SAN JOSE, Calif. — The fans in San Jose waited 25 years for their first Stanley Cup Final. A few extra minutes for an overtime victory wouldn’t be a problem.
Joonas Donskoi scored 12:18 into overtime after Joel Ward tied it midway through the third period and the Sharks bounced back from two straight road losses to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 in Game 3 on Saturday night.
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.
Murray made 23 saves but couldn’t stop Donskoi’s shot that gave Sharks their first win in five overtime games this postseason.
“The atmosphere was incredible, right from warmups on,” Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. “The fans here are just amazing. They’ve been waiting 25 years for this chance, and they didn’t disappoint us.”
In an overtime period controlled mostly by Pittsburgh, San Jose got the only goal. Donskoi got possession behind the net and 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.
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.
Ward was one of San Jose’s key offseason additions for his playoff prowess and he scored two goals, including the series-winner in Game 6 of the conference final against St. Louis, and then perhaps an even bigger one here.
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.
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, recorded 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.
He robbed Brent Burns in close early in the period after a slick pass from Melker Karlsson, then stopped Ward on a two-on-one a few minutes later to keep the game tied at 1. Logan Couture then hit the post on another odd-man rush and those missed chances proved costly when Pittsburgh took the lead in the final minute of the period.
Thornton lost the puck along the boards and it got to Lovejoy at the point. His shot was deflected in front past Jones to give the Penguins the 2-1 lead heading into the third.
“He’s just a stud. Ever since he’s been here, he’s just so calm and so confident,” Thornton said about Jones: “You know every night he’s going to show up and shut the door for us.”