PITTSBURGH – Joe Pavelski didn’t mince words.
Asked about some of the horrific turnovers and weak plays the Sharks made during Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final that resulted in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Penguins, he was blunt.
“We made some soft plays,” Pavelski said. “The plays off the wall, they have done a really good job and we turned some pucks over and that leads to a lot of zone time for them.”
And some tough goals for the Sharks to overcome, as well.
After a scoreless opening stanza, Penguins forward Phil Kessel, who has burned teams throughout the playoffs, had the puck deep in the right slot in the second period. It rolled off his stick to defenseman Roman Polak.
A simple clearing pass solves everything, yet Polak turned the puck over to Carl Hagelin. Nick Bonino, the hero in Game 1, took his pass and put a weak, trickling shot on net just outside of goalie Martin Jones’ reach.
Kessel merely put his stick over the line to guide the puck in from the right post for a 1-0 lead.
“I mean, everyone is going to make mistakes,” said Sharks coach Peter DeBoer. “They made mistakes on the goal we scored. The problem is, if you're not scoring, every mistake you make potentially costs you the game. You can't put those things under a microscope this time of year.
“You have two teams that are playing really tight hockey. One mistake changes the game. You're not going to play mistake-free.”
Yeah, Sharks defenseman Brent Burns knows that. He distinguished himself in this one with a couple of unforced turnovers, an icing and bad clears.
“They have good back pressure,” Logan Couture said of the Penguins. “Their forwards are doing a good job. We’ve got to be quicker. From the bench, in my mind, we didn’t look quick.
“We’ve been a little quicker throughout the post-season with puck movement and we haven’t looked like that in these two games. It’s what we’re not doing.”
Offensively, the Sharks were lifeless after two periods being outshot 21-9 at one point.
They had a rare 3-on-2 rush late in the second period dissolve when Bonino dove in front to block Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s shot.
Someone suggested to DeBoer it appears as if the Sharks are waiting until the third period to get their game in gear.
“Nobody's waiting,” DeBoer snarled. “The other team wants to play, too. They're very good. They're a good team. They're at home. They have their home crowd. We're playing a team that wants to win as badly as we do and is a very good team.
“There's going to be ebbs and flows. They're going to take it over for some periods. We're going to take it over for some periods. I thought we were better tonight. But we have to find a way to create some more five-on-five offense.
“They're not taking penalties, so we've got to find a way to do this five-on-five or push them into taking some more penalties.”
What the Sharks need is more sustained offensive flow which is what the Penguins have gotten thus far. Pittsburgh is pushing the pace.
“Yeah, I think that's the identity of our team,” offered Conor Sheary, who scored the game-winner in overtime. “Coach [Mike Sullivan] has been trying to implement that all year.
“I think a lot of guys have bought into that system. It's not always about speed, it's about playing quick, getting pucks up, getting pucks in. I think when we do that, play in people's face, we overwhelm teams. It's been working out well for us.”
Perhaps DeBoer’s team might want to try a little of that, as well during Games 3 and 4 in Northern California.
“I’d like to see a few more of ours go in,” Pavelski said. “We still have another level. They’re playing at a good pace, but we can definitely go better.”