San Jose Sharks goaltender Martin Jones was a key player in Game 5 on Thursday. He will need to have a repeat performance in Game 6 on Sunday. (Bruce Bennett/Pool Photo via AP)

Sharks know getting ahead early a key to survival

Throughout the Stanley Cup finals, San Jose Sharks players have made it clear that if they scored the first goal, it would be a totally different contest, and in Game 5 they did just that.

San Jose struck first, scoring two goals in two minutes. They ultimately defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2, forcing the series to return to SAP Center on Sunday trailing three games to two, but still clinging to life.

“We found a way to get on the board early and that changes the game,” San Jose defenseman Paul Martin said on Thursday. “… We haven’t been able to do that all series and it gave us a little momentum and let them know we were right there.”

Four different Sharks found the back of the net on Thursday, but goaltender Martin Jones was the key to victory. Jones faced 46 shots from the Penguins, the most saves in regulation in a Stanley Cup elimination game since 1968.

Pittsburgh has outshot San Jose 179-120 so far in the series, but three of San Jose’s goals were scored in their first five shots on Thursday.

“I think it goes to show what the shot stat significance is, at least in our mind … I don’t think it’s always an accurate reflection of the game,” head coach Peter DeBoer said in a conference call on Friday. “Our analytics run much deeper than the shot clock.”

The Sharks were able to play Pittsburgh along the boards and managed to keep pressure on them for most of the game.

San Jose is at a pivotal point in the series. If they can dig deep and beat Pittsburgh at home on Sunday, they will return to Consol Energy Center for Game 7 on Wednesday. If they lose, the Penguins will be hoisting the Stanley Cup. Pittsburgh has won all three of their Stanley Cup championships on the road.

“Guys aren’t giving up,” Sharks defenseman Justin Braun said after Game 5. “We’ve got confidence in this group and we’re going to keep pushing forward.”

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