For Sharks, Fast Start and Martin Jones Key to Forcing Game 7

Martin Jones has been standing on his head as of late. (photo by Justin K. Aller)

By Ryan Ward | @RyanJWard

In their biggest game of the year, facing elimination on the road in a city that had all but hoisted the Stanley Cup already, the Sharks came out firing in Game 5 like we hadn’t seen this entire Stanley Cup Final, scoring twice in the opening minutes and surviving a thrilling 4-2 marathon of a regulation game, leaning heavily on goalie Martin Jones along the way.

The fast start was just what the doctor ordered for San Jose - they hadn’t led a single minute in this Final until Brent Burns opened the scoring - but the real story of Game 5 was Jones. After the second goal gave the Sharks a 2-0 lead after 2:53, the floodgates opened and it appeared the Sharks had lost their spark, coughing up two goals in 22 seconds. But from that moment on, Martin Jones was simply unbelievable, even historically so; with 44 saves, it was just the 3rd time a goalie registered more than 40 in a Final game in the last 30 years.

It’s a problem that the Sharks weren’t able to slow down the Pittsburgh onslaught, allowing them to dominate the final two periods and pepper Jones repeatedly with shots, but what isn’t a problem is the fact that they weathered the storm and find themselves heading home for Game 6 Sunday night in San Jose.

We’ve seen it elsewhere as recently as this week. When it comes to a championship series, nobody cares (least of all the players) how the job gets done or how pretty it is, as long as you win. The Warriors hadn’t felt the presence of Klay or Steph through three games in the NBA Finals, and still led their series 2-1. If they go on to clinch the title Monday night at Oracle, nobody will remember the Splash Bros disappearing act through the first three games.

Same goes for San Jose, who now have 60 minutes of ice time Sunday to scratch, claw, and fight for the right to head back to Pittsburgh and finish this historic season the way they have dreamed since training camp. And to do that, they’re going to need Martin Jones. A LOT of Martin Jones, and whatever other pieces to the puzzle they can figure out along the way.