The San Jose Sharks traded for Martin Jones precisely for nights like this.
With the Sharks' season on the line in Pittsburgh for Game 5 Thursday, the 26-year-old netminder acquired this past offseason pulled off one of the most sensational goalie performances in recent NHL playoffs memory. His final line: 44 saves, two goals against, the best save of the playoffs (we'll get to that in a bit) and a 4-2 win to send the Stanley Cup Final back to San Jose for Game 6.
It's hard to overstate how important Jones was to San Jose's survival. Pittsburgh lapped the Sharks in shot attempts, 76-36. San Jose hasn't allowed that many high-danger scoring chances (19) in one game since 2005. And as quickly as the Sharks' 2-0 lead evaporated in the first period, you'd forgive them for bending to the point of breaking at some point. And they nearly did.
But Jones stole a game for them. I suppose you could criticize the Sharks for leaning too heavily on him with everything on the line, but it's OK for your goalie to rescue you from the flames every now and again (especially in the playoffs). It's why the Sharks wanted him in the first place. It was enough to save their season.
Sharks 4, Penguins 2 (PIT leads series, 3-2)
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3 things we learned
1. Pittsburgh dominated in every way
The Penguins were relentless offensively. All but two of the Penguins finished above 50 percent Corsi For %, while this was the way things played out for the Sharks:
Best corsi for 5vs5 for the Sharks tonight according to @fearthefin? Brendan Dillon with -1.— Vic Dahlgren (@Garrincha_90) June 10, 2016
And he was terrible.
This has pretty much been the trend over the course of the whole series. Pittsburgh blitzes the Sharks from start to finish in possession and shot attempts, and the Sharks struggle to keep pace and crawl back. The only difference tonight was Martin Jones, and ...
2. San Jose scored first
Finally. They actually put up two quick goals in the first period, which was huge on multiple levels. First, it silenced a raucous Penguins home crowd right off the bat. And it provided the cushion they needed when the Penguins (perhaps inevitably) struck back quickly and tied the game a few minutes later. If San Jose can duplicate that in Game 6, they have another great chance at stealing another game.
3. Matt Murray had a hiccup, but that's okay
No, it wasn't time for the Penguins to pull the plug on their rookie goalie after two bad goals in the first period. If anyone was due for a bad game, it was him. But after the first period of chaos, Murray settled down along with his teammates. There's reason to believe he will continue that into Game 6.
It was the best save of the playoffs, and it saved San Jose's bacon.
Stat of the Night
Martin Jones 46 shots faced / 44 saves were the most by any goalie in a regulation Stanley Cup Final game since at least 1988— Darin Stephens (@SharksStats) June 10, 2016