Evgeni Nabokov was perfect in goal on Thursday, making 28 saves and earning the seventh postseason shutout of his career.
In front of Nabokov the team defense was outstanding in matching the netminder’s play. The blueline was led by Marc-Edouard Vlasic
who had three blocked shots alongside Dan Boyle
who racked up 23:06 of ice time in 33 shifts.
But it was forwards Logan Couture
and Jamie McGinn who led the Sharks in hits (4) and Ryane Clowe
who led the team in takeaways (2). According to Nabokov, it was the Sharks onslaught of offense that exhausted any chance of a Colorado comeback.
“The offense was our best defense,” said Nabokov following the 5-0 win. “Defensively we were good, but I think it was important that we were all over the ice pressuring them and that was our best defense right there.”
“It’s all about the puck possession,” he added. “Whoever has the puck more, will put it in the net more.”
This series, the Sharks have made a living out of outshooting their opponent. In Game 5 the Sharks outshot the Avalanche by nine (37-28), in Game 4 they outshot them by ten (45-35), in Game 3 they outshot them 34 (51-17) and in Game 2 they outshot them by 30 (52-22). Game 1 was the only game where the Avalanche outshot the Sharks by 4 shots (30-26).
“It’s not really what the defense is doing, it’s what the offense is doing,” said Douglas Murray
when asked how the defense has been able to limit Colorado’s shots on goal. “It’s huge getting that offensive zone time.
“They did a great job on the cycle and getting pucks deep,” he continued. “Once we wear them down on the cycle, they’re not as powerful coming back against us. They’re going to change; they’re not going on the rush.”
In his postgame press conference, Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan had praise for his defense.
“They moved the puck up and they got it out of their end quickly,” said McLellan. “That’s one of the things we want to do --- get it in the forwards' hands. The D-men did a real good job there.”
Game 5 was also marked by a physical aspect that has been growing throughout the series. During the second period, the Sharks were nursing a three-goal lead when Murray was crossed checked into Nabokov. In the scrum that followed, the 30-year-old Swede didn’t retaliate and the Sharks earned a power play after Scott Hannan incurred a four-minute roughing penalty.
“I tried to stay cool, but it’s a three to nothing game,” said Murray, who delivered the best open-ice hit of the game on Avalanche rookie Matt Duchene in the middle of the first period. “In today’s hockey you see a lot of three-nothing games disappear in a hurry. Especially if you give up a power play. It’s playoff time. If you can’t take a punch, get out.”
Nabokov was knocked onto the ice during the play and laid there for several moments after.
“At first, I thought it was their guy, I didn’t know that it was Dougie,” said Nabokov when he was asked about the play. “He hit me in the side of the head, but I was fine.”
The Sharks now head back to Colorado for Game 6 on Saturday at the Pepsi Center.