Twenty-five years to the day since their very first playoff game, the Sharks evaded elimination Thursday night at SAP Center, and reinvigorated the fanbase with a convincing performance in their 5-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series.
This series has shown two sides of San Jose — Games 1 and 5, where they were decidedly the better team through 60 minutes and controlled much of the play. That's a sharp contrast to Games 2, 3, and 4 — where it looked like summer could have an unfortunate early start after three convincing wins from Vegas.
Here are five observations from the Sharks' 5-2 win that sent the series back to Vegas with the San Jose trailing 3-2:
Jones steps up
Martin Jones was the headliner of Game 5, and he deserves to be. This was a critical decision for Peter DeBoer to give Jones the starting assignment -- some would even say against the grain -- after Jones had been pulled in each of the previous two losses.
It was a solid performance by the Sharks’ primary netminder through the first 40-plus minutes, but it turned into an exceptional one when he stoned Reilly Smith in the third period.
That “wow” moment later led to a Sharks power play which saw Tomas Hertl give San Jose some insurance by lighting the lamp to extend the lead to two.
Puck possession that didn’t feed transition
The Sharks' prior two losses saw them struggle in the face-off circle, winning just 45 percent and 46 percent in Games 3 and 4, respectively. All San Jose did in Game 5 was win a whopping 63 percent of its draws, which led to the domino effect of having the puck, and not turning it over. This limited the quantity and quality of opportunities for Vegas, and therefore helped the cause in the crease.
The Sharks in front of Jones didn’t have to ask for a ton of (extra) key saves because they didn’t allow a ton of (extra) key chances.
Complete (early) role reversal
When the Sharks scored 76 seconds into the game, they gained the early lead that Vegas had rallied around in each of the last three contests. Making the Golden Knights play from behind for the first time in a week set the tone for the entire game. And just on body language alone, it seemed to give the Sharks a noticeable confidence boost.
Good for Goodrow
In the Sharks' second 5-2 win of the series, the winning marker may have got lost in the shuffle.
But it shouldn’t.
Barclay Goodrow notched his first ever Stanley Cup playoff goal, and the redirect was assisted by another guy who isn’t a primary scorer in Justin Braun. Depth scoring was a strong point for San Jose in the regular season, but it had yet to really make its mark in the second season.
So, what now?
If the teams had alternated wins and losses to arrive at this juncture, nobody would be surprised. It would have seemed like a back-and-forth slugfest that the Golden Knights slightly held the edge in. But those three decisive Vegas wins really soured the San Jose perspective on the remainder of the series.
Regardless, here we are now with the rare two days off in between games. Where San Jose gets a little healthier, and Vegas has to dwell on their missed opportunity of closing the door in Game 5.
The pressure shifts to Vegas to close out the series in Game 6, otherwise, they'll be forced to come back to The Tank for a do-or-die Game 7 they likely want no part of.