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The Sharks avenged their embarrassing 2014 first-round series collapse against the Kings with an impressive 6–3 road win over Los Angeles in Game 5. San Jose will now head on to the second round of the playoffs, where it will meet the winner of the series between the Ducks and Predators. It’s the first time the Sharks have gone past the first round since the 2012–13 season. Joonas Donskoi scored twice and Joe Pavelski added his fifth goal of the series to lift the Sharks, who played perhaps the most dominant series of the NHL playoffs. Here are three thoughts on the concluding Game 5:
Another early goal ...
The Kings entered the series having led for just over four minutes of gameplay during the course of four games. Excluding Game 4, the Sharks had scored early first-period goals in each contest. While Los Angeles would eventually come back and tie the game at three in the second period, the Sharks set the tone for the fifth consecutive game, and it started with the top scorer, Joonas Donskoi. The Sharks’ rookie beat Jonathan Quick, who had a forgettable series, just 68 seconds into the first period to give the Sharks the lead before scoring two more to put San Jose in command early. It felt like the Sharks were playing with a lead for the entire series, and the early goals were essential to their control of a difficult showdown against a hated rival.
Kings were lucky it went five
Los Angeles managed a couple of admirable comebacks, but San Jose was in control of virtually the entire series. The Sharks found a few different ways to win: Martin Jones was solid in net, the scoring line was meticulous on both the power play and at even strength, and the defense limited clear scoring chances. The Kings ratcheted up the pressure in segments of each game, but it never felt like they took control of any of the five. Quick’s playoff magic only showed itself in glimmers during Game 3, and three of the Kings’ vaunted offensive threats (Tyler Toffoli, Marian Gaborik, Milan Lucic) finished the series without a goal. Couple all that with the valiant but limited effort of Drew Doughty, and the Kings had barely any positives in a heated series against a division rival. If not for a fortunate overtime goal from Tanner Pearson in Game 3, the Sharks could have swept and it would have been deserved by the Kings.
The common refrain is that the Kings have the ability to turn it on when they need to. They did that at points during this series, but they were the inferior squad and, despite the close results, that was evident to even the casual viewer. They were constantly playing from behind, their star goaltender looked pedestrian, and their best offensive players couldn’t score. Four of the five games were decided by just one goal, but the superior team was evident the entire time.
Sharks are ready
If you checked “Kings-Sharks” as the first Western Conference playoff series to end on your bingo card, then hopefully you’re in for some money. For a team with a checkered and depressing playoff history, the Sharks look like they are prepared to make a Stanley Cup run. The ultra-talented veteran core of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture played an exceptional series. Martin Jones was composed and effective in net, and the defense kept the Kings’ goal-scorers in check for the entire series.
Given the Sharks’ unsightly postseason resumé, their performance in the third period was their most encouraging display in years. After surrendering a 3–0 lead in this game, San Jose got an early third-period goal from Donskoi and silenced the Kings' offense, which spent the latter half of the second period besieging the Sharks’ defense. With first-year coach Peter DeBoer in charge, the Sharks look like a potential favorite in the Western Conference even if it’s blasphemous to declare that statement.