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Epic collapse in rematch with Pens
Sharks blow 2-goal lead in 3rd period
10/20/16 - By Mike Lee -

There are certain games you want to win at all costs. Facing the team that crushed your Stanley Cup dreams for the first time is one of those games. When San Jose entered the 3rd period with a 2-0 lead, it looked as if that mission would be accomplished. The Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins had other ideas, storming back with a 3-goal 3rd period to stun the befuddled Sharks at PPG Paints Arena. While not the magnitude of a Stanley Cup eliminating loss, it was a demoralizing defeat. It confirmed who the better team was last spring when it counted most.

The Sharks had this one in the bag. Two goal leads are insurmountable in the NHL. Just look to the Penguins in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals for evidence of that. For a team like San Jose to get caught up in a loss of momentum in a game like this is just difficult to understand.

But then again it's not.

Pittsburgh played with the services of Sydney Crosby, Kris Letang and Connor Sheery who were all on the shelf with injuries. The Sharks had every reason to win this game.

The same defensive gaps in the Stanley Cup Finals reared their ugly head in Thursday night's defeat. Too many players turned in 3rd period performances that were worthy of demotions. Standing and watching was the order of business for a Sharks defense that you would have expected to do nothing more than lay out punishing hits all night in retribution for last Spring's treatment by the Penguins.

But that's not this team.

The Sharks are focused on playing the odds. Do things the same way, and good things will happen. Except they didn't. The Sharks needed to match the Penguins intensity in the 3rd period, but they failed. They failed miserably.

Evgeni Malkin even tried to gift wrap the win for San Jose by taking a tripping penalty 4 minutes into the fateful 3rd. The passivity of the Sharks cost them dearly. A Mikkel Boedker chance to stuff home a 3rd goal into an empty Penguins net at the end of the power play went by the wayside, as did the game.

The Penguins roared to life after surviving the Malkin penalty and systematically carved up the Sharks like a Thanksgiving turkey. Malkin cut the Sharks lead in half with 13:13 to play after the Sharks bungled a defensive sequence. First Chris Tierney left his feet in an attempt to sweep a puck away, essentially taking himself out of the play. Then Paul Martin and Justin Braun tried swatting a puck simultaneously out of the air with their gloves, but ended up chipping the puck out front to Malkin. Joel Ward missed his assignment, allowing Malkin to snipe from 10 feet out in the center of the slot.

Scott Wilson tied the game less than three minutes later after Patric Hornqvist laid a check on Brendon Dillon in the left corner, separating the puck from the Sharks defenseman. Wilson swooped in to grab the puck and then waltzed to the net as Martin stood watching in front of the right post. Wilson flipped a backhand chance from 6-feet out, beating Martin Jones through the 5-hole.

The Sharks survived a sloppy delay of game penalty by Martin after he flipped the puck over the glass, but they shot themselves in the foot moments after that penalty expired when Marc-Edouard Vlasic was sent off for slashing Bryan Rust. Already on their heels, the penalty was a dagger applied to the Sharks throats.

The penalty kill has been the Sharks Achilles heel early in the season, and Vlasic's penalty queued the meltdown in nightmarish fashion. The Penguins swarmed the front of the San Jose net like a pack of wild dogs that could smell blood. Martin had a chance to clear the puck and get a change, but he didn't get enough on his stick, turning it into a pass to the point defenders. Hornqvist deposited the puck from the doorstep as Martin and Brent Burns stood and watched.

Martin was on the ice for all three Penguins goals. It was a fitting return for the defenseman that the Penguins gave up on. It validated the decision to go with younger, more energetic talent. The season veteran played more like a seasoned pot roast.

Pittsburgh's epic comeback made Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau's goals in the 2nd period afterthoughts. Hertl staked the Sharks to a 1-0 lead 5:04 into the middle frame, following up a Joe Pavelski shot that was stopped by Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury with a kick save. Hertl swooped in to tap home the puck as it sat in front of the right post.

Marleau scored his 2nd goal of the season after picking Brian Doumalin's pocket at he Penguins blueline before exchanging passes with Logan Couture and slipping a shot through Fleury's pads.

Game Notes:

* Marc-Edouard Vlasic was assessed a game misconduct after the final horn, likely for voicing his displeasure with referee Jake Brenk's slashing call that setup hornqvist's game winner.

* Patrick Marleau, Brent Burns and Tomas Hertl had 5 shots a piece to lead San Jose. The Sharks recorded 34 shots on the night.

* Pittsburgh had recorded only 5 shots while playing 5-on-5 entering the fateful 3rd period. The Penguins couldn't generate much in that first 40 minutes, which made the comeback all the more improbable. Two of their goals came on only 5 shots.

* The Sharks road trip comes to an end with a game in Detroit on Saturday night. San Jose returns to SAP Center on October 25th to kick off a 3-game homestand.


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1 2 3 T
SJ 0 2 0 2
PIT 0 0 3 3
1st period - None.
2nd period - 1, SJ, Hertl 2 (Pavelski, Burns), 5:04. 2, SJ, Marleau 2 (Couture), 16:15.
3rd period - 3, PIT, Malkin 2 (unassisted), 6:47. 4, PIT, Wilson 1 (Cullen, Hornqvist), 9:01. 5, PIT, Hornqvist 2 (Kessel, Malkin), 14:02, (pp).
1st period - Dillon, SJ (high sticking), 13:17; Cole, PIT (interference), 18:20.
2nd period - Kunitz, PIT (tripping), 0:56; Boedker, SJ (holding), 8:04; Schlemko, SJ (slashing), 12:48.
3rd period - Malkin, PIT (tripping), 4:10; Martin, SJ (delay of game - puck over glass), 10:17; Vlasic, SJ (slashing), 12:54; Vlasic, SJ (game misconduct), 20:00.
Shots Saves
SJ - Jones 20 17
PIT - Fleury 34 32
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
SJ 10 17 7 34
PIT 6 4 10 20
Power Play Conversion
SJ 0 of 3
PIT 1 of 5
3 Stars of the Game
Patric Hornqvist
Evgeni Malkin
Marc-Andre Fleury
PPG Paints Arena - 18,511
Referees: Pollock, Brenk. Linesmen: Grandt, Cameron.
Holiday Gifts at BustedTees

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