Friday June 10th, 2016

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The party will have to wait for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The San Jose Sharks put their plans on ice with a wildly entertaining 4-2 victory in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday.

NHL
Three Stars: Martin Jones sets Sharks record in Game 5 win

With a chance to clinch the Cup on home ice for the first time, the Penguins delivered their best effort of the Final, but were stymied by some sensational work by Martin Jones. The Sharks netminder made 44 saves, a franchise record for a regulation playoff game.

“I felt good tonight,” Jones said. “I thought our D did a good job, in front of the net. We got a few bounces. It was a combination of things.”

According to War On Ice, Jones faced 18 high quality scoring chances on the night, compared to just six generated by the Sharks.

Melker Karlsson capped off a record-setting first period with the game-winning goal. The rookie winger took a feed from Logan Couture in the slot and fired a one-timer that found an opening between Matt Murray's arm and body to break a 2-2 tie.

Brent Burns opened the scoring just 1:04 into the contest, giving San Jose its first lead of the series. The defenseman curled out from behind the Penguins net and beat Murray high on the short side, a goal that echoed Joonas Donskoi's overtime winner in Game 3.

Less than two minutes later, Couture tipped a Justin Braun point shot past Murray for his first of the series.

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But the Pens roared back. Evgeni Malkin scored on the power play at 4:44 when his attempted cross-crease pass bounced in off the leg of Braun. Carl Hagelin tied it up just 22 seconds later when Nick Bonino's harmless wrister from the top of the circle deflected off him and Jones.

The goals came in a span of just 5:06, setting a new Final record for fastest four tallies from the start of a period. The previous mark was 6:51, set by the Penguins and Blackhawks in Game 4 of the 1992 Final.

The Penguins pushed hard for the equalizer, throwing 31 shots at Jones in the second and third period, before Joe Pavelski scored his first of the series into an empty net to seal the win for the Sharks. Despite the result, Pens coach Mike Sullivan had no complaints about his team's performance.

“I loved our energy,” he said. “I thought we were fast. I thought we controlled territory. I thought we controlled the scoring chances.

“There are a lot of things that I think we can build on. We knew it wasn't going to be easy. These are two really good teams playing against one another. The elimination game is always the most difficult.”

The Pens will have another chance to clinch on Sunday night when they take their 3-2 series lead into Game 6 in San Jose.

Turning Point

Not to discount the importance of Burns' opening tally, or Karlsson’s winner, but Jones gets the nod for turning this game into a personal highlight reel. There were maybe half a dozen moments when he could have let this one slip away, but instead gave his team the stop it needed. The best of the best: this toe save to rob a wide open Bonino and preserve the 3-2 lead. Absolute larceny.

Gif of the Night, Part I

Burns just missed the target here...

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Gif of the Night, Part II

...but hit it just 1:04 into the first, inspiring the Hockey Night In Punjabi crew to work in a Simpsons reference.

Tweet of the Night

Ken Campbell of The Hockey News captures the delightfully unexpected insanity of that unforgettable first period. Nothing better than sloppy hockey at this time of year.

Notable Number: 3

With a goal and two assists, Couture tied a Stanley Cup Final record with three points in the first. The game was his fourth of these playoffs with at least three points, the most in an single postseason since Malkin had five in 2009.

What It Means

The wide shot disparity aside, this may have been San Jose's best game of the Final. The Sharks got pucks deep. They used their size to pin it behind the goal line. They got the cycle going. Most important, they found a way to capitalize on their chances. They got on the board first, and then, when they blew the lead, they kept their composure and earned it back. 

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And all of this would have happened because, with their season on the line, their best players were finally their best players.

Aside from Couture's monster night, Pavelski and Burns each scored their first goals of the series. Joe Thornton won 56% of his draws and made a number of small but vital plays, including a nice zone entry and a deft bit of puck protection before setting up Pavelski's insurance marker.

And then there was Jones. The 26-year-old had been solid throughout the series, a reliable caretaker, but like his counterpart Matt Murray, he hadn't been a difference maker. Until Game 5, anyway. After getting over some early nerves (he allowed two goals on the first four shots he faced), Jones slammed the door on a relentless Penguins assault, turning in just the third 40-plus save game in the Final since 1987-88.

He didn't simply keep the Sharks alive in this one. He gave them life. No telling what happens next, but every guy in that room now knows he can steal a game for them. If he could do it once, no reason he can't again on Sunday.

NHL
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan deserves the Conn Smythe

As for the Pens, there'll be disappointment that they didn't finish the job in front of their home fans, but the result was hardly indicative of their effort. Sidney Crosby was held off the scoresheet and was a minus-2 but that didn't detract from another sublime performance. Malkin turned in his second straight strong game. And if not for three goal posts, Phil Kessel might have skated off the ice tonight with the Conn Smythe trophy.

Murray wasn't at his best, though. The goals by Burns and Karlsson were both soft. More troubling, they were similar to goals scored by the Sharks earlier in the series, suggesting they may have identified holes in his game.

Still, his technique and composure suggest he'll bounce back in Game 6. So does his 5-0 record in starts after a loss in this postseason.

And Sunday is the anniversary of Pittsburgh's 2009 Cup win. Maybe that was meant to be their day all along.

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