PITTSBURGH – You’re always nervous your first time.
Those awkward moments of discovery. Making inexperienced mistakes. Being unable to contain neither your enthusiasm nor your anxiety. And knowing that, in the end, the second time is going to be much more rewarding.
Such was Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final for the San Jose Sharks, as all but three players were in their first championship-round game.
“It was good to get it out of the way,” said winger Joel Ward. “We had a couple of mistakes, couple of turnovers. Which is uncharacteristic for this squad.”
The Sharks couldn’t handle the forechecking pressure by the Penguins in the first period, getting pinned in their zone and giving up two goals. They found their footing in the second, eventually tied the game, but lost 3-2 on a late Nick Bonino goal.
So now they’ll do what the Sharks have done best in these playoffs: Adjust, respond and rally, having gone 5-1 after losses.
“It’s a veteran group. I don’t know. In the playoffs, if you lose, you gotta win the next game,” said defenseman Brent Burns. “Coaches go through what you did wrong. You fix it.”
What needs to be fixed? Chiefly, the Sharks have to find a way to control the pace, puck and tempo as they did in the second period.
“When we got the puck in deep, we forechecked and got a better result. We’re looking forward to continuing with that,” said Ward. “As a group, we’ve been in this territory before. We know what we can do.”
To that end, coach Peter DeBoer said it was less about what the Penguins bring in Game 2 that how the Sharks execute. “The game is on us. It’s on us to execute better. It’s on us to impose our game on them for longer stretches. They did it for longer than we did, and they won,” he said.
You’re not always confident your first time. That’s why it’s your first time.
Your second time? There’s always a bit more confidence.
“They’re a great team, but we gave them a lot. Made them a look a little better than what they can be,” said Burns.
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