SAN JOSE –- This playing at home thing may not be so concerning for the Sharks, after all.
After a miserable regular season in their own building, the Sharks won their fourth straight game at SAP Center –- including all three of their second round playoff series games against Nashville -– 5-1 on Saturday night.
The Sharks, now up three-games-to-two, are one win away from their first appearance in the Western Conference final since 2011. Game 6 is at Bridgestone Arena on Monday.
Joe Pavelski led the way with a pair of goals, while Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture and Melker Karlsson also found the net. Martin Jones snapped a two-game losing streak with 24 saves.
The teams traded first-period goals before Pavelski gave San Jose the lead for good.
Less than two minutes after Mike Fisher tied the game, Pavelski one-timed a brilliant backhanded dish from Joe Thornton along the wall at 17:21 to the top corner, giving the Sharks a 2-1 edge before the first intermission.
San Jose tacked on two more in the second. Just 35 seconds into the middle frame, Couture slipped a breakaway attempt through Pekka Rinne’s five-hole. The play began with a neutral zone turnover by Colin Wilson to Joonas Donskoi, who spotted his centerman with a step on the defense.
The Sharks got their first power play of the night in the final minute of the second, on Roman Josi’s trip of Couture. It took all of nine seconds of Pavelski to whack home his second of the evening, set up by Patrick Marleau. It was the captain’s eighth marker, which ties him for the NHL lead with Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov.
Marleau, who was bumped up to the second line wing for the game, scored the Sharks’ first goal, capping off a dominant first half of the first period for the home team. Donskoi set it up from behind the net with a slick backhanded pass across the grain, which Marleau promptly cracked inside the near post at 10:47.
Fisher, who was the Game 4 hero with his triple overtime goal, tied it at 15:40 when Justin Braun lost track of him. He flicked in a short pass from James Neal in front of the net for his fifth goal.
There were a number of penalties handed out at 16:01 of the third period. Ryan Johansen and Mike Ribeiro were given 10-minute misconducts, while Johansen and Thornton also earned minors.
Karlsson’s goal with 48 seconds left capped the scoring.
The Sharks altered their active lineup for the first time in the postseason, as Dainius Zubrus made his playoff debut in place of Tommy Wingels, who was a healthy scratch.
The Sharks are 4-1 at home in the playoffs, while Nashville fell to 3-4 on the road.
The Sharks finished 1-for-3 on the power play, although their second was negated just 10 seconds in after Joel Ward high-sticked Paul Gaustad. They are 5-for-17 in the series.
Nashville was 0-for-3, and is 3-for-18 in the series.
The game was penalty-free until Brenden Dillon’s interference minor at 10:31 of the second period.
Jones improved to 7-2 in his brief playoff career. He got some help in the first period when Filip Forsberg rang one off the post in the second minute while the game was still scoreless.
Rinne allowed more than three goals for the first time in seven games, allowing four scores on 27 shots. He’s 6-6 this playoff season, and 21-25 in his career.
Carter Hutton entered the game for the final few minutes of the third after the multiple penalties, allowing Karlsson’s marker on two shots.
Along with inserting Zubrus for the first time, the Sharks shuffled up their lines. Marleau skated on the Couture line with Donskoi; Chris Tierney moved up to the third line center with Ward and Matt Nieto, while Zubrus, Karlsson and Nick Spaling comprised the fourth line.
For Nashville, Ribeiro returned for rookie Pontus Aberg after sitting out the previous two games.
Colin Wilson increased his playoff scoring streak to six games (3g, 5a).
Game 6 in Nashville on Monday begins at 6 p.m. PT. The Sharks are 7-3 all-time when leading a playoff series three-games-to-two, and improved to 14-16 all-time in Game 5’s.
The Blues lead the Stars in the other Western Conference second round series, three-games-to-two.