Sharks must focus on not falling behind early in do-or-die Game 5

Sharks must focus on not falling behind early in do-or-die Game 5

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.

[RELATED: Why Jones starting Game 5 shouldn't be surprising]

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.”

49ers' Dante Pettis suggests Drake curse would help Sharks beat Vegas

49ers' Dante Pettis suggests Drake curse would help Sharks beat Vegas

Dante Pettis has an idea for the Sharks to get back in their first-round Stanley Cup playoffs series against the Vegas Golden Knights. 

On Wednesday night, he 49ers wide receiver suggested on Twitter that Drake should wear a Golden Knights sweater on the same night the Toronto Maple Leafs lost 6-4 to the Boston Bruins ... with the global megastar in attendance, wearing a Leafs jersey. 

The "curse" of Drake is the well-observed phenomenon that teams often lose after meeting with the rapper, or after he wears the teams' gear. It struck twice on Wednesday -- the aforementioned Leafs loss, and English soccer juggernaut Manchester City losing to Tottenham Hotspur on aggregate in the Champions League Quarterfinals. Guess which of those two teams had their star striker meet Drake last month? 

And guess which English club Pettis was rooting for Wednesday?  

In other words, he knows full well how powerful the curse can be. Desperate times call for desperate measures, as Pettis' Sharks will face elimination in Thursday's Game 5 thanks to their 3-1 deficit in the best-of-seven series.

[RELATED: Why Jones starting in Game 5 vs. Vegas shouldn't be surprising]

Pettis, a San Clemente native, adopted the Sharks as his favorite hockey team back in February. He also was in attendance for Game 1 a week ago, which just so happens to be the last game the Sharks won. 

Perhaps the Sharks just need Pettis' (in-person) blessing -- rather than Drake's curse -- to get back in this series. 

Why Martin Jones starting Game 5 vs. Vegas shouldn't surprise Sharks fans

Why Martin Jones starting Game 5 vs. Vegas shouldn't surprise Sharks fans

SAN JOSE – It’s perhaps the most talked-about and most controversial topic in the current first-round matchup between the San Jose Sharks and the Vegas Golden Knights: Who Team Teal decides to start between the pipes.

The topic has grown more polarizing, to the point that social media poll questions have been created and arguments on Twitter have become the norm. (Take it from a writer who’s had fans fighting in her mentions this whole week.)

The Sharks’ goaltending was a cause for concern throughout most of the regular season, and through those stretches, head coach Peter DeBoer and the bulk of San Jose’s squad has maintained that they have every bit of faith in starter Martin Jones. Even when DeBoer was critical of the goaltending in his comments following a 5-0 loss in Game 4 on Tuesday night, he stopped short of putting all the blame on Jones, or backup goaltender Aaron Dell.

“He’s got to be better,” DeBoer said of Jones, but later added: “When you look at the game, you can’t put this all on the goalies. You have to score, too.”

Jones will get that chance to be better – better than letting Vegas score a goal less than a minute into a period, better than getting upended by a breakaway, better all-around – on Thursday night, because DeBoer has tapped him to start Game 5.

As crazy as it may sound to some, the decision to send Jones back out there despite his troubles is consistent with what the Sharks have said since the beginning of the regular season. Even when San Jose went through that long stretch of losses at the end of the regular season, the team never once heaped the blame onto the goaltending.

“They should have a stat that says ‘belief in your goaltender,’” DeBoer said back on April 9. “If they had that stat, Jonesy would be batting 1.000 with our group. There’s not been one mumble or whisper within our group about him or our confidence in him to get the job done.”

That’s not to say that, even with the Sharks sticking to that same mentality, the decision to put Jones back in the crease to start Game 5 has come with its fair share of raised eyebrows. He has allowed the Golden Knights to score the first goal of the game within the first two minutes of every opening period in each of the last three games.

In Game 3, he was beaten by the puck less than a minute into each period. After the Sharks got down 2-0 after the first 20 minutes in Game 4, Dell replaced him in net. Through just four games in these playoffs, Jones has allowed 13 goals for a GAA of 5.33.

[RELATED: Five observations as Sharks face elimination]

This isn’t to say Jones is the only member of the team that has struggled through the bulk of the current playoff series. After putting on a dominant performance over the Golden Knights in Game 1 and digging their way out of a three-goal hole in the first period of Game 2, the Sharks began breaking down defensively and letting their emotions get the best of them. Add to the fact that the goaltender on the other end of the ice has been playing out of his mind, and you have a recipe for disaster. In that case, DeBoer is right – you can’t put all the blame on the goalie when the offense isn’t scoring any goals to pick up the slack.

Now it’s just a matter of seeing how much leeway Jones is given in Game 5. If the Golden Knights are able to get on the board early yet again, that faith in Jones to get the job done in a do-or-die game is going to be greatly tested.