Marcus White

Playing some of the best hockey of his career, Martin Jones seals Sharks' sweep of Ducks

Playing some of the best hockey of his career, Martin Jones seals Sharks' sweep of Ducks

SAN JOSE -- As the clock ticked towards the end of the second period, Anaheim Ducks winger Corey Perry gathered the puck on his backhand for his golden opportunity. The veteran forward had not scored all series, and seemed sure to end his drought and tie the game with a power play tally in Game 4 Wednesday night.

But Martin Jones was in the way.

“[Perry] was pretty tight to the net,” Jones said. “He didn’t have any room, so I just tried to take away the bottom of the net there.”

The Sharks goaltender kicked out his right pad, and smothered the shot for his 23rd save of the night, his 121st of the postseason at that point, preserving a one-goal lead. He made seven more in the third period, and led San Jose to a first-round sweep of its division rivals.

His team was outshot 31-17 after fourth-line forward Marcus Sorensen opened the scoring 5:43 into the contest.

“Well, I’m happy he’s on my side,” Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic deadpanned when asked what he thought as Jones made save after save in the second period.

“He’s part of our team. He’s doing his job, keeping us in it. He’s played really well the first four games [of the playoffs.]”

Jones relented for the first, and only, time all game when Andrew Cogliano tied the game for the Ducks with just over 12 minutes remaining in regulation. After Jones carried them for most of the last two games, his teammates responded in kind.

Tomas Hertl’s deflection trickled through John Gibson’s legs and into his net to take back the lead just 1:16 later. The Czech forward checkmated Anaheim, and Jones faced only three additional shots afterward.

Hertl and San Jose would not have been in position to do so without Jones’ play in net.

“[Jones] was excellent,” head coach Peter DeBoer said. “For sure both games [in San Jose], without him it would be different results. Even [an 8-1 win in Game 3] definitely isn’t an 8-1 game if he doesn’t show up and play the way he does.

“But, he’s a big part of our team, and has been for a long time and has been doing that for a long time for us. That’s something that we rely on and take for granted.”

Jones struggled for stretches during the regular season, and dealt with an undisclosed injury ahead of the All-Star break. His five-on-five save percentage (.915) was the lowest of his career as a starter, according to Corsica Hockey. He was excellent on the penalty kill, though, posting a four-on-five save percentage (.900) that ranked 10th among goalies that played a minimum of 100 shorthanded minutes.

The latter part of his carried over into the first round against the Ducks, as Jones stopped all but two of the 21 shots he faced on the penalty kill, including all six on Wednesday. Jones really improved five-on-five, however, as Cogliano’s goal was just the second even-strength tally he allowed all series.

His five-on-five save percentage (.979) this postseason is, according to Natural Stat Trick, better than every goaltender but one: Marc-Andre Fleury (.990) of the Vegas Golden Knights, San Jose’s opponent in the second round.

Jones, of course, is no stranger to big-time playoff moments. He was San Jose’s best player in a six-game loss in the first round to the Edmonton Oilers last year, and nearly single-handedly kept the Sharks alive in the Stanley Cup Final the year prior.

And yet, somehow, this might be the best stretch of his career in the postseason. He’s never stopped a higher a percentage of shots in a series than he did against the Ducks.

The Sharks will need him to continue to be at his best against a Golden Knights squad that also swept a SoCal opponent, the Los Angeles Kings, out of the first round.

“[Vegas is] a fast team,” Jones said. “They come at you with all four lines. They forecheck hard.

“They’re a tenacious, hard-working team so we need to make sure we’re preparing properly here and ready to go right from the start of Game 1 because they don’t give you any room to breath really. They come at you hard.”

And Jones will be there stand in their way.

Duck Hunt Complete: Sharks sweep Anaheim, get Golden Knights next

Duck Hunt Complete: Sharks sweep Anaheim, get Golden Knights next

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks swept the Anaheim Ducks out of the first round, and advanced to the second thanks to a 2-1 win Wednesday night.

Martin Jones made 30 saves, and Tomas Hertl scored the series-clincher with 10:51 left in the third period to seal the second sweep in franchise history, and San Jose’s first-ever series victory against Anaheim.

San Jose scored the game’s first goal for the third time in the series. Sorensen opened the scoring 5:43 in to the game, lifting his own rebound over a sprawling John Gibson for his third goal of the playoffs. Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf waved helplessly at the puck on its path to the back of the net, but could only redirect it across the goal line.

Gibson only faced eight shots over the next 35 minutes, after the Sharks peppered him with six prior to Sorensen’s goal. The game shifted decidedly in the Ducks’ favor following that goal, but Martin Jones stood in their way for the fourth straight game.

Rickard Rakell appeared to tie the game for Anaheim early in the third period on a power play, but the goal was overturned after Peter DeBoer correctly challenged the play as offside. The officials overturned it, and San Jose killed the penalty without incident.

The Sharks killed another penalty in the third period, but Andrew Cogliano tied the game for the Ducks at even strength. with 12:07 remaining in regulation. The tie lasted 76 seconds.

Tomas Hertl tipped Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s point shot past Gibson, and sent SAP Center into a frenzy. San Jose took a lead it would not relinquish.

Anaheim challenged Jones with just three shots in the final 10 minutes and change. The Ducks pulled Gibson with less than two minutes remaining, but couldn't enter the Sharks’ zone.

San Jose tried for an empty-netter, but effectively ran out the clock and, ultimately, the series.

STANDOUT PERFORMER
Martin Jones slammed the door on the Ducks once again. He picked up his sixth career playoff shutout, and was particularly impressive in a half-hour stretch from the midway point of the first period through the second.

In a 31:40 span, Jones stopped 20 Anaheim shots, including three on the penalty kill, while his teammates managed just six shots in that time. The 28-year-old added another stolen playoff game to his resume, and was the key reason the Sharks clinched the series on Wednesday.

SPECIAL TEAMS
Ducks:  0-for-4 on the power play; 2-for-2 on the penalty kill

Sharks: 0-for-2 on the power play; 4-for-4 on the penalty kill

For the first time all series, the Ducks had more power play opportunities than the Sharks. With Jones leading the way from the crease, though, San Jose’s penalty killers were up to the task.

IN GOAL
Ducks: John Gibson returned to the cage after getting pulled in Game 3, and wasn’t tested all that much. He denied Evander Kane 8:41 into the game with his team reeling following Sorensen’s goal, though, and kept Anaheim within striking distance.

Sharks: As good as Gibson was, Jones was once again better. Cogliano’s goal was just the second five-on-five goal he allowed all series, while Hertl's was the second Gibson gave up on Wednesday.

TURNING POINT
With 26 seconds remaining in the second period, Jones stretched his right pad on the penalty kill to smother a Corey Perry back-hand shot from in close. The biggest play of the kill came less than a minute into the third, though, when DeBoer challenged Rakell’s apparent goal.

Given how well the Ducks played entering the third, an earlier tying goal very well could have changed the final outcome of Game 4. Instead, the Sharks ran out the clock, and ended the Ducks’ season.

INJURY UPDATE
Ducks: Cam Fowler (shoulder) missed his seventh straight game. Anaheim made no lineup changes from Game 3, meaning Jason Chimera and Andy Welinski played in their second straight games while Antoine Vermette, Troy Terry, Chris Kelly, and Kevin Bieksa were once again scratched.  

Sharks: Joe Thornton (sprained MCL) suited up for warm-ups, but did not dress for the game. San Jose made no other lineup changes.

WHAT’S NEXT
Ducks: Anaheim’s offseason officially began once the clock hit zero at the end of the third period, and the Randy Carlyle-coached club will face a lot of questions this summer. The Ducks will have about $12 million in salary cap space this summer

Sharks: San Jose moves on to the second round, and will stand in the way of the league’s most surprising storyline, and face off against the Pacific Division-champion Vegas Golden Knights. Vegas, an expansion team, swept the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday.

The series start date is to be determined.

Sharks on brink of fourth win and series sweep thanks to fourth line

Sharks on brink of fourth win and series sweep thanks to fourth line

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are all about fours. It takes four wins for a team to advance to the next round, four sets of four victories to clinch a championship, and contributions from four forward lines in order to accomplish either. 

The Sharks are in position to win a fourth game on Wednesday, in Game 4 of their first-round series against the Anaheim Ducks, thanks in no small part to the efforts of the team’s fourth line. Marcus Sorensen, Eric Fehr, and Melker Karlsson played all of six-and-a-half minutes as a trio during the regular season, according to Natural Stat Trick, but they’ve comprised what’s arguably been San Jose’s most impactful line. 

They’ve been on the ice together for two five-on-five goals, as many as the first and second lines. The fourth line did so in nearly 13 and seven-and-a-half fewer minutes of ice time than the top two lines, respectively, according to Corsica Hockey. 

In just over 21 minutes with the fourth line on the ice this postseason, the Sharks have attempted 62.5 percent of the five-on-five shots, and attempted more shots (25) than with any other line. The fourth line has also generated one fewer five-on-five scoring chance (12) than the first and second lines, per Natural Stat Trick.

Sorensen, Fehr, and Karlsson are, to some degree, an unlikely trio. In addition to the lack of ice time with one another in the regular season, Sorensen and Fehr played 23 and 34 games in the AHL this season, respectively. Karlsson, meanwhile, spent at least 25 five-on-five minutes as a part of nine different line combinations, according to Corsica. 

Back in February, we questioned whether or not Fehr was the right solution as the fourth line center when he was first acquired. If we weren’t disproven down the stretch, when the Sharks went 2-4-1 as he nursed a lower-body injury, we certainly have been this postseason.

Fehr’s possession numbers with Sorensen and Karlsson are the best he’s posted with the Sharks on a line that’s played at least 20 minutes. Karlsson’s improved on his regular season possession numbers, too, and is attempting shots (15.01 per hour) and drawing penalties (3.75 per hour) at higher rates than the regular season, according to Natural Stat Trick. 

But Sorensen’s topped them all. No Shark has posted a higher corsi-for percentage (62.5 percent), and San Jose’s five-on-five shot rate with him on the ice (32.5 per hour) is higher than all but two players (Chris Tierney and Brent Burns), according to Corsica. He also leads the team in five-on-five goals (two), and points (three). 

Now, there are some important caveats to note. 21 minutes over three playoff games makes for an extremely small sample size, as does 28-and-a-half across four if you include the regular season. The Sharks also aren’t going to continue to score on 28.57 percent of their five-on-five shots with them on the ice, which is just a tad on the high side. 

Winning the shot-attempt and scoring-chance battles to the degree Karlsson, Fehr, and Sorensen have bodes well for the fourth line’s future performance, though, as well as San Jose’s playoff hopes. After all, in the postseason, four’s a magic number.