The Sharks forced a Game 6, courtesy of an outstanding 44-save performance by Martin Jones which lifted San Jose past the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2 in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on Thursday night.
The Sharks had no other option but to pick up a road victory to force a Game 6 at SAP Center as they entered the game trailing 3-1 in the series. Making things more challenging, San Jose was still without winger Tomas Hertl for Game 5.
Before the injury, Hertl was arguably San Jose’s most effective player in the first two games against Pittsburgh. In his absence, forward Melker Karlsson has moved to first-line left wing alongside center Joe Thornton and right wing Joe Pavelski.
The Sharks hasn’t led at all during play in the first four games of the series but in Game 5, they came out fast and didn’t waste any time.
“We were persistent and we knew we had to work,” defenseman Paul Martin told the media.
San Jose jumped out to an early 1-0 lead just 1:04 into the first period. Brent Burns carried the puck out of the left circle and fired it past Penguins’ rookie goalie Matt Murray for his seventh goal of the playoffs.
Logan Couture tipped in Justin Braun’s wrist shot past Murray for his first goal of the series and ninth of the playoffs to quickly make it 2-0 Sharks at 2:53.
But the Penguins bounced back quickly. Dainius Zubrus was called at 4:21 for delaying the game when he shot the puck over the glass. Pittsburgh went on their first power play of the game and capitalized on the man advantage to slice the deficit in half. Evgeni Malkin sent a puck towards the front of the net and it deflected off a defender and in for Malkin’s sixth goal of the playoffs.
Just 22 seconds later, the Penguins took advantage of a turnover. Carl Hagelin leaped in front of Nick Bonino’s shot and deflected it past Sharks goalie Martin Jones for the game-tying goal.
The Penguins had the momentum and the building was rocking in anticipation of the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup title. But the Sharks managed to turn the tide. Melker Karlsson collected Logan Couture’s clever pass and fired a shot past the glove of Murray to give the Sharks a 3-2 edge at 14:47.
The first period was exciting to watch and featured almost constant action. Even though the shots (15-7) were in favor of the Penguins, the Sharks had a 3-2 lead after 20 minutes.
Jones was a difference maker, protecting the Sharks with some outstanding saves, particularly his save with 4:45 remaining in the second period. Penguins forward Phil Kessel shot off Jones’ right pad with the rebound coming to Nick Bonino near the right circle. Bonino shot toward an open right side of the net, but Jones slid over for a toe save that preserved the lead.
The Sharks continued to lead the Penguins 3-2 after 40 minutes. San Jose had an 8-0 record in the playoffs when leading after two periods and they needed to maintain that streak to extend the series.
The Penguins continued to put pressure on the San Jose net but once again Jones rose to the occasion. At one point, the puck hit Jones in the face late in the third period, but he made the save with his mask.
The Penguins pulled their goalie for the extra attacker with just under two minutes remaining in the third period. The Sharks took advantage as Joe Pavelski fired the puck from the right circle into an empty net to expand the Sharks’ lead 4-2 with 1:20 left in regulation.
Thanks to Pavelski’s 14th goal of the playoffs, the Sharks live to see another day with a 4-2 victory over the Penguins 4-2 in Game 5. Martin Jones made 44 saves while Matt Murray made 18 saves.
The Penguins lead the best-of-seven series 3-2.
The Sharks were at ease with their win, but they were also rational about Game 6.
“This team hasn’t quit all year and we’re not going to start now,” Jones told NBC. “There’s still a long way to go, it’s going to be an uphill battle, but we’re going to fight till the very end.”
Dainius Zubrus played in his third consecutive game with Tomas Hertl out.
Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Kris Letang sat out during the Penguins’ optional morning skate.
Up Next: Game 6 will be held in SAP Center Sunday at 5:00 pm PT on NBC, CBC and TVA.