SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks and the Pittsburgh Penguins play Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports). The Penguins lead 3-2 in the best-of-7 series and can win the Stanley Cup with one more victory.
Here are 5 keys for the Sharks in Game 6:
1. PLAY (BETTER) WITH THE LEAD
The Sharks finally scored first and got the second goal too to jump out to 2-0 lead in the opening 2:53 of a 4-2 win in Game 5 on Thursday.
"Then, the lead was gone in a minute and a half," Sharks center Logan Couture said.
Actually, the Penguins scored twice in 22 seconds to tie the game by 5:06 of a wild first period. On the positive side, the Sharks rebounded to retake the lead on Melker Karlsson's goal with 5:13 remaining in the first, but they sat back too much after that and relied heavily on goaltender Martin Jones.
Although they survived, with captain Joe Pavelski's empty-net goal with 1:20 remaining sealing the win, the Sharks can't be as passive in Game 6 if they want to get to a Game 7 on Wednesday.
2. MORE JONES
The Sharks couldn't have asked for more from Jones than his 44-save performance in Game 5. Considering how much the Penguins have controlled play throughout the Cup Final, he'll have to be sharp again in Game 6.
The Sharks maintain that the Penguins' 179-120 advantage in shots on goal is deceiving, but Jones has consistently faced more pressure than Penguins counterpart Matt Murray and has little margin for error. Jones' average performance in a 3-1 loss in Game 4 (three goals on 20 shots) proved costly. He can't afford to have another game like that.
3. CAPTAIN COMEBACK
Pavelski's empty-net goal in Game 5 was his first goal and point of the series after he had a League-leading 13 goals and 22 points in 18 games over the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The hope is that goal will help Pavelski relax a little and start scoring more.
He has been getting more chances with nine shots on goal over the past two games after totaling four over the first three games. If he can convert one or two of those scoring opportunities into goals, the Sharks' chances of forcing a Game 7 will improve.
"I think for goal scorers, a lot of it is confidence and feeling good about yourself," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "A lot of times, it's a bounce or one to go in off your shin pad or an empty-netter that gets you going in the right direction."
4. STAY OUT OF THE BOX
The Sharks penalty kill was excellent over the first three games of the Cup Final, holding the Penguins without a power-play goal in six opportunities. Pittsburgh has been far more dangerous on the man-advantage in the past two games, going 2-for-5 with Phil Kessel setting up Evgeni Malkin for each goal.
In addition, the Penguins generated numerous chances on their other power plays, including Chris Kunitz and Kessel each hitting posts during their second one in Game 5. The Sharks would be wise to play disciplined in Game 6.
"You definitely want to stay out of the box because you'd like to build off that momentum 5-on-5," right wing Joel Ward said. "But when you do [take penalties], you just have to find a way to kill them. We've got to be detailed and structurally sound knowing what you're up against when you're out there."
5. SHORTEN THE BENCH AGAIN
With the Sharks' season on the line on Thursday, DeBoer shortened his bench and gave more playing time to other players. On defense, the Sharks' third defense pair of Brenden Dillon (10:59) and Roman Polak (13:15) played their fewest minutes of the series; Marc-Edouard Vlasic (27:54) and Justin Braun (25:01) played the most they have in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, other than a triple overtime game against the Nashville Predators in the second round.
Up front, fourth-liners Dainius Zubrus (7:15) and Tommy Wingels (5:52) took a seat for long stretches, including all of the third period. DeBoer spread out the minutes to his other 10 forwards.
He should not hesitate to do similar on Sunday after having two off days again between games.
by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer