Sharks

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-2 win vs. Vegas in Game 5

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-2 win vs. Vegas in Game 5

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SAN JOSE – It was do-or-die for the Sharks on Thursday night, with the fate of their Stanley Cup playoffs run hanging in the balance. San Jose rose to the occasion in fine fashion in Game 5 of the first round, beating the Vegas Golden Knights 5-2 to extend the best-of-seven series. 

Here are three takeaways from Game 5.

Preventing that early goal made a huge difference

Giving up a goal in the first five minutes of Games 2 through 4 wasn't the only reason the Sharks lost all three games. But it’s amazing how different their overall game looked when they buckled down, and didn’t allow Vegas to get that early jump Thursday. Even though Vegas had the advantage on the shot clock through the first 20 minutes, San Jose was visibly doing a better job breaking up the Golden Knights' offense. 

It didn’t hurt that goaltender Martin Jones had a bounce-back performance after giving up two goals on seven shots in his previous start. He made a couple of big saves early in the second period when the team in front of him wasn’t getting any good scoring chances. But, perhaps his best save came on Reilly Smith in the third period while the Knights pressed for a game-tying goal.


The blue line put forward its best effort since Game 1

It was incredible how much more sound San Jose’s defense was with Marc-Edouard back in the lineup. After he exited Game 2, the blue line really struggled in his absence. In his return Thursday, San Jose’s defense did a significantly better job taking the ice away from Vegas.

Also helping was the fact the duties were more evenly divvied up among the defensemen with Vlasic back in the lineup. Brent Burns was better with Vlasic back as his defense partner. Erik Karlsson – who looked much faster and healthier than he did in Games 3 and 4 – could once again play around 22 minutes, but Vlasic (23:43) was there to slot the remaining defensemen in their proper places. Brenden Dillon, Karlsson's partner, gets honorable mention for laying some monster hits on Vegas.

[RELATED: Stop the presses! Sharks take first lead in a week]

What to work on for Game 6

With some momentum back in their favor, the Sharks can extend their season again in Game 6. They’ll have the best chance of doing that if they keep their defense tight – and tighten up on their special teams.

Even though Tomas Hertl got the power-play goal late in the third period, San Jose still needs to capitalize on more of its chances. The Sharks will also need to beware of going to the penalty box in Game 6, because both of Vegas' goals in Game 5 came on the power play. With Game 6 back in front of a raucous Vegas crowd, the Golden Knights will work extra hard to draw an emotional response from the Sharks, as was the case late in Game 4. 

If the Sharks can fix those areas, though, they could return to the Tank for a Game 7. 

NHL awards: Sharks' Joe Thornton misses out on first Masterton Trophy

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AP

NHL awards: Sharks' Joe Thornton misses out on first Masterton Trophy

Before Joe Thornton makes his return to the Sharks official by putting pen to paper, the veteran center missed out an adding another trophy to his collection.

The 39-year-old did not pick up the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy at Wednesday's 2019 NHL Awards as "the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey," with the award going to New York Islanders goaltender Robin Lehner.

The 2018-19 season marked Thornton's second consecutive campaign recovering from a torn ACL and MCL. He tore the ligaments in his right knee on Jan. 23, 2018, just over nine months after doing the same in his left knee. 

Despite that, Thornton scored 51 points (16 goals, 35 assists) in 73 regular-season games during his 21st NHL season and became a fixture on the Sharks' third line. It was his 17th season with at least 50 points, tying him for 10th in NHL history with the most such seasons. 

[RELATED: Here's why Marleau reunion doesn't make sense for Sharks]

Lehner, 27, won 25 games with the Islanders and was second among NHL goalies (minimum of 10 games played) in save percentage (.930) and third in goals against average (2.13) in the best season of his career.

Before the season, Lehner wrote an article for The Athletic and revealed he had suicidal thoughts while battling drug and alcohol addiction. He wrote that he "was diagnosed bipolar 1 with manic phases" while underoing treatment in Arizona, and revealed his struggles in order to "help make a difference and help others the way I have been helped." 

Columbus Blue Jackets winger Nick Foligno was the other finalist. Foligno, 31, scored 35 points (17 goals, 18 assists) in 73 games, missing time in November and March as two of his three children had separate health scares. He told NHL.com's Dan Rosen in a story this week that his nomination was "humbling and I appreciate it, but it's something that feels weird to me because I get to play a game for a living, and I've got a pretty good life considering all this stuff."

NHL awards: Sharks' Brent Burns finishes second in Norris Trophy voting

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USATSI

NHL awards: Sharks' Brent Burns finishes second in Norris Trophy voting

Brent Burns made the medal stand, but he did not pick up his second career Norris Trophy on Wednesday.

Instead, Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano won his first at the 2019 NHL Awards in Las Vegas.

Burns, 34, scored 83 points (16 goals, 67 assists) in 82 games, setting a Sharks franchise record for points by a defenseman. He became the first blueliner to score at least 82 points in a season since Karlsson did so with the Ottawa Senators in 2015-16, and only the 48th in NHL history.

This marked the third time in the last four seasons that Burns was a finalist for the award, and he dressed for the occasion.

Burns finished second in the Professional Hockey Writers Association's balloting.

Giordano, 35, scored a career-high 74 points (17 goals, 57 assists) and led the Western Conference-leading Flames in ice time en route to being a first-time Norris finalist. 

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman was the other nominee. Hedman, 28, scored 54 points (12 goals, 42 assists) in 70 games, leading the loaded Lightning to a runaway President's Trophy win in a record-setting regular season.