Armed with their prized possession acquired at the NHL Trade Deadline, the San Jose Sharks have an opportunity to assume a commanding lead in their first-round Stanley Cup Playoff Series against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night at Honda Center.
Evander Kane scored two goals in his first playoff game and Joe Pavelski registered two assists to back a 25-save performance by Martin Jones in a 3-0 Game 1 victory on Thursday night.
Acquired by San Jose general manager Doug Wilson in exchange for a conditional draft selection in 2019, a conditional draft selection in 2020 and Danny O’Regan on Feb. 26, Kane has delivered what was asked of him upon his arrival in Northern California. Kane registered nine goals and five assists in 17 regular-season games and continued his production with a pair of decisive second-period goals.
Kane shrugged off the suggestion that the increased pressure of playing in his first postseason contest would affect his ability to contribute to the San Jose post season effort.
Game day! We're looking to draw this First Round series even in Game 2. #LetsGoDucks
“I’ve played in a lot of big games before,” Kane said. “This is game one, obviously it’s exciting to be in the playoffs. It’s more so, just the first period, getting that out of the way and getting a feel for how I was going to feel, and how the game was going. I thought I got better as I went along.”
Kane arrived in Northern California with a questionable reputation after stops in Atlanta, Winnipeg and Buffalo but has fit seamlessly in the Sharks locker room. He gave credit to his teammates effort in the victory.
“We played great,” Kane continued. “I think all four lines did a great job of checking. We got a lot of pucks that go up into the stands and that is credit to our team, with a lot of good sticks. I thought Eric Fehr‘s line there did a great job checking. Along with Logan Couture playing really good defensively, down low there, winning a lot of battles. It was a great team win, and obviously Martin Jones made the stops when he needed to.”
The Ducks were thoroughly disappointed in their effort, a lackluster performance after closing the regular season with a 10-1-1 record in their last 12 games to secure home ice advantage as the second-place team in the Pacific Division.
Anaheim lapsed into the bad habit of taking costly minor penalties that was a deciding factor in the loss. They paraded to the penalty box six times, including consecutive penalties by Andrew Cogliano and Ryan Getzlaf, creating a 5-on-3 man disadvantage that led to Kane’s opening score. Anaheim could not get back on track in the pivotal second frame, getting outshot 17-9 and surrendering all three Sharks goals.
“You can’t afford to take seven minors and give the opposition an opportunity to practice their power play,” said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle. “It takes any momentum you had building in the game and flips everything in their favor. San Jose did a good job in the faceoff circle and kept the puck in our zone. They might not have scored, but they had almost two minutes in our zone. It’s very taxing on your penalty killers.”
Carlyle struggled to explain the Ducks’ poor effort given their strong play in the final weeks of the regular season.
“We just didn’t seem to have our legs, our hands or our minds tonight. Three checks from our standpoint. We didn’t execute with the puck, we didn’t show any aggressiveness in our skating game and we showed we were weak mentally from the standpoint of undisciplined acts we committed.”
Faced with the possibility of dealing with an 0-2 series deficit as the series moves to the HP Pavilion with a loss, the game is essentially a must-win for Anaheim. While the veteran team is not panicking after only one defeat, Getzlaf knows the importance of the victory against a team the Ducks have only defeated once in five games this season.
“We just have to regroup. It’s one game and it’s best of seven. It’s about the process and getting better every day. We have to understand what we did wrong and build from it now.”
Ducks defenseman Josh Manson has confidence his team can bounce back and even the series.
“I think there’s a lot of character in this room,” Manson told the Orange County Register. “You know when there’s adversity, guys can step up to the table. We have guys that have won, and they know how to win games, and there’s guys in that room that can take over games. I think we do have a good group for response games.”