Sharks Play Role of Party Crashers
Still one win away.
San Jose is now two wins away.
Aside from the 18,000+ in the building, tens of thousands flocked to the streets surrounding Consol Energy Center Thursday night to be part of the first championship won on city limits since 1960.
Problem is Sharks goaltender Martin Jones went off script.
This was supposed to be the Penguins’ night where the superior team puts an inferior team away on home ice for their fourth Stanley Cup in team history. Instead Martin Jones gave the San Jose Sharks the type of performance you have to get on this stage and in an elimination game.
Jones turned aside 44 shots in a spectacular performance.
Aside from falling down 2-0 minutes into the game, the Penguins did just about everything right to end this thing.
They out-shot San Jose 46-22 and had a massive 76-36 edge in shot attempts.
Their best players dominated possession.
Pittsburgh controlled possession on over 74% of their shot attempts when the likes of Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin were on the ice.
Carl Hagelin had a goal, 7 shots on goal. Evgeni Malkin a goal, 6 shots on goal.
What faulted the Penguins was some rocky goaltending from Matt Murray early on and the Sharks creating havoc below the hash marks in the first five to six minutes.
Murray rebounded nicely as the game progressed, as he often does, but that third one was a save he had to have.
For San Jose, any key to winning three straight was going to come down to their stars catching fire.
Brent Burns had a goal, 1:04 into the game, but the most promising individual performance from their end was the play of Logan Couture who had a goal, 2 assists, and created a couple high quality chances in periods two and three that Murray turned aside.
The back pressure the Penguins provide defensively in tracking the puck carrier has made this a difficult series for Joe Pavelski.
Couture is the primary Sharks star player who has the greatest chance of taking a game over in this matchup vs the Penguins. He provided that type of impact in Game 5.
As the series shifts back to San Jose, there’s no reason to over-analyze things from Game 5.
The Penguins are the better team and still in a good spot. Evgeni Malkin has finally awakened with back-to-back strong performances and the Penguins top players are playing well.
Momentum remains on the Penguins’ side for now, though, the chances of the Penguins playing as well as they did in Game 5 are not as strong on the road in Game 6.
This has been a series since Game 2 that’s felt like the Sharks couldn’t win. Martin Jones playing over his head might be changing that a bit and whether this series goes seven like many expected before the series started, it’s likely going to come down to whether Jones looks more like the goaltender from Game 4 or the goaltender from Game 5.
Game 6 is Sunday night.