Following Anaheim’s 4-0 win in Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals last Thursday, Ducks defenseman Chris Pronger had some sage words about the Sharks.
“You don’t want to give a team like that any life,” Pronger said. “They’re a proud bunch and you want to keep ‘em down as long as you can.”
In Game Five on Saturday night, the Sharks had life from the outset of the game. They took off to a 2-0 lead and although they gave up two goals in the third, San Jose rallied to win in overtime, 3-2.
“I thought we had a great start to the game,” defenseman Dan Boyle
“We were very happy with the start we had,” Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan said. “We had a lot of energy.”
San Jose outshot the Ducks, 11-5, in the first period and center Joe Thornton
’s first postseason goal on the power play at 7:25 of the first gave the Sharks an early 1-0 lead. The first goal has determined who won each game in the series.
“We have to have that desperation,” said center Patrick Marleau
, who scored the game-winning goal at 6:02 of the first overtime.
“Getting off to a lead has been a key in both of our wins,” Boyle said.
Thornton’s first period play was a spark for San Jose. Besides the goal, he had two shots and won four of his six faceoffs. Thornton’s performance in Game Five (a goal, two assists, five shots and 61 percent on faceoff wins) was an improvement over Game Four (minus-3, four shots and 40 percent on faceoffs).
“It was great to see Joe come out like that and lead by example,” center Torrey Mitchell
said. “It got the rest of us going.”
Besides Thornton, the onus on getting the Sharks off to a strong start came from the return of the No. 1 line. Thornton, Marleau and Devin Setoguchi were reunited with strong results. For the night, the trio combined for all three goals and had four assists and had 11 shots.
“We had to contribute as much as we could,” Setoguchi said. “After the last game, we had to come out and have a great game. It started with the first shift and built from there.”
San Jose was facing elimination on Saturday night. They had to win. They had to recover from a 4-0 loss in Game Four on Thursday night where many, including the players themselves, wondered about their play.
“We didn’t have to say much,” Setoguchi said about any pregame talk amongst the players about what needed to be done in Game Five. “We knew what kind of desperation and the kind of start we needed to have and the impact our line had to have against theirs (Anaheim’s top line of Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry). We had our work cut out for us tonight.”
“When you get to this point, with the experience we have in this room,” goaltender Evgeni Nabokov said, “I don’t think you need to say much. You just need to come out, be ready and go out and play. Nobody said it was going to be easy. Nobody said they were going to give it to us. We just have to make less mistakes than them.”
One of the things the Sharks had to do was keep things simple. Mitchell said he focused on “one shift at a time. Focus on winning your 30-40 second shift and hopefully get the outcome you want.”
So now, the attention shifts to another elimination game on Monday night at Anaheim’s Honda Center. San Jose is still alive, but down three games to two. And don’t think for one moment that they don’t know how important Monday’s game will be.
“There are still people that will question individual character and the team’s character,” McLellan said. “We’ve only squashed that for one night. The question will be there again when we get to Anaheim. If we can continue to put in the effort we did tonight, we have the potential to squash it.”
“We know there’s a long road ahead of us,” Marleau said.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Boyle said. “The next game will be the hardest game we’ve had all year. It’s going to get tougher and tougher.”
BIG IN NET
Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals was Evgeni Nabokov’s turn to lead his team to victory with some stellar net work.
“Nabby” came through when his team needed him the most Saturday as the Sharks were facing their first elimination game after dropping 3-1 in the series against Anaheim.
“He played great,” center Joe Thornton
said. “He gave us a chance to win. He made big saves at opportune times. The saves he had were honest especially the one with (Mike) Brown on the breakaway.”
Nabokov however was a little bit more modest on his save.
The Sharks goalie stopped 23 of 25 in the win. Nabokov stonewalled Anaheim’s efforts to tie the game in the second period. The Ducks regain some momentum in the second stanza, spending the majority of the first five minutes of the second crashing the Sharks’ zone.
“They had quite a bit of momentum in the beginning of the second period and in the third,” Nabokov said. “They came in waves. It seems like the game had four or five momentum (swings). We just need to recognize that more and be able to stop their momentum (swings), especially their top line.”
Nabokov’s shutout bid was broken up just 55 seconds into the third period when the Ducks’ Ryan Carter’s goal made it a one-goal game.
Less than five minutes later, Corey Perry netted his second goal of the playoffs when his wrister went five-hole to tie the game up 2-2.
“Anaheim waits for their opportunities to find a really good chance,” said Nabokov. “They didn’t waste too many shots; it was like every shot came with a purpose. That’s what good players do and they have quite a bit of them, but so does every team in the league.”
Both goalies faced a flurry of shots after the tying goal. But it took an extra period to decide the winner of the game.
Fortunately for San Jose, Nabokov made the right stops at the right times.
The Sharks top line brought home the goals, but for scoring chances per minute on the ice, it seemed that Torrey Mitchell
, Jonathan Cheechoo and Jeremy Roenick were creating something at every turn. No one in the group skated more than 12 minutes, but they made an impression every shift.
“We had a lot of energy and did a pretty good job tonight,” said Mitchell.
The group hasn’t been together long considering Mitchell missed the entire regular season and played his first game of the year in Anaheim.
“It felt like we had good chemistry,” said Mitchell. “We’ve played together for a game and a half and we knew where each other was on the ice.”
McLellan appreciated the group’s effort.
“They played their best games as individuals and as a group,” said McLellan. “The hunted down pucks and went to the net.”
The group was content to let the game come to them.
“Our game was pretty simple,” said Mitchell. “Forecheck hard and get the puck deep.”
And off the ice when Anaheim rallied from a two goal deficit, it was a member of the trio who stepped vocally.
“Jeremy Roenick in particular responded on the bench,” said McLellan.
Does San Jose now have the momentum with their Game 5 victory?
“Momentum is earned on a nightly basis,” said McLellan.
After the game winning goal the HP Pavilion reached 115 decibels.
ANAHEIM HEAD COACH RANDY CARLYLE
“The reason the puck went in the net was because their player pushed our goalie’s pad, which is attached to his skate, which knocked the puck in the net.”
“(On the ruling of the game winning goal) I think there needs to be some clarification, because my view is that they are not allowed to push the goaltender and the puck in the net and cause a good goal.”
“(On the play of the San Jose Sharks) I haven’t thought they played poorly. We are not intimidated; they are a good hockey club. We always respect the opposition.”
“As you saw the flow of the game went one way, then we got it going in the third period, and we made a game of it.”
Game 6 will be in Anaheim and will be on CSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.