Stanley Cup Finals: Pittsburgh Penguins edge San Jose Sharks in NHL finale opening game

Nick Bonino scores the game winner in the waning minutes as the Penguins edged the Sharks 3-2 in the first game of the Stanley Cup finals

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 May, 2016, 11:33am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 May, 2016, 12:50pm

Nick Bonino scored the game winner in the waning minutes on Monday as the Pittsburgh Penguins edged the San Jose Sharks 3-2 in Pittsburgh in the first game of the NHL Stanley Cup finals.

The Penguins, seeking their first NHL championship since 2009, will try to stretch their lead in the best-of-seven series when they host game two on Thursday morning (Hong Kong time), before the series shifts to San Jose.

The Penguins let a 2-0 lead in the contest get away from them, as San Jose, playing in the championship series for the first time, scored twice in the second period.

But Bonino scored from the inner edge of the left circle, after a feed from defenceman Kris Letang, to make it 3-2 at 17:27 of the third.

“He put it right on my stick – it was a great play by Tanger – and it wasn’t the hardest shot I’ve had, but I was able to flip it over (Jones),” Bonino said.

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Bryan Rust, who later left the contest with an undisclosed injury, and fellow rookie Conor Sheary, scored little more than a minute apart in the first period for the Penguins, who had 24 saves from rookie goalie Matt Murray.

Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau responded with goals for the Sharks in the second, but after Bonino’s goal Murray made the lead stand up even as the Sharks played most of the last two minutes on the power play.

“He made a couple of big saves on (Sharks centre) Joe Thornton coming down the wing at the end,” Penguins left winger Chris Kunitz said of Murray. “He’s always rising to the occasion for the team.”

Jones was under pressure in the Sharks net throughout the first and third periods, finishing with 38 saves.

“They played their game for longer stretches than we did,” said Sharks coach Peter DeBoer, who noted that in the face of the Penguins’ vaunted speed his players at times “stood around and watched”.

“They’re a fast team and they dictated play,” DeBoer said. “They were better than us, and we’ve got to fix that.”

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But Penguins centre Matt Cullen said Pittsburgh can’t afford to be complacent.

“We can’t pat ourselves on the back, because game two comes in a hurry,” Cullen said. “We’ve got to come out with the same urgency.”

Rust got the ball rolling for the Penguins at 12:46 of the first, batting in the rebound of a shot by Justin Schultz that deflected off Sharks defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic directly to Rust.

“They came out flying,” Sharks centre Logan Couture said. “The games are too big to have a start like that.”

Rust departed the game after a blindside hit to the head by Marleau, and Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said he is day-to-day with an upper body injury.

“I’m sure the league will look at it,” Sullivan said of the Marleau hit, which promoted a two-minute penalty.

Sheary made it 2-0 only 1:02 later. Penguins star Sidney Crosby gained control of the puck along the half-wall and made a pinpoint pass to Sheary in the right circle for a shot under the crossbar.

The Sharks cut the deficit to 2-1 when Hertl beat Murray from a long the goal line at 3:02 of the second. Marleau tied it late in the second when he beat Murray with a backhander.

Although Crosby didn’t find the net for Pittsburgh, in addition to setting up Sheary’s goal he looked like the fastest player on the ice for much of the contest.

“We want to play fast and fearless,” Sullivan said. “We’re at our best when we’re on our toes and skate.”