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Penguins bypass feeling-out process, take Game 1 right at Sharks

PITTSBURGH – The opening period of Game 1 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final was absent of any sort of typical feeling-out process between teams in the first game of a series. The Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t wait around to see how the San Jose Sharks would react; they took the game directly to their opponents and it led to a 3-2 victory. 

The first period ended with a Penguins shot advantage of 15-4 and a 2-0 lead for the home side thanks to goals 1:02 apart from Bryan Rust and Conor Sheary. 

Going right at the Sharks was part of the Penguins’ gameplay. Feeding off a sold out CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh dictated the pace and caught the Sharks flat-footed at times by using their speed. 

“It’s Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals. There’s always nerves there,” said Sidney Crosby. “I thought we did a good job of just playing and trying to get to our game. It gave us a big boost to get that kind of start.”

“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,” said Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer. “We stood around and watched a little bit. Didn't get up to speed, didn't get up to pace.”

The Sharks hadn’t seen this Penguins team in person until Monday night. When they last met it was Dec. 1, nearly two weeks before Mike Sullivan replaced Mike Johnston as head coach and the Pittsburgh transformation began.

After building up multi-goal leads several times in these playoffs only to see his players sit back and allow opponents to get back into the game, Sullivan encouraged his players to play fast and fearless in Game 1. He wanted them to consistently take away time and space for the Sharks, which they did. He wanted them to control the tempo, which they did.

Outside of the second period when San Jose took control and evened the score at two, the Penguins followed their coach’s message and it ended with a win. 

“When I used the term ‘fearless’ I think that word encompasses a lot of things,” Sullivan said. “Most specifically is let’s not get overwhelmed by the circumstance. Let’s not have any sort of anxiety when we go out there because the stakes are high. Let’s go embrace the moment. Let’s challenge each other to give our best here and let’s have fun with this. I thought our guys did that tonight.”

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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