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Sharks Know They Can't Look Past Game 6

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks have no time for Stanley Cup history lessons. They are more interested in making history with their time left in the Stanley Cup Final.

The Sharks need to win Game 6 against the Pittsburgh Penguins at SAP Center on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports) to force a winner-take-all Game 7 in this best-of-7 series.

"Anytime you get an opportunity, you have to take advantage of it," Sharks forward Joel Ward said. "I thought we have done well up to this point to make key plays to finish teams off in the first couple of rounds and in the games we have won here in this series. We've done a good job of getting that momentum and carrying it. Hopefully it carries over from that last game to this game."

The Sharks know they can only concern themselves with the things they can control at this point, which is their performance in Game 6.

The bigger picture beyond Sunday, whatever it comes to be, remains tantalizingly outside the their sphere of influence until they take care of Game 6.

"We still know that winning a game only gets us to Game 7, so that is where our focus is," defenseman Paul Martin said Saturday after the Sharks practiced at their training facility, Sharks Ice.

The odds of the Sharks forcing a Game 7 are not great; six of the 32 teams since 1939 to face a 3-1 deficit in Final history have survived Game 6.

The odds, by the way, get worse; the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs are the only one of those Game 6 survivors to win Game 7.

"The main focus last game was to get [to Game 6]," Martin said. "We wanted to get the series back here. Once you do that, it's a whole different game. But even saying that, the focus is on this game at home and taking care of business and be better than we were last game."

There is a long and difficult road to be travelled if the Sharks are able to pull off what would be arguably one of the greatest comebacks in playoff history, but the possibility came a bit more into focus after Game 5.

With a 4-2 win at Consol Energy Center on Thursday, the Sharks extended the series for another three days. For the Penguins, it was a missed opportunity to party. Pittsburgh is left with two opportunities to close out the Sharks. The window is closing slowly, but tangibly, for the Penguins.

Pittsburgh has twice blown 3-1 leads in best-of-7 series since 2011, losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning that year and the New York Rangers in 2014. Martin, who signed with the Sharks as a free agent this summer, was on those Penguins teams.

"I think it is more of a mental thing where you realize that your opportunity to finish off [the series] is getting smaller and that each loss gives the other team that much more belief and momentum that they can get it done and pull it off," Martin said.

San Jose backup goalie James Reimer knows all about the road the Sharks are trying to travel now.

In the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, he was the starting goalie for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who fell into a 3-1 hole against the Boston Bruins. Toronto won the next two games to force a Game 7 and led that game 4-1 before an epic rally, capped by Boston center Patrice Bergeron in overtime, allowed the Bruins to survive.

"Momentum is a crazy thing," Reimer said. "It can be on your side or not, and then it can happen out of nowhere. You can be down in a game, and all of sudden you get momentum and it doesn't matter what the score is, you keep chugging.

"You can be down 3-1 in a series, you can be up 3-1 and then a team gets momentum and it doesn't matter. It's funny; I was just saying to someone that a series can seem done, and yet you don't realize how close it is.

"You can be down 3-1 and you win one game, and all you have to do is win one more game. You win Game 6, and all of a sudden Game 7 is overtime. It's a free-for-all."

A free-for-all in Game 7 would be welcomed with open arms by these Sharks, but they know that Game 6 must be addressed first.

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director of Editorial

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