Victories are always nice to savor. However in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the time to enjoy winning a game in a series is limited. A series isn’t decided by one win – a team needs four. Unless the victory was the series-clincher, there isn’t much time to bask in the afterglow.
Now, San Jose is one win away from taking their Western Conference Quarterfinal series against Calgary. Thursday’s 4-3 win gave the Sharks a 3-2 lead in the series with the potentially decisive Game 6 to come Sunday night at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
“You can’t let the highs get you too high and lows get you too low,” defenseman Christian Ehrhoff said. “You have to stay positive and focus on the next game.”
Defenseman Brian Campbell agreed with Ehrhoff. “A huge part of playing in the playoffs is keeping an even keel as much as possible,” he said. “That’s all we can do right now.”
Campbell remembered what he said in the locker room after Tuesday’s last-minute 3-2 win in Game Four at Calgary. That’s when center Joe Thornton
tipped in Douglas Murray
’s shot from the blueline with seven seconds remaining to break a 2-2 tie.
“The win in Calgary was huge,” Campbell said about Tuesday’s victory. “I told the guys in the dressing room to keep it on the steady line and keep pushing. That’s what we need to do.”
“It was a big win,” Thornton said about Thursday’s win. “We can think about it for 10 minutes, get rid of it and get ready for Sunday.”
While there will be some players who’ll follow Thornton’s lead, at least one wants to enjoy it for a little more than 10 minutes.
“Guys need to take it all in,” defenseman Craig Rivet said. “We’re pretty happy with the way we played tonight. We’re going to enjoy the win. We’ll go home, think about all of the great things we did to get this victory and when we come back to the rink tomorrow (for practice), we’re going to re-focus.”
“We’ve got our confidence back,” Thornton said. “We feel good. We feel comfortable. Now we have to play our best game of the year in Calgary.”
IT’S ALL ABOUT TEAM
Time and time again, many people in hockey talk about how it takes a team to win games. Each of San Jose’s three wins has come from the efforts of different people.
In Game Two, goaltender Evgeni Nabokov made 21 saves to get a 2-0 shutout. In Game Four, center Patrick Marleau
had five shots, left wing Ryane Clowe
had a goal and an assist and Murray’s shot from the blue line got knocked into the net by Thornton for a 3-2 win.
In Game Five on Thursday night, right wing Jonathan Cheechoo scored two goals.
“It’s a team that’s going to do it (win the Stanley Cup),” Coach Ron Wilson said. “They don’t put one name on the Cup, they put everyone’s name on it and no one name is going to be in bold type. Everybody’s going to get credit and that’s how we have to play.
“I think our team game is starting to return,” he added. “In particular with Joe, ‘Cheech’ and Patty. Tonight, I’d argue that our best player was Joe Pavelski
. He set the example for the other guys.”
Never argue with the coach. Pavelski was the game’s No. 3 star, had a goal and an assist, three shots, three takeaways and won 65 percent of his faceoffs.
And to be successful as a team, one must follow the game plan set by the coach.
“We know what our game plan is,” Cheechoo said. “Coach sets it up for us. We come out and execute it and try to play mistake-free hockey. People who make fewer mistakes usually win the game.”
EVEN STRENGTH CARRIES THE DAY
San Jose and Calgary were tied at one after a five-on-three power play helped each score their opening tallies. It was at even strength that San Jose won the game. Calgary scored a late power play and a tally with their goalie pulled, but it was three consecutive even strength goals that proved to be the difference.
“We felt we played pretty good hockey,” said Rivet. “We kept the tempo up and we feel that eventually won it in the end.”
The Sharks are simply looking to wear down Calgary when the teams play five-on-five. Jarome Iginla played an amazing 26:41 for a forward and Dion Phaneuf was on the ice for 28:42.
“They have great hockey players, but they are playing a lot of minutes and you can see them wearing down,” said Rivet.
“That’s one thing we try to work on,” said Marleau. “Get in, get the forecheck going and work their D down low. When there is a breakdown, take advantage.”
Part of the Sharks plan is to keep their puck possession game going and force the Flames to chase them.
“We wanted to hold the puck as much as we could,” said Thornton. “Five-on-five we played a really good game.”
San Jose’s power play goal technically was a five-on-four goal as former Shark Wayne Primeau stepped on the ice just before the puck crossed the line.
“It was only for 24 seconds,” said Pavelski. “I think we got it just as their guy came out.”
Pavelski’s teammates appreciated the efforts of the former Wisconsin Badger.
“He’s a little workhorse and a great competitor,” said Wilson.
The Sharks and Flames combined for an amazing 78 hits.
“The average playoff game has about 55 hits versus 30 in the regular season,” said Wilson.
Wilson would like his team to be a bit smarter about some of their hits though.
“I thought we got carried away trying to get some hits especially the first 30 minutes or so,” said Wilson. “If Joe got hit, we had three guys run at the guy who hit Joe and that’s not how you win playoff games. We were able to settle down in the second.”
EARLY LEAD NOT GOOD
Early in the playoffs, every team that scored first won, but in the Sharks-Flames series, scoring first is not necessarily the best option.
The club that has scored first has lost the last three games.
BACKS AGAINST THE WALL
Calgary will be facing an elimination game on Sunday.
“There backs are against the wall,” said Pavelski. “We were down 2-1 and got the job done.”
The Sharks hope to close out the series as quick as possible.
“It’s important to finish them off,” said Cheechoo. “We don’t want to give them any life.”
The Sharks will enjoy the game for the night and then move on for Game 6.
“We thoroughly enjoyed winning Game 4,” said Rivet. “We enjoyed the flight back and the next day we pushed that behind us.”
Wilson gave his club the day off for Friday.
“Tomorrow we’ll recover and won’t do anything,” said Wilson. “We’ll have a good practice on Saturday and fly in. With (the early start), we won’t have a morning skate Sunday.”
Wilson will likely return to a normal six defenseman rotation for Sunday’s contest.
“We’ll probably go with six defensemen again,” said Wilson. “With the extra forward, it will give us a breather.”
Pavelski extended his playoff point streak to five games. He now has six points (2 + 4 = 6) in five contests during the series.
Clowe recorded his team leading eighth point of the playoffs. With an assist, Clowe now has four goals and four assists in five games.
CALGARY HEAD COACH MIKE KEENAN
“We gave them two unearned goals tonight. Poor decision making by two of our defensemen, and that made the decision in the game. It wasn’t related to the effort it was related to the poor decisions that they normally wouldn’t make or haven’t made to this point.”
“We got a pretty good performance on the power-play, 2-for-5. They were 1-for-3. And our 5-on-5 play was good with the exception of those two errors. There is not too much more you can say about the game. That was the difference.”
“We have to come back now in the series. San Jose has done it twice. They were down 1-0 and then 2-1. They came back and tied it 1-1 and 2-2. Now we have to come back and tie it and at the same time face elimination. It puts a lot of emphasis on our preparation for Game 6.”
Game 6 will be Sunday at 5 p.m. and will be on CSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com.