Donskoi's OT goal gives Sharks 3-2 win over Pens in Game 3
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Joonas Donskoi wasn't even born when the San Jose Sharks started in 1991 and hadn't taken part in any of a series of playoff disappointments that haunted the franchise over the years.
On a team full of big-name stars, it was a Finnish rookie who wasn't even supposed to be ready for the NHL this season who delivered perhaps San Jose's biggest goal ever.
Donskoi's goal 12:18 into overtime ended the first Stanley Cup Final game ever in San Jose and helped the Sharks bounce back from two straight road losses to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 in Game 3 on Saturday night.
''It's game in, game out different guys stepping up to the plate,'' center Joe Thornton said. ''It was huge he scored. Some clutch goals. He's always around the puck. He always wants the puck.''
Joel Ward tied it midway through the third, Justin Braun also scored and Martin Jones made 40 saves to help the Sharks cut Pittsburgh's series lead to 2-1 with their first victory ever in the final. Game 4 is Monday night in San Jose.
Ben Lovejoy scored and assisted on Patric Hornqvist's goal that gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead heading into the third. But Matt Murray let Ward's tying goal in off his glove and then allowed the winner as Pittsburgh lost for just the second time in 51 games when leading after two periods this season.
In an overtime period controlled mostly by Pittsburgh, San Jose got the only goal from a player whose signing out of Finland in May 2015 got little attention. But Donskoi has been a major reason for San Jose's success this season, solidifying himself as a top six forward who can control possession for his team.
Chris Tierney got the puck to Donskoi behind the net. Donskoi skated out front where he beat Murray high to the stick side, setting off a wild celebration in an arena that was full of tension all night.
''It was a little bit of relief,'' Tierney said. ''It was finally nice to break through. It kind of felt like, `OK. We now can get the next one.'''
Murray made 23 saves and was especially sharp in the second period when San Jose had numerous chances to take its first lead of the series. But Murray couldn't stop Donskoi's shot from an odd angle that gave Sharks their first win in five overtime games this postseason.
''There's always something you could have done,'' Murray said. ''I was reading the play well, they were rotating trying to get the puck to the net. It kind of bounced up, a little bit of a bad bounce. It happened pretty quick. I'm not sure where the puck was going. He was just trying to get it on net and it snuck by.''”
Trailing 2-1 entering the third, the Sharks' season was on the line as only one team has ever recovered from an 0-3 deficit to win the Cup final. They got their chance when Nick Bonino was sent off for a double-minor for high-sticking Thornton.
San Jose generated good chances on the four-minute power play but it seemed like the Penguins would kill it off as the clock ran down. But just before Bonino stepped out of the box, Ward beat Murray with a blast from the high slot that deflected off the goalie's glove and in for the equalizer.
''We know this is a team that relies on their power play in the playoffs,'' Lovejoy said. ''We've been pretty disciplined and we have to stay out of the box. It's their trump card. We killed 3:59 and we needed to find a way to kill that last second.''
The first Stanley Cup Final game ever in the Bay Area came with plenty of fanfare with an elaborate pregame laser show and a raucous crowd that had waited 25 years for this moment.
The start didn't go as planned as the Penguins struck first less than six minutes in when Lovejoy's point shot deflected off defenseman Roman Polak and past Jones for a 1-0 lead.
But the fans stayed loud throughout, giving energy to the Sharks.
''They were incredible,'' Thornton said. ''They waited so long for this chance to cheer for the Sharks in the finals. Just from warmups on, they were incredible for us.''
The Sharks didn't even get a shot on goal for more than eight minutes but made a strong push after getting the tying goal on Braun's point shot past a screened Murray. Braun, who scored San Jose's only goal in Game 2, had goals in back-to-back games for the first time in his career.
The Penguins didn't need much from Murray the first two games when they controlled the play for long stretches. But in the second period when the Sharks made one of their strongest pushes of the series, Murray stood tall by robbing Brent Burns and stopping Ward on a two-on-one.
Pittsburgh then regained the lead when Hornqvist deflected Lovejoy's point shot past Jones in the final minute of the period.
NOTES: The Penguins fell to 4-3 in OT this postseason. … Pittsburgh blocked 38 shots, including 12 from Burns. … Sharks F Tomas Hertl missed the game with a lower-body injury. Melker Karlsson moved up to the top line and Dainius Zubrus returned to the lineup.