SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks defeated the Nashville Predators 5-1 in Game 5 of the Western Conference Second Round at SAP Center on Saturday.
First-line right wing Joe Pavelski scored twice, and the Sharks' reconfigured second line also score produced two goals. Logan Couture, the center, had a goal as did Patrick Marleau, who was moved up from the third line and onto the wing. Melker Karlsson scored with 50 seconds left in the game.
Mike Fisher scored his third goal in two games for Nashville.
San Jose leads the best-of-7 series 3-2.
What we learned: The Sharks can pass the puck. Each of their first four goals involved a bit of puck-distribution sorcery.
Video: NSH@SJS, Gm5: Marleau buries home Donskoi's feed
On the first one, left wing Joonas Donskoi made a sweet backhanded pass through Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm and right onto the stick of Marleau for a one-timer. On the second goal, Joe Thornton feathered a pass into the high slot despite knowing he would be plastered into the boards; Pavelski rammed it home. Couture scored 35 seconds into the second period after another sick pass from Donskoi, and Pavelski scored on the power play in the last minute of the second after Marleau made a tight-angled pass while circling the net.
What this means for the Predators: Time to regroup. Nashville knew Game 5 would be a challenge, but the Predators did not expect to get outplayed in this manner. They managed five shots in the second period and had trouble getting into the attacking zone, let alone sustaining pressure when they crossed the San Jose blue line. They lost too many puck battles. They got little traffic in front of goalie Martin Jones and allowed the Sharks to crash around their goalie, Pekka Rinne, far too often. Four of the Sharks' five goals were scored from below the circles; the other, by an unmarked Pavelski, was from the high slot.
What this means for the Sharks: Breathing room. The Sharks know they were the better team in Game 5, and that the performance is a testament to their mental toughness. There was a fear that San Jose would have a tough time getting past Game 4, especially after blowing a lead late in regulation and losing despite dominating much of the three overtime periods. But the Sharks came out like nothing had happened and had the jump from the first shift of the game. Now they get two chances to put away a Predators team making its eighth flight between Nashville and California since the Stanley Cup Playoffs started on April 15 and coming off one of its worst games of the 2016 postseason.
Video: NSH@SJS, Gm5: Pavelski nets PPG for second of night
Key moment: In the final minute of the second period, Couture made a strong rush into the offensive zone, one that resulted in Nashville defenseman Roman Josi committing a tripping penalty in his attempt to defend. Nine seconds after Josi took a seat in the penalty box, Pavelski banged a perfect pass from Marleau past Rinne to the short side, giving San Jose a three-goal lead.
Unsung player of the game: Center Dainius Zubrus. Inserted into the lineup by Sharks coach Peter DeBoer to provide fresh legs and a big-body presence, Zubrus did just that in the limited minutes he was asked to play. The 37-year-old, who had not played since San Jose's regular-season finale against the Arizona Coyotes on April 9, used his 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame to punish the Predators at every turn. He was credited with six hits and a blocked shot in 11:25 of ice time; more important, he was defensively responsible.
What's next: Game 6 is Monday at Bridgestone Arena (9 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN, TVA Sports 2). Can the Sharks close it out on the road, where they had been so strong before losing two to Nashville, or will the series return here for Game 7 on Thursday?