SAN JOSE – Ahead of a do-or-die Game 5, the Sharks aren’t looking to do anything fancy. They just want to push their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series to a Game 6 – and that starts with getting through the first period without trailing the Vegas Golden Knights on the scoreboard.
“I think that’s probably the biggest thing when you point to what’s gone on here the last three games,” Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer told NBC Sports California when he addressed the media after Thursday’s morning skate. "I think when you’re chasing the game like that early, you can get exposed and the stats show it. We know that having played out in front this year. It’s a lot easier playing out in front than it is from behind.”
The Sharks haven’t had a lead in the series since their Game 1 victory just a little over a week ago and have been out-scored 13-3 since tying Vegas 3-3 in the first frame of Game 2.
In all three games following the 5-2 Game 1 win, the Sharks have given up the first goal within the first few minutes of the opening puck drop -- Game 3 was especially bad, with Vegas scoring a goal less than a minute into each frame.
Game 4 was perhaps San Jose’s most frustrating outing yet, as the Sharks outshot Vegas 18-7 in the first period but went into the intermission trailing 2-0. They maintained a lead on the shot sheet through 40 minutes, then became emotional in the third frame en route to being shut out 5-0.
To keep all of that from happening again, the Sharks have to not just tighten up defensively, but not let their offensive woes from the previous game linger in their minds.
“You’ve got to bounce back,” Timo Meier said, telling NBC Sports California that getting out of the first period unscathed requires them to be more engaged from the second the game starts.
“For us, it’s important to start the right way,” Meier summarized. “Everybody has to be on their toes right when the puck drops. That’s on us to get ready for tonight – do whatever you can and get yourself ready.”
To get ready, Meier continued, the Sharks need to get back to what made them so successful in Game 1.
“We’ve just got to get back to basics,” he said. “Play hard, work hard. We know what’s on the line.”
Even as they get set to play in their own barn – where they have had the most success all season – the odds are stacked up against the Sharks with their backs against the wall. Team Teal has a 16-18 record all-time in Game 5 situations and is 12-20 all-time when facing playoff elimination. Nevertheless, the Sharks still have faith in their ability to bounce back.
“It’s that time of year,” Meier said. “We know what we can do. We’re confident in ourselves. We know this group can do this. That’s all that matters.”