After struggling to score for the first four games of the series, the San Jose Sharks erupted for three first-period goals in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday, ultimately beating the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-2, to force a Game 6 and keep their season alive.
The Sharks scored twice in the first three minutes, allowed two goals in 22 seconds, and then scored again to make it 3-2 heading into the second period.
What was going on with the goalies in those first 20 minutes?
“I think it was more what the guys were doing in front of them,” CBS Sports “Eye on Hockey” analyst Chris Peters said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “We saw a couple deflection goals and obviously we saw the Sharks come out and have their best start of the series, coming out and scoring and getting their first lead of the entire series. It took them until Game 5 to have a lead and they didn’t hold it for very long because they ended up blowing that in 22 seconds. I think what we saw there are two teams with high-powered offenses, which we already knew coming into the series, and the Sharks finally got it together.”
Matt Murray, who was been exquisite throughout the playoffs, allowed three goals in seven shots in the first period. In hindsight, perhaps it’s not surprising that he struggled to start Game 5.
“He’s 22 years old, he’s a rookie, it’s a big moment for him, and I wonder if it overtook him initially,” Peters said. “He played well the rest of the game, but I absolutely think there was a little bit more pressure. It was not a normal game. It didn’t feel like a normal game. Everybody seemed to be approaching it as if it was a foregone conclusion that the Penguins were going to win and there was going to be a celebration. Many of us forgot that the Sharks are this team that was a juggernaut coming into this series, and they looked a little tired, they looked a little slow. They finally had a good start and that really changed things for them. That put the Penguins on their heels immediately and they haven’t been in that position in this series before, so that was difficult to recover from.”
Martin Jones, meanwhile, had 44 saves for San Jose. He was under barrage all night but found a way to lead the Sharks to victory.
“He’s the reason they at least have a chance to come back,” Peters said. “I think it’d be very, very difficult to beat the Penguins in three straight games, but he is the X-factor. If he can do what he did in Game 5 and do it again on home ice in Game 6, we’re going back to Pittsburgh. That’s a goaltender that looks completely locked in. He just needs the guys in front of him to start scoring some more for him, and maybe that’ll work out. He had to stand on his head last night and he absolutely did.”
Game 6 is Sunday in San Jose at 8 p.m. ET.
Peters believes that the Penguins, who have won all three of their Stanley Cups on the road, have a good chance of closing out the series.
“We’ll see if that (road) trend continues,” Peters said, “but I do think they have been the best team for longer stretches of this series and they have the best opportunity to close it out because of the fact that they control possession and they control shots on goal. I think it’ll be a good opportunity for them to end the series in San Jose.”