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Jones remains backbone for Sharks

San Jose goalie stays sharp after week-long break between games

by Eric Gilmore / Correspondent

SAN JOSE -- It took the San Jose Sharks until the third period to shake of the rust from a week-long layoff and get untracked against the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of their Western Conference First Second Round series at SAP Center on Friday.

Fortunately for San Jose, goaltender Martin Jones was sharp from the moment the game began. Jones made 29 saves and kept the Sharks close until they scored five goals in the third period to defeat the Predators 5-2.

Game 2 is Sunday at SAP Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"He was our best player," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said Saturday. "We needed him to be. He was the sharpest right from the start, gave us a chance to get our legs under us and get to the third period and have a chance to win that game.

Video: NSH@SJS, Gm1: Jones stops Jarnkrok with a pad save

"If you're going to have some guys work through maybe their legs being off, you don't want it to be your goalie, because it's tough. He worked really hard during the break, and I think that's what you saw."

After San Jose clinched its first-round series against the Los Angeles Kings with a victory in Game 5 on April 22, Jones did all he could in practice to stay sharp and game ready.

"That's really all you can do is try to practice game speed," Jones said. "I thought we did a good job. We had a really good week of practice, but obviously there's still a little bit just getting back in that game and getting in the feel of the game.

"I felt good. We had a lot of game situation stuff in practice, which was great."

Jones gave up a power-play goal to Mike Fisher at 4:33 of the second period and a fluky goal to Ryan Johansen at 18:11 of the third after the Predators pulled goaltender Pekka Rinne for an extra attacker. Roman Josi's point shot ricocheted off of Sharks defenseman Brent Burns before bouncing off of Johansen's face and past Jones.

"Same as always," Sharks forward Matt Nieto said of Jones. "He's sharp and never panics. He's been our backbone all playoffs. He's just continuing that from last series."

Video: Practice 4/30: Jones

Jones had never started a game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs until facing the Kings, his former team, in the first round. He went 4-1 with a 2.18 goals-against average and .912 save percentage. He entered the second round with five playoff starts and a greater level of comfort.

"Any time you get more experience, you can learn from it and use it as a learning tool," Jones said. "Just keep moving forward here, and any more experience I get is only going to benefit us."

Jones, who came to the Sharks from the Boston Bruins in an offseason trade, went 37-23-4 with a 2.27 GAA, .918 save percentage and four shutouts in his first season as a No. 1 starter in the NHL.

"Jonesy was huge for us at the start," Burns said of Game 1. "He's been unbelievable all year. He's calm, cool and collected."

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