First things first, right winger Bryan Rust is "day-to-day" with an "upper-body" injury according to head coach Mike Sullivan.
At 4:47 of the third period, Rust entered the offensive zone on the right wing and tried to pass a pass. After he released it, Sharks center Patrick Marleau plastered him with a hit to the head with his right shoulder:
Rust left the game and retreated to the dressing room. He returned for one shift but eventually returned to the dressing room for good.
Marleau was given a minor penalty for illegal check to the head. Sullivan, who usually avoid commentary on any sort of dangerous hit was direct in describing it:
"It's a blindside hit to the head. He gets a penalty. I'm sure the league will look at it."
Marleau offered his perspective on the hit:
“I just tried to keep everything down and didn't want to get up too high. I didn't see a replay so...”
Do he anticipate any supplemental discipline?
“I don't think so. I kept my shoulder in and my elbow and everything in so...”
Did you feel it on the shoulder in terms of the contact?
“I just kind of let him skate into me so...”
Many members of the NHL's Department of Player Safety were on hand to watch the game in person. Given the inconsistent nature of this increasingly frustrating institution within the league, it's difficult to say if any substantial action will be taken.
As far as the game goes. It was - as advertised - fast. The first period was lopsided in favor of the Penguins while the second period was slanted in favor of the Sharks. Things leveled off in the third period but both teams pushed things offensively and it became a track meat at times. The way this game was played, it's hard to envision this series not going seven games.
Either way, this series got off to a fast start ... literally.
"It was back and forth," said defenseman Justin Schultz. "It's going to be like that all series."
The Penguins took the series' first lead on a rebound. Rust drove a puck up the right wing and centered it to the high slot. Schultz took the pass then gripped and ripped a wrister which was blocked by Sharks defenseman Paul Martin. The puck ricocheted and deflected to the left of the cage which Rust was able to clean up the garbage and swatted it by the right leg of goaltender Martin Jones. Schultz and left winger Chris Kunitz had assists.
They made it a 2-0 game 62 seconds later. Center Sidney Crosby drove a puck deep on the left wing and spun off a check from defenseman Justin Braun. Off the left half wall, Crosby dealt a cross-ice backhand pass to left winger Conor Sheary. With right winger Patric Hornqvist driving defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to the crease, Sheary ripped a wrister past Jones' blocker on the far side. Assists went to Crosby and defenseman Olli Maatta.
The Sharks' dangerous power play went to work and tied the game 3:02 into the second period. After Sharks right winger Joel Ward danced the blue line to keep a puck in the offensive zone. Defenseman Brent Burns fed a pass from the right point right winger Joonas Donskoi off the right half wall. Donskoi then dealt it to center Thomas Hertl low to the right of the cage. Turning towards the crease, Hertl shot the puck through the legs of a kneeling Maatta and through the five hole of goaltender Matt Murray. Assists went to Donskoi and Burns.
It became a 2-2 game with 1:38 left in the second. Fending off Maatta, Sharks center Logan Couture fed a pass from the left corner to Burns at the right point. Burns ripped a quick one-timer which Murray denied with his left skate. Marleau controlled the rebound, skated behind the net and tucked in a backhand wraparound goal by the right skate of Murray. Burns and Couture netted assists.
The Penguins reclaimed the lead for good with 2:33 left in regulation. Defenseman Kris Letang went in deep on the right wing and had a wrister blocked by Burns. The block knocked Burns' stick free and The puck slide into the left corner where left winger Carl Hagelin and Letang won a battle for it against Hertl. Letang dug the puck free and fired a pass past the stickless Burns to center Nick Bonino positioned to the left of the crease. Bonino had a year and a day to pick his shot and he lifted a wrister past Martin. The puck glanced off of Jones' blocker and deflected into the net.
After killing off a Sharks power play with 2:09 left in regulation, the Penguins claimed Game 1.
-As has been the case throughout the past six months or so, the "Wilkes-Barre/Scranton" guys - who are undoubtedly "Pittsburgh" guys at this point - played a role in this victory. Goals by Rust and Sheary gave the Penguins a quick start. Murray buttoned things down after surrendering a two-goal lead. And defenseman Brian Dumoulin played a key role on the team's top defensive pairing. The trust Mike Sullivan has in these guys is very evident.
-Any potential absence by Rust would be a tough loss given his production as of late. He's just feeling it right now. The Penguins have been able to overcome injuries most of the season and on paper, a loss of Rust wouldn't seem overwhelming. But clearly, they would be a lesser team without him.
-The Penguins' top line of Crosby, Sheary and Hornqvist was very aggressive in this game. They went after the Sharks' top defensive pairing of Braun andVlasic and really peppered Jones with shots. The Sharks need Braun and Vlasic to be more effective if they're going to go head-to-head with that line.
-What more can you say about Bonino at this point? He scores so many important goals or contributes in so many key situations. On his goal tonight, he just read the play perfectly and found an open space in front of the cage. He's such an intelligent player and a sequence like his goal is evidence of that.
-The guts Letang showed in helping create Bonino's goal showed were impressive. How many other defensemen would have just chipped that puck deep and live to skate another shift? Instead, he took it upon himself to challenge Brent Burns - a finalist for the Norris Trophy - one-on-one and attempt a shot. Letang got a little lucky as Burns dropped his stick but took full advantage of Burns' predicament by passing to Bonino.
-Murray came through with another solid effort. The Sharks really attacked the net in the second period and exchanged chances in the third period. Perhaps he could have stopped Hertl's goal but he was really sharp otherwise. He needed a strong opening game like this after some up and down efforts against the Lightning.
-We think there was some evidence of the Penguins missing Daley in this game, particularly in the second period. The Sharks seemed to really pressure Maatta a bit and he was involved in some fashion on both of the Sharks' goals. We'll see how Daley's injury is felt over the course of the series.
-After Rust left for good, center Matt Cullen moved up from the fourth line to the right wing on the line with center Evgeni Malkin and left winger Kunitz. Cullen would certainly appear to have adequate speed for that line.
-Sheary's goal was a real shot. He didn't just throw that on net and hope it went in. He read Hornqvist's screen well and shot it. He continues to find ways to contribute.
-The penalty kill really came up big late in the game. The Penguins came up with big faceoff win in the defensive zone and cleared the puck a few times to ice this game. It was a clutch moment for this group.
-The one major wart int his game fo the Penguins was the power play going 0 for 3. The Sharks are going to get power-play goals. The Penguins need to match that output somewhat.
-In our opinion, Marleau's hit is worthy of a suspension. But as mentioned above, you never know with the NHL. If he is absent for any length of time, that would be a tough loss for the Sharks. His individual effort on his goal was proof of what he offers this team.
-Braun was playing with a heavy hear tonight as his father-in-law, former Atlanta Flames/Chicago Blackhawks center Tom Lysiak, died following a battle with Leukemia. He was 63. We won't dare speculate if his less-than-stellar play could be attribute to his presumed grief but clearly, this was hardly a great day for him.
-Braun will leave the team following Game 2 to attend to his family.
-You really can gain an appreciation for Burns by watching him in person as opposed to the television screen. In the first period, whent he Penguins were dominating play, Hagelin, one of the fastest players in the NHL, had a breakaway from the Sharks' blue line in. Burns chased him down and lifted his stick to prevent a shot:
-Additionally, Burns is such a weapon from the blue line. He shoots fast and accurately. He's such a great player.
-Jones was pretty sharp. He deserved a better fate. All three goals he allowed were hardly his fault. One was off a pinball deflection. The second was a blind screen and the third was a point blank wrister. Jones will keep this series competitive.
-Sharks center Joe Thornton had a few quality chances in the third period but had a fairly quiet game. Center Joe Pavelski was even more silent. The Shark need more from these two valuable players.
-Bonino gave some play-by-play of his goal:
"Just came into the zone a little bit late. I saw [Letang] in the corner. [Hagelin] was down there battling with him. Wasn't sure if I should get out of there and get above their guys. They kept it alive and [Letang] put it right on my stick. It's one of those shots that wasn't my hardest shot by any means, but just found a way to kind of flip it over him. Great pass from [Letang]."
-Letang noted it's easier to make the pass did on Bonino's goal since Burns didn't have a stick:
"It's a lot easier because he's pretty good with that stick. Just a reaction of the [stray] stick. I decided to stay in. I thought I had a good chance to make the play."
-Letang explained why he chose to challenge Burns on the play leading to Bonino's goal:
"If I didn't jump there, we would have just chipped it and we would have lost control of the puck. So It was just a question of seeing the play develop and I had a chance to get the puck and keep control of it. That's how I kind of I see it. If I didn't think we couldn't get something, I probably have stayed back.”
-Cullen talked about Bonino:
"He's had some huge goals in the playoffs. He's come up really big. Playing in the middle of that line, he's been huge for us all playoffs. It just brings us another element of depth to our lines."
-Sullivan lauded Bonino:
"Well, I think he's a terrific player in every aspect of the game. We use him in so many key situations, both offensively and defensively. I think he's a guy that has a real high hockey IQ, sees the ice really well. He has real good hands. His awareness defensively I think, the use of his stick to take passing lanes away, it's impressive. He's brave. He blocks shots. He's one of our better shot-blockers. He's a good faceoff guy. He's done so much for this team to help us get to this point. I don't know what other praise I can shower on him right now. We think he's a terrific player."
-Cullen spoke about the late penalty kill:
“I thought we did a pretty good job. We understand how important that moment is. We did a good job of pressuring and trying not to allow them to set up. Guys blocked some big shots and that's what you've got to do to finish some of those games off."
-Dumoulin said not giving the Sharks many power-play chances was key:
"They're dangerous. Fortunately, we didn't give them too many chances. I think they only had two [power plays] in that game. That's a crucial key in every game we play against them, is to try to limit their power-play time and only taking two, I thought we did a pretty good job of that."
-Sheary gave some play-by-play of his goal:
"Sid beat his guy out of the corner. He rolled up there and they over-backchecked a bit there and they lost me weakside. I just had a lot of time to shoot that.”
-Sheary credited Hornqvist's screen on his goal:
“That's what he's good at. He's good in front of the net. I mean he took the goalie's eyes away completely and he couldn't' even see the puck.”
-Letang talked about the flow of the game:
"I think it was fast in the first for us, fast in the second for them. The third period was kind of in between, up and down a little bit. Our first, their second and the third was pretty balanced.”
-Sheary spoke about the game's speed:
"Two fast teams and two really good teams playing each other, it's going to be that way. They're dangerous off the rush so we kind of want to limit that but I think we are as well. So it was a really good game.”
-Dumoulin has a need for speed:
“It felt fast. That's a fun game to play up and down. We enjoy playing that type of game and we want to be even faster.”
-Hagelin was asked about the game's speed:
"Yeah, it was a fast?paced game for sure. Two teams that came out with a lot of intensity. We skated really hard in the first obviously. They kind of caught up to us in the second when we stopped skating a little bit. I think overall we have to use our speed to be successful in the series. "
-Murray talked about the game's flow:
"I would say we carried the play in the second and I would say they carried it most in the second period. And we got the momentum back for most of the third period. That's the playoffs. There's going to be ebbs and flows. I think if you can handle those momentum swings the right way, you're going to be better off in the long run."
-Crosby spoke about the start of the game:
"I think we just did a really good job of not tyring to feel the game out, especially early. You get two teams who haven't seen each other in a while. It's Game 1 of the Stanley Cup [Final]. I think that there's always nerves there. I think we did a good job of just playing and trying to get to our game. It gave us a big boost to to get that kind of start.”
-Sullivan talked about his players sitting back with a two-goal lead:
"I think part of it is human nature. I think there's a few things at play. You have to give the opponent credit. They're going to push, too, raise their intensity. I think that's part of it. But I also think sometimes it starts with our decisions with the puck. I thought early in the second period we turned the puck over a few times. We really didn't have a lot of ice to play on. We had opportunities to put pucks behind them. We chose to try to play in front of them instead of behind them. I think when we're at our best, we make the right decisions in the neutral zone, that area of the rink. I think there's a few dynamics at play. But certainly I think our players are well aware of how we have to play in order to play to our strengths and our identity. Speed is always a part of it, where we put our opponents under pressure, whether we have the puck or don't have the puck. Sometimes you're better off not having the puck, putting your opponents under pressure when they have to make a play under a lot of duress. You can create offense that way, as well. I think that's when we're at our best, is when we don't get stubborn with the puck, we make the right decisions, and we have the ability to generate offense different ways."
-Sheary thought the game would go to overtime:
-It kind of did have that feel a little bit. The way we were playing, we were evenly matched. That was a huge goal for us [with 2:33] left. Then a huge [penalty] kill at the end there. That gave us a little heart attack there but it was good.”
"It's a close game, if you get to down to anywhere under five minutes to go in a game, you feel like next goal wins basically. It essentially felt like it was to that point already."
-Dumoulin spoke to Murray's effect on the defense:
"He's very calm in the net. And it helps us as a [defensive] corps., especially in the second period when they were weathering us a little bit. It was key for us to have him back there and make those crucial saves. He's a guy you see he doesn't get flustered. He bounces right back and I think that's one of the best things about him.”
-Letang talked about the contributions of Sheary and Rust:
"They're first and second line players right now. So it's not depth. It's our one-two punch lines that are scoring big goals for us. And you always have that line of Bonino, Phil and [Hagelin] that are always dangerous with our speed. [Rust] has a big role and [Sheary] has a big role to be on offensivel line with Sid.”
-Kunitz spoke to the value of Rust:
"It was nice when we were out there carrying the pace and carrying the play. Hopefully he's okay. We've had a good little run we've been together. … We've really contributed offensively and really carried the play. We need him in the lineup and hopefully he'll be okay."
-Cole drew comparisons to Letang's hit against Capitals center Marcus Johansson in the second round which drew a suspension:
“You never like to see that, especially a veteran player like Marleau throwing a high hit. It's something they've been trying to get out of the game for years now. A guy like him, I think he probably should know better. You saw that with [Letang's hit on Johansson in the second round], a similar play coming across the middle throwing a late hit and he gets a suspension there. So we'll see what happens with the league. Obviously, [Rust didn't finish the game]. But if he does not comes back, it's going to be something that's a huge hole to fill.”
-Sharks coach Pete DeBoer talked about the start of the game:
"I think the first period was a product, credit to them, they came out and were moving, like you would expect if you were playing at home in the first game of the Stanley Cup Final. We stood around and watched a little bit. Didn't get up to speed, didn't get up to pace. I really liked our second period. We started to play the way we're capable of playing. And the third, you know, we didn't play like we did in the second for long enough stretches. We had some spurts here and there. But they played their game for longer stretches than we did tonight. That's what happens. You don't deserve to win when you don't outplay the other team. "
-The Penguins dominated shots, 41-26.
-Bonino and Hornqvist each led the game with six shots.
-Couture led the Sharks with four shots.
-Letang led the game with 27:48 of ice time.
-Burns led the Sharks with 24:07 of ice time.
-The Penguins controlled faceoffs, 33-29 (53 percent).
-Cullen was 8 for 14 (57 percent).
-Pavelski was 10 for 18 (56 percent).
-Bonino led the game with six blocked shots.
-Braun led the Sharks with four blocked shots.
-Rust set a franchise record for most goals (six) in a playoff season by a rookie. Center Michel Briere (five in 1970) previous held the mark.
-Rust is sixth in the NHL in goals this postseason. Sixth.
-The last time rookies scored the opening goals of a Stanley Cup Final series was in 1924 when Canadiens center Howie Morenz scored twice.
-Bonino's goal was late. How late was it?
Bonino's GWG at 17:27 of the third is the second-latest GWG for Pens in a SCFinal regulation GP. Mario at 19:47 in Game 1 vs. Hawks in 1992.— Bob Grove (@bobgrove91) May 31, 2016
-Only three rookie goaltenders have won more games in a postseason than Murray:
-Hertl scored the Shark's first ever goal in a Stanley Cup Final.
(Photos: Keith Srakocic/Associated Press)