In an elimination game in the Stanley Cup Final, viewers will stumble upon two desperate teams fighting for total opposite conclusions: celebration or survival. In conclusion of Thursday night’s Game 5, it was the story of desperate survival that prevailed.
Sharks Force Game 6 with 4-2 Victory
The opening frame started off arguably the best either team has played all series. With the Sharks desperate to fight another day, they would seemingly have to score the first goal, which they haven’t done all series. Luckily they did, and in the process, changed the course of the game as Brent Burns scored 1:04 into the period in a deja vu scenario mirroring Joonas Donskoi‘s overtime goal in game 3.
Nearly two minutes later, playoff scoring leader Logan Couture would deflect Justin Braun‘s shot from the point to double the Sharks lead, seemingly assuring them comfortable room to keep the game at their pace. Little did they know, the Penguins had something else in mind.
After a delay of game penalty from Dainius Zubrus, the Pens would find a great opportunity to get some momentum in their favor. After successfully moving the puck across the ice, Evgeni Malkin would freeze Martin Jones in the crease and bank a wrister off of Braun and in just 23 seconds into the game’s first power play.
As if the game wasn’t already at its highest intensity level, the Pens would take the word “resilience” and give it a whole new meaning. After a Brenden Dillon turnover, Nick Bonino immediately rifled a shot towards the net redirected by Carl Hagelin for the Pens second goal in 22 seconds. The goal wouldn’t just deflate the Sharks efficient start, it would spark immediate control of the game into the hands of the Penguins.
After pounding the Sharks for the majority of the period, the Pens would find themselves caught off guard by a tic-tac-toe play from Dillon, Couture, and Melker Karlsson, who shoved the go-ahead goal past Matt Murray‘s glove side with 5:13 to play in the first period.
Although the middle frame wouldn’t preced the first period scoring wise, the intensity grew within the Penguins, considering they wanted to bring upon a better effort to avoid delaying their next possible Cup presentation to Sunday night in San Jose. With that being said, their game plan coming into the next twenty minutes was clear: Get the puck to the net and keep it in the Sharks zone.
With persistence and control through the start of the period, the Penguins found themselves in a dominant position. They took the first five shots on goal six minutes in, and didn’t allow a puck to get to Murray until the 15:52 mark. The period would start to shift equally with the Pens taking a too many men on the ice penalty, giving the Sharks some ice to make plays and a chance to increase their lead.
Murray, however, solidifed his crease in a redeeming effort. With his poise in net, he gave the Pens confidence to battle back from the wasted two minutes.
From then on, the period somewhat gave way to open ice for the Penguins and brought pressure on Jones. Halfway through the stanza, Karlsson took a slashing penalty on Conor Sheary, handing momentum and a desperate advantage to the Penguins.
Resulting from the power play, shots rang out from all over, and the Pens seemingly had Jones all over the ice with their movement and shot placement. Outstandingly enough, Jones held his ground and kept his team up by a goal when it easily could have been a large deficit if he wasn’t in net. He denied all 17 shots in the middle frame and eluded a tying goal, which could’ve been on any of the 5 plus desperation saves he had to make against Bonino, Kessel, and Letang.
The third period would start just as the second did; continuous desperation from the Pens and sudden counter attacks from the Sharks. With the Penguins defense contributing more than the Sharks, they seemed to find more ways to attack Jones, and his story would continue.
The 26-year old netminder would again turn Pittsburgh away with his outstanding play and countless unbelievable saves wherever the shots rang out from. Patric Hornqvist found a great chance in front of Jones while falling, but he would be denied, as well as Malkin and Crosby later in the period.
With the clock dwindling and tension rising in Consol Energy Center, the Penguins knew that they needed to net one in the last 5 minutes or they’d have to wait to try and lift Lord Stanley Sunday night. Their hopes would start to vanish as Hagelin would take a hooking penalty against Donskoi, taking away precious time for a comeback.
The Penguins pulled Murray as time was expiring but would only fail with the extra player on the ice. Joe Thornton took the puck away in the neutral zone and delivered it to Joe Pavelski, who slammed it home into the empty cage for his first of the series. The Sharks had doubled their lead to 4-2 with 1:20 remaining.
Time would expire and the Sharks would prevent the Penguins from winning the Stanley Cup on home ice. Thanks to Martin Jones’ 44 save performance and the Sharks’ offensive pursuit they will live to fight again to try and force a game seven in Sunday night in the Shark Tank. With Lord Stanley in the building, it’ll be even more of a challenge than Game 5.
If we didn’t have a series already, we do now.