The San Jose Sharks, rejuvenated by the otherworldly play and 44 saves of keeper Martin Jones, took the Pittsburgh Penguins best shots and are still standing in the 2016 Stanley Cup Finals.
Coupled with center Joe Pavelski’s winning goal with under two minutes remaining, Jones churned out a Conn Smythe Trophy worthy performance by completely silencing Pittsburgh’s relentless attack, including (46 total shots) over the final two periods in the Sharks’ thrilling 3-2 Game 5 victory and extended the series to Sunday’s Game 6 back in San Jose.
Defenseman Brent Burns also recorded his seventh and center Logan Couture his ninth goal of the postseason as San Jose built a 2-0 lead in the first period, putting the pressure on Pittsburgh to comeback and perhaps helping the Sharks forget they have the daunting task of coming back from a 3-1 series deficit.
"We know we haven't scored many goals, or any, in this series," Couture said afterwards. "It's one of the reasons why we're down 3-1. We wanted to come. We didn't want the season to end tonight."
And though Pittsburgh still owns a 3-2 series with potentially two more opportunities to close it out, including home ice for the if-necessary Game 7, the Sharks are 1.5-goal favorites as they return to SAP Center, according to Sportsbook.ag. The over/under is set at five goals, with the Sharks at 5/6 and Penguins at 1/1 on the money line.
Oddsmakers clearly are encouraged by San Jose and Jones’ improved performance in Game 5. Jones 44 saves were three better than his previous highest total in these playoffs, while the Sharks defense largely kept Pittsburgh stars Phil Kessel and Sidney Crosby off the scoreboard, forced 10 giveaways to their attack’s two, and denied the Penguins on two of their three power plays. The successful penalty kills are especially encouraging for San Jose’s hopes since it’s posted a mere 80.6 percent success rate during the postseason and are tied for worst with 12 power play goals allowed.
San Jose and head coach Peter DeBoer will return to their home ice, an arena that’s resulted in an 8-3 postseason record, but history still isn’t on the Sharks side.
The Sharks will look to force a Game 7, which would take place Wednesday in Pittsburgh, but only one team in NHL history has successfully come back from a 3-1 hole. Since the Cup Final switched to a best-of-seven format in 1939 only one team, the 1941-42 Toronto Maple Leafs, have erased the deficit and won hoisted the Cup.
Of course, the pivotal game will also take on a somber tone following the death of “Mr. Hockey” and NHL Hall of Famer Gordie Howe. The Detroit Red Wings superstar and record setting wing passed away Friday at the age of 88 and the hours leading up to Game 6 will be filled with remorse as much as excitement.
Puck drops at 8 p.m. ET
Prediction: San Jose over Pittsburgh, 2-1
TV Channel: NBC
Live Stream: NBC Live Extra