Sharks

Instant Replay: Sharks eliminate Blues, reach first Cup Final

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Instant Replay: Sharks eliminate Blues, reach first Cup Final

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -– The quarter-century wait is officially over.

For the first time in the 25-year history of the franchise, the Sharks have moved on to the Stanley Cup Final, beating the Blues on Wednesday night at SAP Center, 5-2.

Joel Ward scored twice while Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and Logan Couture also added goals as San Jose won the Western Conference Final series, four-games-to-two.

The Sharks will face the winner of the Penguins-Lightning series in the Stanley Cup Final, beginning on Monday. Should the Lightning win Game 7 on Thursday, the series would start in San Jose. It would begin in Pittsburgh if the Penguins, who won Game 6, prevail.

The Sharks scored one goal in each of the first two periods before putting it away in the third.

A crazy sequence was capped off with Pavelski opening the scoring. It started with Martin Jones, who got just enough of an Alex Steen shot with his glove before the Sharks transitioned the other way. Joe Thornton lifted the puck high on a breakaway, but stayed with it behind the net and tapped it to Pavelski, who tucked it through Brian Elliott at 3:57.

San Jose kept its foot on the gas for the rest of the period and into the second in eventually increasing its lead. Brent Burns harmless looking floater from along the wall and just inside the blue line was redirected by Ward, stationed in front of the net at 5:02.

Three straight penalties later in the middle frame presented the Sharks with a chance to increase their advantage, but it didn’t happen. They couldn’t get anything going after Troy Brouwer’s undisciplined elbow to Donskoi’s head in the neutral zone, and then failed to score on a four-minute double minor to Scottie Upshall for high-sticking Tommy Wingels.

St. Louis seized the momentum at that point, but Jones helped preserve the 2-0 cushion until the intermission. His best stop came on a Jori Lehtera one-timer with 9:10 to go, getting his left pad on the hard blast by the Blues’ center.

The Sharks tacked on two more in the third. Ward got behind St. Louis’ Dmitrij Jaskin and poked a Couture pass into a wide open net at 3:01 for his fourth goal in the last two games.

About five minutes later, Donskoi finished off a nice passing sequence from Patrick Marleau and Couture, whipping it through at 8:11 to effectively put the game away.

Vladimir Tarasenko scored a pair late. His first point of the series came with 8:21 to go in the third, and he brought the Blues back to within 4-2 when he jammed it through Jones at 16:25 with the goalie off for an extra attacker.

The Sharks survived a few nervous moments after that as the Blues continued to pressure with the goalie pulled, but Couture put it away with an empty net goal with 19.7 seconds left.

The Sharks improved to 8-0 in the playoffs when leading after two periods. They have outscored the opposition 29-14 in the third period overall.

Special teams

The Sharks went 0-for-3 on the power play, with three shots on goal in six minutes even. They finished the series 4-for-19.

The Blues did not have a power play in the game, and were 4-for-16 in the series.

In goal

Jones had struggled in games four and five, allowing seven goals on 40 shots, but recorded his second straight home win in a closeout game with 23 saves. He is 12-6 in the playoffs.

Elliott, who was pulled late in Game 3, returned to the net after it was Jake Allen in who started the last two. He allowed four goals on 26 shots, and finished the postseason with a 9-9 record.

Lineup

Pavelski recorded at least one point in every game in the series. He has a seven-game point streak overall (5g, 5a).

The Blues made one change to their fourth line, inserting Upshall back in for Magnus Paajarvi after Upshall had missed the last three games with an upper body injury.

Up next

The Sharks split the season series with both Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay, going 1-1 against each.

Why Sharks think they're turning things around after win over Oilers

Why Sharks think they're turning things around after win over Oilers

SAN JOSE -- Suffice to say, the Sharks don't look like the same team that started a six-game homestand on Nov. 1 with one of the worst records in the NHL.

With a 6-3 win over the Pacific Division-leading Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night, the Sharks have won four in a row and appear to be climbing out of the hole they dug themselves in the first month of the season.

Not to jump the gun or anything, The Sharks aren't out of the woods yet. But after the past six games, it looks like they're finally turning the corner and playing the way they expect to.

"Every game, I feel like we're more comfortable," said Tomas Hertl, who scored a goal Tuesday. "Everybody plays better. So now we have to just keep going."

The Sharks spent a good chunk of the first month of the season looking out of sync -- offensively, defensively, you name it. The culprit? Focusing too much on individual play and not working together as a unit.

"We weren't playing our system," Marc-Edouard Vlasic summarized Tuesday. "We were freelancing. We were doing our own thing. And it's funny when you stick to it, to what you do best, the results follow."

Erik Karlsson, Vlasic's defensive partner, agreed.

"We lost ourselves a little bit," said Karlsson, who had three assists Tuesday. "But right now we're working hard for each other and getting ourselves in good spots out there."

Sticking to that system yielded positive production on Tuesday against the Oilers. The Sharks scored six goals, and largely contained Oilers superstars Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. 

"We had a big task in stopping one of the best lines in hockey and I think we did a good job of that," Karlsson said. "I think everyone contributed offensively and defensively. I think we played the right way for 60 minutes even though they scored three goals. But I think we stuck with it."

"They're at the top of the division and I thought we did a good job of defending McDavid and Draisaitl as a group tonight," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer added. "I thought we had some individuals who did a really good job, but I thought everyone on the ice with those guys was aware."

Of course, getting the jump on the Oilers fewer than five minutes into the game didn't hurt, either. 

"We got the first goal, which took a little bit of the pressure off," DeBoer said. "We got to play out in front most of the night. Those kinds of things make a difference."

[RELATED: Sharks' Baker shares mental health journey in HEADSTRONG]

Now, as Hertl mentioned, the Sharks have to keep going. With an 8-10-1 record, San Jose is still under .500.

That's not good enough for a team accustomed to playing in the postseason. 

"If you're under (.500) you're not in the playoffs," Hertl said. "We're trying the best and over the last four games, we actually look like the Sharks."

If they keep looking like the Sharks that Hertl is talking about, the outlook on the season gets a little brighter.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 6-3 win over Pacific-best Oilers

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 6-3 win over Pacific-best Oilers

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- If there was a high note for the Sharks to end their six-game homestand on, they hit it against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday.

The Sharks offensively overpowered the Pacific Division-leading Oilers at SAP Center. Logan Couture and Erik Karlsson had multi-point nights and Barclay Goodrow registered a Gordie Howe hat trick as San Jose skated to a 6-3 victory. 

Here are three takeaways from the Sharks' fourth-straight win.

Coming alive 5-on-5

As fans are probably all too aware, the Sharks had a ton of trouble scoring goals at even strength at the start of the homestand. But as they have improved over this six-game span, their 5-on-5 game has come alive. San Jose scored five even-strength goals in the first 40 minutes Tuesday, the team's most impressive 5-on-5 performance of the season. 

To make things better, the Sharks got scoring from their bottom six in Tuesday's game courtesy of third-liner Patrick Marleau's first-period goal. If San Jose can start getting production from the fourth line as well, the Sharks' offense will be in really good shape going forward.


Playing more than 20 minutes

The Sharks went into the first intermission with a 3-0 lead but had a feisty Oilers' team pushing to get on the board. And as the Sharks learned from their back-and-forth 6-5 win over the Minnesota Wild last week, only playing well for the first 20 minutes isn't a good formula for winning games. 

But the Sharks didn't sit back on their heels, instead scoring another goal 1:26 into the second period and then another before the intermission. Even though the Oilers scored three goals in the last two periods, San Jose had enough of a lead to keep the damage minimal.

Not too shabby for a team with one of the league's worst goal differentials at the start of the homestand.

[RELATED: Sharks' Baker shares mental health journey in HEADSTRONG]

The Sharks' best game to date?

Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. The Sharks have certainly played much better over the last four games, but there are still a couple of areas they need to tighten up as they try to climb their way to a .500 record.

Although the Sharks built a big enough cushion, they did let up a bit Tuesday and allow two goals in the third period to let the Oilers make things interesting. As we discussed earlier, that's exactly how the Sharks almost gave up last week's game to the Wild.

While San Jose goaltender Martin Jones did a pretty solid job against Edmonton's offense, the defense in front of him needs to stay tight late into games so they don't end up blowing any late leads.