Thursday, December 14, 2017
Sports

Sharks to Pens: Pressure is on you

SAN JOSE, Calif. — No one needs to remind the Sharks about the difficulties of closing out a playoff series, how each missed opportunity can give confidence to the opponent and plant seeds of doubt in the leading team.

Two years after becoming the fourth NHL team to lose a best-of-seven series after winning the first three games, San Jose is trying to pull off a historic comeback of its own in the Stanley Cup final.

The Sharks looks to stave off elimination for a second straight contest and force a decisive seventh game in the final when they host the Penguins in Game 6 tonight.

"The longer it goes, you just feel that pressure, 'You got to get it done, you got to get it done,' " defenseman Justin Braun said. "And when it doesn't happen, it creates a little frustration, and you're like, 'We could have been done with this days ago, and we're still going.' I think that gets in your head a little bit."

That's what happened to San Jose in the first round in 2014 against the Kings and what the Sharks hope the Penguins are feeling after failing to win the Cup on home ice in Game 5 on Thursday.

Despite being outplayed for much of the series — including in Game 5, in which Pittsburgh outshot San Jose 46-21 — the Sharks know the pressure on the Penguins will only increase of they can win at home to force the winner-take-all seventh game in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

No team has lost the Stanley Cup final after going up 3-1 since Toronto rallied to beat Detroit in 1942 after losing the first three games of the series. But the Penguins have had problems closing out playoff series in recent years. Since winning their third Stanley Cup in 2009, they have blown series leads three time in the previous six postseasons.

The Penguins have little they want to change from their Game 5 loss other than the start.

After allowing two goals in the first three minutes, Pittsburgh dominated much of the rest of the contest. The Penguins scored twice in 22 seconds to tie the score just a few minutes after San Jose scored its second and controlled the play over the final 58 minutes. Only a stellar performance by San Jose goalie Martin Jones and a somewhat soft goal that Pittsburgh's Matt Murray allowed late in the first period that ended up the winner gave the Sharks the victory.

"While we were pretty good, it wasn't enough," Penguins forward Matt Cullen said. "You can look at good fortune or bad breaks or whatever. It doesn't matter ultimately. The bottom line is we get a second shot at this and we don't want to miss it."

Howe services: The funeral and visitation for Hall of Famer Gordie Howe, who died Friday at age 88, will be open to the public, Howe's son Murray said. Visitation for the longtime Red Wings great known as "Mr. Hockey" is Tuesday from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. — a nod to his No. 9 — at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Howe's family plans to greet the public in the arena, where he will lie in state. The funeral service is 11 a.m. Wednesday in Detroit. Howe will be cremated, as was his wife, Colleen, who died in 2009, Murray said.

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