SAN JOSE, Calif. — The sign just outside the doors of the San Jose Sharks dressing room reads: All who enter the Shark tank will be devoured.
On this night at least, the first-ever Stanley Cup final home game in Sharks history, the slogan proved accurate. The Sharks rallied with a 3-2 overtime victory in Game 3 on Saturday night, Joonas Donskoi scoring the winner with a shot that sailed over Matt Murray 12:18 into the extra period.
The Sharks now trail the best-of-seven series 2-1 with Game 4 ahead on Monday night.
"To win this one it's a huge confidence booster," Sharks centre Joe Thornton said after a two-assist performance. "Now we just need to continue it for Game 4."
Donskoi's overtime goal gave the Sharks their first lead of the series. They trailed 1-0 and 2-1 on Saturday evening, twice rallying to even the score on goals from Justin Braun and Joel Ward, the latter coming with less than nine minutes gone in the third period.
A loss in overtime would have put the Sharks on the brink of elimination. Instead, they head into Game 4 feeling optimistic about their chances.
"We're still looking for the next step," Brent Burns, the Sharks defenceman, said. "I think we've got another step to go."
The shot chart, which favoured Pittsburgh by a 42-26 margin, wasn't really indicative of the evening's performance, though for the third straight game of the series Pittsburgh got the game's opening goal, this one from Ben Lovejoy.
His point shot caromed off Sharks defenceman Roman Polak before beating a helpless Martin Jones.
The dominant first-period team in Games 1 and 2, Pittsburgh again controlled that battle early, landing the first seven shots of Game 3.
San Jose didn't get its first shot on goal until more than eight minutes had passed. The Sharks did, however, even the score at 1-1 just more than four minutes after Lovejoy.
Braun, who scored the game-tying goal in the final minutes of regulation in Game 2, got on the board again, his point shot sailing through a maze of traffic to beat Murray. The Penguins rookie goaltender didn't see the shot, only glancing over his left shoulder when the puck was entering the goal.
Braun had only four goals in the regular season and none in the post-season prior to Game 2. He was set up on the play by Thornton, who landed his first point of the series with an assist, leading a Sharks top line that looked more like itself in Game 3, despite playing without injured winger Tomas Hertl.
Thornton played almost 26 minutes, fired four shots, posted two assists and nearly scored a couple times in overtime.
The Sharks fed off the energy of the crowd and controlled play after the Braun goal, though they were unable to put many shots on Murray. The Penguins blocked 12 attempts in the first frame and 38 overall, often curtailing San Jose's engaged efforts.
"We liked our game," Thornton said. "It was better than Game 2 and hopefully Game 4 is going to be better than tonight. So it's a good feeling."
With control of the matchups on home-ice, San Jose managed to hold Sidney Crosby and the Penguins top line in check during the first 20 minutes and often enough throughout the night. Crosby and linemates, Conor Sheary and Patric Hornqvist, were contained by the Sharks defensive pair of Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Braun, and held without a shot in the opening period.
Hornqvist had the unit's first shot of the game with six minutes left in the second, and scored on a redirection in the final minute of that period which gave the Penguins a 2-1 advantage.
It was the last shot to beat Jones, who was again terrific with 40 saves.
Pushing back in the third, San Jose got its best opportunity to tie the game when Thornton was clipped with a high-stick by Nick Bonino, who drew blood and a four-minute penalty.
Murray shined though throughout the Sharks advantage. A clear chance for Patrick Marleau was denied as was a shot from Thornton and a redirect attempt from Donskoi.
It wasn't until the penalty was expiring that Ward's blast beat Murray, the play starting when Thornton picked off a Penguins pass in the defensive zone and fed the puck up ice. Ward took a pass from Donskoi as he entered the Pittsburgh zone, wound up, and snuck it through Murray, who got a piece of the shot but not enough.
"He seems to just get the clutch stuff all the time," Burns said of Ward, who has seven goals in the playoffs.
Signed as a free agent last summer, it was the 24-year-old Donskoi ending up the hero. After outmuscling Evgeni Malkin for a puck behind the Penguins goal, Donskoi came out toward the left face-off circle and quickly fired on Murray, the shot beating the crouching netminder high.
"It just went off the side of my head and just snuck by," Murray said. "It's a pretty good placement of the shot I guess."
The Sharks still face slim odds even after Saturday's thrilling win.
Thirty-three of the 36 teams to win the first two games on home-ice, as the Penguins did, have gone on to capture the Cup.