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Joonas Donskoi, OT hero, giving Sharks unexpected clutch play

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Through two games of the Stanley Cup Final, Joonas Donskoi had his chances to score, but couldn’t find a way to beat Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray. 

Enter Game 3, and welcome to overtime. As the San Jose Sharks worked down low in the Penguins’ zone – an area where they’ve excelled this series to create opportunities – Melker Karlsson and Donskoi had a bit of a give-and-go, with Karlsson feeding Donskoi just as Ian Cole was applying pressure.

After a brief loss of possession, Donskoi regained control, circled around the Pittsburgh net to Murray’s right and fired a shot between Evgeni Malkin and Justin Schultz and over the netminder's shoulder.

Here, in all its glory, is the Finnish goal call by Viasat's Antti Makinen:

Having not won an overtime game this postseason and having yet to win a game in the Final, Donskoi helped the Sharks kill two birds with stone.

“I had lot of scoring chances through the whole Finals. This was good time to get it in,” Donskoi said afterward.

“It happened pretty quick. I know the puck was rolling. I don’t think he was going for the top corner,” said Murray. “He was just trying to get it on net. The puck must have hit something, or it was rolling, and then it went off the side of my head.”

This wasn't Donskoi's first big moment for the Sharks this postseason. He also played a big role in eliminating the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 by scoring twice in Game 5.

Much like the Penguins, San Jose didn’t get to this point by accident. Balanced scoring has boosted them through three playoff rounds and through three games of the Final. Donskoi’s goal was just another example of the Sharks’ depth coming through. 

“It’s game in and game out, different guys step up to the plate and that’s the reason why we’re here,” said Joe Thornton.

Donskoi didn’t join the Sharks until attending last summer's development camp. After coming up through the youth system of Liiga side Karpat, the 24-year-old forward felt it was finally the right time to come to San Jose.

“I decided to stay in Finland a little bit longer than usual and just kind of waited for the right moment to come over,” said Donskoi. “I had a couple of good years last season and year before that. We won two championships and I got the experience that you have to do to be a professional hockey player 24/7 and what you have to do [to succeed]. I kind of felt like this is the time to come over. Now I can give my best to try in the NHL.”

At that summer development camp, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said Donskoi was the best player there and he would then later impress at the team’s main camp. It wasn’t long before he proved that he would be a regular in the lineup.

“He just kept jumping over hurdles. He’s the real deal,” DeBoer said. “He’s a very good player for us. We wouldn’t be here without him.”

Originally a 2010 fourth-round pick by the Florida Panthers, Donskoi couldn’t come to terms on a contract by the signing deadline in 2012 and became an unrestricted free agent. Impressive showings with Karpat and with Finland internationally piqued the interest of general manager Doug Wilson enough to sign him to a two-year deal. It's a move that's paid off for the Sharks.

“They were first team to show interest in me, so that was big thing,” Donskoi said. “[I thought] about it with my agent. I think Sharks is a great organization, doing great work, lot of great guys, good leadership guys like Pav and Jumbo, Marleau, Wardo coming in. I thought that [they] might have room for a young guy like me, so that would be a great balance.

“But, yeah, great organization. I'm so happy that I picked Sharks.”

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



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