's Sharks hockey.
And that will be the tug-of-war in this series.
"They're a fast team," said Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer. "They dictated play in the first. I thought when we played our game in the second, they had trouble with us. It's the first game of the series. It reminds me a lot of St. Louis, Game 1. I know we're going to get better. Our execution's got to get better. Part of it was some of the pressure they put on, but part of it was self-inflicted."
The Sharks were blown out of the water in the opening period, looking very much like a team playing their first-ever Stanley Cup finals game, jitters and all. They were outshot 15-4, but thanks to goalie Martin Jones, only down two goals after the first.
"I think we dipped our toe in the water instead of playing like we can," said Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon. "You obviously saw the push they had. We had to have known that was going to come; getting in on forechecks, off the rush, they made a couple of plays early. If it wasn't for Jonesy, it could have been even three or four [goals] in the first period, the way things were going."
The 41 shots that the Sharks gave up Monday were their most in regulation time during these playoffs. (They allowed 45 in the triple-overtime loss to theNashville Predators in the second round.) Otherwise, you have to go back to March 7 in Calgary to find the last time they gave up more than 40 shots, a span of 36 games overall.
"I thought Jones was good," said Penguins center Matt Cullen. "He made some big saves. I thought that we created a lot of opportunities. We did a good job for the majority of the game of putting a lot of rubber on him and trying to get rebounds, but he was up to the challenge. He was good. But there are times when you're like, 'Man, I would love to see some of those go in.' That's an example of where you can't get too fine. You have to just continue to shoot pucks, shoot pucks and not look for something better."
If there's a real positive out of this Game 1 loss for the Sharks, it's that the 26-year-old Jones looked absolutely poised, like it was just a mid-February affair. He was Carey Price-like in his calmness, frankly. That bodes well for San Jose.
"We expect that of him. He's been great for us all year," said star Sharks blueliner Brent Burns.

"Jonesy has been a rock back there all year," Dillon added. "We obviously want to limit as many shots as we can. They've got good players over there, they've got high-end players, those guys are going to get opportunities. I think it's just limiting the risk ones, the ones down the pipe or breakaways. In the first period, we gave up way too many odd-man rushes, a couple of breakaways; that's not like us. I think you can count maybe on one hand the amount we had in the three series prior.
"For whatever reason, they caught us off guard, and now we know what we have to do to be successful going forward."

The question, however, is whether the Sharks can play Sharks hockey for three periods. That would imply that the Penguins will allow that to happen.
The truth of the matter is that I don't think any team will dominate the other for an entire game in this series. There are going to be stretches on each side with the hope the final break falls your way, as it did Monday night, when Nick Bonino was left all alone in front with 2:33 left to score the winner.
"It's one game, but I think we did a lot of good things," said Crosby, easily the game's most impactful player on this night. "First and third, we were really strong, generated a lot of chances. We saw a lot of their strengths, especially in the second, with how good they are at getting pucks to the net and holding on to pucks down low. They play pretty fast. Just two teams who want to get to the exact same game."
Bring us six more games of this, please.

Sharks have time to erase Game 1's costly first period

May 30, 2016
Pittsburgh Penguins' Nick Bonino (13) fires the puck past San Jose Sharks' Paul Martin (7) and Martin Jones (31) to score the winning goal in the third period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Monday, May 30, 2016. (Josie Lepe/Bay Area News Group)
Nick Bonino scores the game-winning goal in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals. (Josie Lepe/Bay Area News Group)
PITTSBURGH -- The anticipation was gripping. The lights were bright. The noise was loud. Yellow laundry was being twirled in the air by 18,596 yellow laundry twirlers. And the entire hockey world was looking over the Sharks' shoulders to see if the teal was for real.
So maybe it's no surprise that when they showed up for their first Stanley Cup Final game ever here, the Sharks played . . . like it was their first Stanley Cup Final game ever.

Very shaky at the start. Much better as the game progressed. And then not quite sharp enough at the end, the victim of a possible bad-luck breakdown -- and ultimately a 3-2 loser.

Thus, the Sharks begin their quest for the Cup down one game in the best-of-seven, with the next faceoff coming up Wednesday

"We had some spurts here and there," said Sharks' coach Pete DeBoer. "But they played their game for longer stretches than we did tonight. That's what happens. You don't deserve to win when you don't outplay the other team."
The focus now will be on whether the Sharks can respond the way they did in the Western Conference finals, when they lost Game 1 to the St. Louis Blues in a similar fashion -- on the road, poor start but better finish despite the defeat -- and then wound up winning four of the next five games to take the series. Is a repeat possible?

"There's nothing that I saw tonight that I'm going out of here thinking we can't come out and compete and play much better on our end," DeBoer said. "They're a good team. It's the two best teams in the league . . . I think part of it is us fixing our execution. We've been pretty good about that throughout the playoff trail of getting that stuff fixed."
True. But the Penguins are not the same team as the St. Louis Blues in one important respect: Pittsburgh has wheels galore. Their forwards are here and gone before you can say "here and gone."

This caused big problems for the Sharks in Monday's first period. For a while, you wondered if the beloved Los Tiburones were going to be left in Penguin dust. During those opening minutes, you'd have thought the Sharks were the slowest and most careless team in four time zones. The Penguins shot out of their dressing room like a shook-up can of Iron City beer that someone popped open and sprayed all over Consul Energy Center.
And the Sharks?
"We stood around and watched," DeBoer said.
Pittsburgh outshot the Sharks, 15-4, while they were doing that first-period spectating. The Penguins kept crossing the blue line with speed and unloading. But the Sharks scrambled enough defensively to stave off a goal and the scoreboard stayed at 0-0 until shortly after a Pittsburgh power play nine minutes into the game. This allowed the Penguins to gain momentum and not long after, they scored twice in a little more than a minute to take a 2-0 lead.
"We knew they were going to start fast," said the Sharks' Joe Thornton said. "And they did. I think that early power play got them going and they were just jumping."
During a mid-game television interview, DeBoer hinted that the Sharks had been nervous out of the gate, which created the first-period issues. DeBoer backed away from that a bit in his postgame news conference when someone asked if the Sharks had been struck by the Stanley Cup jitters.
"I don't know," DeBoer said. "You know, guys are dialed in, they want to play well. Everyone's heart is in the right place. It's something. Is it us traveling? Emotional letdown after the last game? Other than the travel, they (the Penguins) are dealing with the same things. They were better than us. We've got to fix that."
Sharks centerman Logan Couture, always the biggest truth-teller in the Sharks room, was far more blunt.
"We obviously weren't prepared to go," Couture said. "I don't need to say that. You saw it yourself. It was ugly."
Fortunately, between the first and second period, the Shark players managed to calm themselves (probably with DeBoer's verbal guidance) and the second period was entirely different. The Sharks managed the puck better, drew a power play that led to a goal by Tomas Hertl, and then tied the score at 2-2 on a beautiful wraparound by Patrick Marleau.
The third swayed more back and forth -- but the Sharks missed their best chances and the Penguins seized the one that mattered. Defenseman Brent Burns had his stick knocked out of his hand by a Pittsburgh shot and eventually the puck made its way to the Penguins' Nick Bonino in a soft spot behind the Sharks' Paul Martin. With 2:33 left in the game, Pittsburgh took the 3-2 lead and rode it home.
"We'll respond," Thornton promised.
To do so, the Sharks have some problems to fix. The line centered by rookie Chris Tierney struggled all night to defend or control most of the Pittsburgh lines it faced, especially the one centered by Evgeni Malkin. Sidney Crosby, the Penguins' top center, was the presence you'd expect him to be.
What else? Bonino, the winning goal scorer, was a 2007 Sharks draft choice that was traded away in 2009 and may be at least be slightly motivated to show his former team what it missed. Bonino still has the jersey given him by the Sharks on draft day hanging in his closet, as a reminder.
The Penguins are a handful. But if the Sharks can do what they did against Nashville and St. Louis -- gain more puck control (as happened in the second period) and wear down Pittsburgh's defenseman over a long series, the result may be the same as it was in the first few playoff rounds.
If so, then Monday's first period -- which is essentially what cost the Sharks' the game -- will be a blip on the radar. It would be a shame if this Stanley Cup hinged on one team standing around and watching during the first period of the first game. Can't see that being the case. If the Sharks are the better team, they still have plenty of time to prove it.
The best time to start would be Wednesday night.
Read Mark Purdy's blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/purdy. Contact him atmpurdy@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MercPurdy.