The San Jose Sharks are one win away from making their return to the Western Conference final.
Joe Pavelski scored twice to lead the Sharks to a convincing 5-1 win over the Nashville Predators in Game 5 on Saturday night. Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture and Melker Karlsson also lit the lamp for San Jose. Mike Fisher replied for the Predators.
With the win, the Sharks take a 3-2 series lead. They'll look to close it out Monday night in Nashville.
Here are three thoughts on the contest:
How would the Sharks respond to their triple-OT loss in Game 4? It didn't take long to find out. They came out of the gates fast, pushing the pace before Marleau opened the scoring at the 10:47 mark off a brilliant behind-the-net pass from Joonas Donskoi.
Then, less than two minutes after Fisher tied it up, they responded with Pavelski's first of the night. That was a character goal, one this team might not have created in the past. But their ability to storm ahead after that brief lull speaks to the mental toughness of this group.
San Jose was 6-0 coming in these playoffs when Pavelski got on the board. Now the Sharks are 7-0.
Couture, on another slick feed from Donskoi, broke the game open in the first minute of the second period, breaking in alone before beating Pekka Rinne 5-hole. Pavelski added his second of the night nine seconds into a late second period power play to crush any hope of a Predators comeback.
This was a concerted, confident win, one that suggests the Sharks might have something to say well beyond this round.
Martin Jones made it look easy in Game 5 because he made things easier on himself simply by controlling his rebounds.
Three of Nashville's four goals in Game 4 came off second- or third-chance shots. Those free bunnies were nowhere to be found in this one because he swallowed everything up. The Preds managed just one rebound shot all night, and that came with just over five minutes remaining in the third when the outcome was secure.
It helped that Jones’s defense did a nice job keeping Nashville skaters to the outside—they registered just five high-danger chances according to War On Ice—but he was glue. There weren't any highlights to pull from his performance, but it was world-class.
Don't be surprised if the Preds try to throw more shots at his pillows early in Game 6. Those are tougher to control and might create the rebounds they couldn't come up with in Game 5.
Not Dead Yet
Nashville is in tough, no doubt, on its heels almost from the start of this one, and outside of a brief stretch at the end of the second the Predators struggled to get any kind of sustained pressure in the Sharks’ zone.
There wasn't much positive to take out of Game 5, but we've seen enough of Nashville to know it’ll be a tough out. And the Predators are in a great spot to even it up when the series returns to the friendly confines of Bridgestone Arena, where they won Games 3 and 4.
But it's going to take more than a loud crowd and control of the matchups to get this series back to San Jose for Game 7. They need someone other than their top three to step up.
The Fisher-Colin Wilson-James Neal line has scored the team's past five goals, including its only tally in Game 5. Sure, Filip Forsberg, who had some bad puck luck in this one, hitting two posts in the first, has he has just one goal, no assists and a -7 rating in this series. Ryan Johansen? He's scored a pair of garbage time goals and was noticeable only for taking a couple of frustration penalties, including a misconduct late. Mike Ribeiro? In his first game back after spending a pair in the press box, he was a ghost... until he took a misconduct right alongside Johansen.
Time for a long look in the mirror for Nashville's secondary scorers.