By Ryan Ward | @RyanJWard
In a game that felt like a must-win, the San Jose Sharks showed why they are considered an elite offensive team with a complete 6-3 victory over the Blues on Monday night in St. Louis.
Coming off of a 6-3 dismantling at the hands of the Blues in Game 4 at home, which was preceded by back-to-back Sharks shutouts in Games 2 & 3, the Sharks bounced back in a pivotal Game 5 of the best-of-seven Western Conference Finals with 2 goals apiece from captain Joe Pavelski and veteran winger Joel Ward.
The scoring got started just 3:51 into the game when Joe Thornton won an offensive-zone faceoff back to Joe Pavelski, who found Marc-Edouard Vlasic at the blue line for a quick slap shot that got past Blues’ goaltender Jake Allen on the far side. Allen, who replaced starter Brian Elliott ahead of the Blues’ Game 4 victory and was making his 2nd consecutive start, appeared to be screened by his own defenseman on the play.
After consecutive goals by St. Louis gave them a 2-1 advantage at the end of the 1st period, the Sharks showed their prowess on the power play by controlling the puck for nearly the entire two-minutes that followed a Kevin Shattenkirk roughing penalty, culminating in a Joel Ward tip-in of a rebound off the post to tie the game with one second remaining on the man advantage. The teams exchanged power play goals by Robby Fabbri and Pavelski to tie it at 3-3 heading into the 3rd, when the Sharks took over the game and never relinquished control.
It only took San Jose 16 seconds to take the lead in the final period, when Pavelski scored with a textbook tip-in off a long-range wrist-shot by Brent Burns. With momentum on their side, the Sharks held off the Blues the rest of the way, adding two empty-net goals before time expired on their 6-3 Game 5 victory.
San Jose goaltender Martin Jones played well enough to win by stopping 18 of 21 shots, and Joe Thornton contributed 3 assists to the winning effort.
With Game 6 set for Wednesday night at the SAP Center in San Jose, you can expect a raucous and excitable crowd anxious for the Sharks to clinch their first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals since their inception in 1991. This is certainly the best chance they’ve ever had to do so, and they’ll get that opportunity in front of their home crowd and with momentum on their side.