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Kassian does in Sharks, Oilers take lead in series

Connor McDavid of the Oilers skates past Logan Couture of the Sharks during Game 3 in San Jose on Sunday night.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Zack Kassian did in the Sharks again.

The big winger who scored just seven times in 79 games during the regular season had his second straight winning goal in the playoffs on Sunday night as the Oilers edged San Jose, 1-0, at the SAP Center.

Edmonton now leads the best-of-seven series 2-1, with Game 4 at the Shark Tank again on Tuesday night. If the Oilers win then, they will have a chance to close out the series at home on Thursday at Rogers Place.

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About 10,000 fans poured into Edmonton's downtown arena on Sunday to watch the game on the largest scoreboard in any rink in the NHL.

Cam Talbot had 23 saves in his second consecutive shutout. He has now stopped 80 of 83 shots in the Western Conference quarterfinal series.

"Cam was Cam tonight," Kassian said. "He held us in there when we needed big saves."

Kassian, who took a wrecking ball to the Sharks in Game 2 on Friday night, continued to be a nuisance. His goal came on a backhander as he skated in front of San Jose's net with 9:15 left. Kassian intercepted an attempted pass from David Schlemko seconds before he scored.

"It's cool, but we all know there is a lot of hockey still to be played," Kassian said.

Not even fans wearing Easter bunny rabbit ears or a video message from Rickey Henderson that was shown on the scoreboard could help the toothless Sharks. They haven't scored since Melker Karlsson's overtime goal in Game 1, and came within about eight minutes of losing that one, too. A late goal by San Jose's Paul Martin sent it to overtime after the Oilers had taken a 2-0 lead.

Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns had 197 points during the regular season, but have combined for only one point in three playoff games.

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"We have to figure out a way to score to win," Peter Deboer, the Sharks coach, said.

The Oilers had talked about the need to keep the Sharks off the board in the early going of Sunday night's game. San Jose is one of the best teams in the league out of the gate, and would be be even more jacked up than usual playing before a boisterous home crowd.

"We have played well here, but it is a different animal in the playoffs," Connor McDavid said after the morning skate. "They always start well here. The first 10 minutes is going to be electric."

The rink in San Jose is one of the smallest and loudest in the NHL, with fans seated very near the ice surface. The crowd roared when the home team skated onto the ice through a set of gaping jaws.

San Jose outshot Edmonton 13-6 in the first period, with Talbot stopping several close chances. Marcus Sorensen had the best opportunity, but fired too high when left wide open in front of the net.

The Sharks got a lift when their spiritual leader, Joe Thornton, returned to the lineup for the first time since injuring his left knee against the Vancouver Canucks on April 2.

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The big 37-year-old centre with a white-flecked beard sat out Games 1 and 2 after playing in 121 consecutive playoff contests with San Jose since 2005. The Oilers had been preparing for him to return all along.

"I watched him play with a separated shoulder a couple of years ago in the playoffs against Vancouver," said Todd McLellan, who joined the Oilers as head coach in 2015 after seven seasons in San Jose. "I have seen him play with broken fingers.

"For him not to be out there, he must really be hurt."

The game was completely different from the first two – when each team dominated the other. It was tight and very tense. One thing remained the same; the Sharks inability to generate much on the power play.

After going 1-for-12 in the first two games, they failed once in each of the first and second periods, when they could have opened up a lead. Fans were booing at the end of each of the two-minute 5-on-4 opportunities.

"We want to get that fixed," DeBoer said. "We aren't playing with a lot of confidence there right now."

The Oilers left themselves in a precarious position by being called for 13 penalties in the first two games. They cut it to two on Sunday night.

"There is a fine line between playing aggressively and going out of the way to make a hit," Milan Lucic said. "If we do, eventually, they are going to find a way to make them count."

The Oilers beat the Sharks twice in the last week of the regular season and so have now beaten them four of the last five times.

The one area where San Jose had a clear advantage was in experience. The Sharks have reached the playoffs 11 of the last 12 years and made it to the Stanley Cup final last season, where they lost to Pittsburgh in six games.

Edmonton, meanwhile, reached the postseason for the first time since 2006. The Oilers finished next-to-last among 30 teams last season.

Now they are holding their own against the older Sharks.

"For guys that didn't have experience, they have experience now," Lucic said. "All those excuses go out the window."

A bad sign perhaps for the Sharks is this: They held McDavid off the scoreboard – and still didn't win. The 20-year-old superstar entered Sunday with a 16-game points streak but was guarded closely by San Jose.

It didn't matter. Kassian did the Sharks in again.

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