Brenden Dillon

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 2-1 double-OT Game 6 win in Vegas

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 2-1 double-OT Game 6 win in Vegas

BOX SCORE

You don't get much more Stanley Cup playoff drama than this. And the Sharks made sure they'll have one more game of it.

After five games of relatively emotional hockey, the Sharks and the Golden Knights played a tight-checking Game 6 at a ferocious pace in what was a pivotal moment for both teams. Vegas had an opportunity to clinch the first-round series on home ice, and San Jose had a chance to force a winner-take-all Game 7.

In the end, Tomas Hertl -- who told the SAP Center crowd after Game 5 that the Sharks would be back Tuesday for a Game 7 -- scored while the Sharks were short-handed 11:17 into the second overtime to give them a 2-1 win.

Here are three takeaways from Game 6 at T-Mobile Arena:

Two words: Martin. Jones.

Any of the Sharks goalie's teammates will tell you he's one cool customer. According to defenseman Brenden Dillon, Jones isn't one to pore over what's said about him on social media. That makes you wonder what was going through his head before Game 6.

Jones was coming off a strong Game 5, but he also was returning to Vegas, where he struggled mightily in Games 3 and 4. There's no denying that a bulk of the focus was on which Jones would show up between the pipes in Game 6.

Needless to say, he was the Sharks' star of the game, after making an all-time franchise-record 58 saves.

San Jose was pinned in its own zone for a good portion of the second period, when Vegas scored its lone goal. But Jones' best save came at the start of the third period, when he absolutely robbed Reilly Smith after the Sharks turned over the puck in the neutral zone. San Jose was completely hemmed in its own zone in the final frame of regulation, not getting a shot on goal for over four minutes.

Without Jones' outstanding performance, the game wouldn't have gone into two OTs.

The celly will be short-lived

No time for the Sharks to celebrate too hard after that win, as it's on to preparations for Game 7 on home ice.

While San Jose did some good things Sunday -- or, in Jones' case, some great things -- it must be better Tuesday. The Sharks were abysmal in the face-off circle, losing 57 of 101 draws, and they had difficulty clearing the puck out of their own zone in the final 40 minutes, giving the Knights far too many chances.

No stopping now

The Sharks need to stop giving the opposition the opportunity to hang around and make things interesting. San Jose looked so worn down by the end of the regulation that it's a wonder the team had anything left in the tank in overtime, let alone double OT.

They have one shot at advancing and facing the Colorado Avalanche in the second round. With momentum gained from this Game 6 win, the Sharks can't miss it.

Sharks keep emotions in check, season alive in Game 5 win vs. Vegas

Sharks keep emotions in check, season alive in Game 5 win vs. Vegas

SAN JOSE – To say this first-round series between the Sharks and the Vegas Golden Knights has been emotional is a bit of an understatement.

The fervor brought on by the Stanley Cup playoffs was at an all-time high for the Sharks in a blowout loss in Game 4 on Tuesday, as an inability to score on Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made their frustration boil over. That, in turn, led to the Sharks lacking defensive discipline and parading to the penalty box. 

But in their season-extending 5-2 win over the Golden Knights in Game 5 on Thursday, the Sharks were on their best behavior. Vegas tried and tried to claw back into the game, and get a rise out of San Jose in the process. In the end, the Sharks didn’t give the Knights that satisfaction.

“A game like this where you lose and you go home for the summer – we understood the importance of it,” Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon said after the win. “We've got to put our emotions to the side, and I think we did a good job of that tonight.”

The Sharks had just four penalty minutes Thursday, compared to 38 in Game 4. San Jose coach Peter DeBoer criticized his team's emotional outburst in that one, and said Thursday he was much happier with how the Sharks handled themselves. 

“I though last game became a little bit of a sideshow,” he said. “We talked about it and I thought we did a better job.”

With the Sharks leading 2-1 in the second period, Vegas tried to get under San Jose’s skin with a little extra pushing and shoving in front of Martin Jones' net. But instead of fully engaging, the Sharks pushed back just enough to not get penalized, and then moved on to score the next goal. Barclay Goodrow redirected Justin Braun's shot past Fleury, giving the Sharks a 3-1 lead with the eventual game-winning goal. 

The Knights eventually showed frustration this time around, particularly netminder Fleury. Tomas Hertl said after Game 1 the Sharks could tell when they got Fleury frazzled, and said after Game 5 he saw that same reaction.

“Every goal he gets a little bit frustrated so we have to keep doing that,” Hertl insisted, admitting he thinks the Sharks can improve on pressuring Fleury. “We have to be a little bit better because he made the last couple huge saves. But we have to keep frustrating him and keep being harder around the net and score a couple more goals.”

While the Sharks found a way to keep those emotions at bay in Game 5, their work isn’t over yet. After forcing a Game 6, the series returns to Sin City where the Knights have the overflowing support from their home crowd. The job of keeping frustration taking over becomes even more critical.

“Fans help them always, so we have to figure it out and be ready for them,” Hertl said.

[RELATED: Hertl pulls a Messier after dominant Game 5]

Hertl himself told the Sharks fans at the Tank in his on-ice interview that Team Teal will be back in the building for a Game 7 on Tuesday. Keeping their emotions in check and staying out of the penalty box will be big keys to making his prophecy a reality.

“There’s no room to mess around,” Goodrow said. “We’ll have to go in with the same mindset that we had tonight and come out with the win and force Game 7 here.”

Sharks must make changes with no Marc-Edouard Vlasic vs. Golden Knights

vlasicblackus.jpg
USATSI

Sharks must make changes with no Marc-Edouard Vlasic vs. Golden Knights

After two days of mystery, the Sharks have confirmed that defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic will be out of the lineup for Game 3 after sustaining an undisclosed injury in San Jose's Game 2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Tim Heed will fill in Vlasic's place when the Sharks take the ice at T-Mobile Arena for Sunday night's Stanley Cup playoff game.

So, what exactly do the Sharks have to do to not let the absence affect their game?

As was discussed on NBC Sports California’s live Facebook Q&A earlier Sunday morning, San Jose will benefit if its defense plays a “measured” game. Not just a full 60-minute game, but a consistent one as well.

A prime example of inconsistency is the effort in Game 2: After putting so much energy and emotion into rallying out of a 3-0 hole to tie the score at 3 before the first intermission, the Sharks’ overall game fell back on its heels.

Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said in his pregame chat with the media that he wants his team to do a better job of “stopping the bleeding” if the Knights grab onto the momentum. Playing a more measured game can help with that.

Vlasic’s absence also will require other blueliners to step up and give the team steady ice time. San Jose relied heavily on Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson after Vlasic exited Game 2, with Burns clocking 28:36 minutes of ice time and Karlsson skating 29:08 minutes. Getting more time from Brenden Dillon and Justin Braun can help keep the Sharks' defensive effort be more consistent.

But DeBoer told the media Sunday morning that he also wants to see Heed and Joakim Ryan “give us minutes” -- certainly a stark contrast to the 7:34-minute outing that Ryan logged in Game 2. Since DeBoer has kept his defensive pairings a bit fluid at the start of this first-round series, there’s a chance Ryan and Heed could be moved around during the game even though Ryan was paired with Burns during practice, while Heed skated with Braun.

However the pairs shake up, San Jose’s defense has to stop Vegas from taking an early lead and building momentum.

“The one thing they’ve been very good at has been grabbing momentum and then building on it,” DeBoer said of the Golden Knights. He said he wants to see his team respond right after the fact, “whether that’s a save, a kill, whatever it is. A shot block, a momentum shift right after.”

[RELATED: How Vlasic injury would affect Sharks in Game 3 vs. Vegas]

San Jose already has its hands full as the Round 1 series shifts buildings. The Sharks had a 1-1-0 regular-season record in the Golden Knights’ home barn, but they went 1-2-0 there during last year’s playoffs and were outscored 15-7. Additionally, the Sharks’ power play, which struggled in Game 2, registered just 18.8 percent in last year’s playoffs, with three goals in 16 opportunities on the man advantage.

On a positive note, however, San Jose’s penalty kill fared well at T-Mobile during last year’s playoffs, functioning at 75 percent.