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Sharks still searching for best punch at Penguins in Cup Final

The message for the San Jose Sharks is again one of playoff survival heading into Sunday's Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center.

Did they steal Game 5 on the road against the Pittsburgh Penguins? Perhaps. but they’re not fretting over the fact that they pulled out a crucial victory. A win is a win no matter how it happened for San Jose.

The Sharks are down 3-2 in the Cup Final. 

“Well, I think the one thing is we're 105 games into this season. You got to win all kinds of different ways. Some nights it's your special teams, some nights is five‑on‑five, some nights is your goalie. We make no apology for how a game looks,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said during an off day teleconference Friday. “The bottom line is we found a way. We're heading back home. We got to make sure we take care of business in Game 6.”

The Penguins fired 46 shots on goal to 22 by the Sharks in San Jose’s 4-2 win. Pittsburgh also attempted 76 shots to the Sharks’ 36.

The feeling was that Martin Jones’ dynamic play in goal was the reason why San Jose won and little else. 

The Penguins have played their best hockey this series while the Sharks are still searching for the game that got them this far into the playoffs

Throughout the series Pittsburgh has attempted 327 shots to San Jose’s 277 according to numbers compiled from War on Ice.

“I think it wasn't like they stormed us by any stretch. For long stretches of the game, I really liked our team, I really liked our performance. I thought the beginning of the game, they were opportunistic on the few opportunities they got a few minutes into the game. But I thought our team responded the right way,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Friday. “We scored two quick goals to get right back in the hockey game. So we settled into it fairly quickly. I don't think it was a case we got caught off guard. We knew exactly what to expect going into it.”

Wrote CSN Bay Area’s Ray Ratto:

Oh, there were other tales to be told, of course. First period goals from Brent Burns, Logan Couture (part of a three-point night), Melker Karlsson and an empty-netter from struggling captain Joe Pavelski  made it seem like this game could get the Sharks’ higher profile players properly engaged.

The truth is different, though. Yet again, the Penguins out-everythinged San Jose to the point where Jones had to cheat the reaper often to save his mates from the perils of golf, hunting, fishing and recriminations.

There indeed were some positive indicators the last game the Sharks hope lead to greater success.

Captain Joe Pavelski scored his first goal of the series. It was an empty net goal, but it wasn’t a ‘gimme’ empty netter. He had to evade the Penguins’ defense and then bury the shot as Pittsburgh tried to block the puck on its way into the net.  

“I think goal‑scorers, a lot of it's confidence and feeling good about yourself,” DeBoer said. “I think a lot of times it's a bounce or one to go in off your shin pad or an empty netter that gets you going in the right direction. I think he's no different than other great goal‑scorers that way.” 

Also, the Sharks played with a lead for the first time this series. They scored back-to-back goals to go up 2-0 in the first period before the Penguins stormed back to tie the game at 2-2 in the same frame. 

Then with the sellout crowd at Consol Energy Center roaring and the Penguins finding their attacking rhythm, Melker Karlsson put the Sharks up 3-2 in the first off a pass from Logan Couture. The Sharks would never give the lead up after that play.

“The most important thing for us to win Game 6 will be I think us just coming out and playing our best game. I know their record after losses is very good,” DeBoer said. “They're going to rebound with a very good game. Our game's going to have to be as good a game as we played all year if we want to push this to seven. I think our guys know that.” 

Indeed the Penguins have been tough in games after a loss. Goaltender Matt Murray is  5-0 with a 1.76 goals-against average and .935 save percentage, after defeat. The only games Pittsburgh lost back-to-back involved Sullivan’s ill-fated decision to start Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 5 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

But maybe Jones’ performance gave San Jose some extra time to figure out their game and try to resemble the group that stormed through the Western Conference Playoffs.

“I think the nice thing is we're at home. The fact we have two days to prepare I think helps us, especially with the travel we've done as a team this year,” he said. “There's not much motivation needs to go on now. There's maximum two games left in the season here. I think it's just a matter of execution.” 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

 

 

 

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