SAN JOSE — Joe Thornton darted around the ice as he and the Sharks went through a brief but brisk practice Saturday morning before they departed for Las Vegas. Situational drills, power play and penalty kill work — the scene was nothing out the ordinary.
Neither was Thornton’s demeanor: all business when there was work to be done, smiling and having fun as practice began to wind down.
Sharks fourth line must keep rolling to force Game 7
The Sharks’ season will once again on the line Sunday when they face the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena in Game 6 of their opening round playoff series.
Video: 04/18/19 First Round, Gm5: Golden Knights @ Sharks
San Jose trails the best-of-7 series three games to two, and there’s nothing guaranteed — for Thornton, who is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July, or the Sharks — beyond Sunday.
But at the very least, in the here and now, the work he’s put in over the past two-plus years has allowed him to be a part of a moment like this.
“That’s the goal, is to play meaningful games, get back and try to compete and work with the guys,” Thornton said. “A lot of people are in that equation that helped me get back so, it’s a good feeling.”
Of course, the biggest contribution the fourth line made was in the second stanza when Goodrow found the back of the net. San Jose was holding onto a 2-1 lead when the fourth-line center redirected a Justin Braun shot from up top to give the Sharks a much-needed two-goal cushion.
“He’s special with the work he’s put in to get back to get his game back up to a high level, especially after the injuries he’s gone through,” Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said. “As players, this is definitely the time you love. You get to test your skills in the biggest moments. They’re just fun games to play in.”
SAN JOSE – Sure, its something of a cliché to say a team has to roll four lines in order to be successful. But its true. When the Sharks have been at their best this season, its because their depth has shown through.
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Thornton has persevered through two major knee surgeries, an infection in his right knee in October, followed by a broken toe and an ankle injury.
For these reasons, Thornton on Saturday was named a finalist for the Masterton Trophy, an award presented by the Professional Hockey Writer’s Association to the player “who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
Timing is the key to life and great goaltending. In the playoffs, when you make the saves is as important as how many you make. After Vegas scored to make it 3-2, Jones made the save of the game and maybe the series. On a Vegas rush chance, Jones slammed his right pad down on Reilly Smiths chance to tie the score.Related Articles Sharks practice with power play adjustment After adversity, Sharks’ Joe Thornton is enjoying the moment Sharks’ Erik Karlsson continues to make strides Here’s the post-game guarantee Tomas Hertl really meant to issue What time is the Sharks’ playoff game Sunday?
Winger Nick Foligno of the Columbus Blue Jackets and goaltender Robin Lehner of the New York Islanders were also named finalists. The winner will be announced June 19.
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Thornton appreciated the recognition, although it’s not exactly been the biggest thing on his mind.
“One, he’s a worthy candidate and I also look at that list and I’m impressed by all three of those guys,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said. “It’s a great list to be on. I know Joe’s concentration is winning the Stanley Cup and the personal award stuff is for down the road.”
He was of course suspended for Game 4 for an illegal check to the head of Tomas Nosek in last Sunday’s Game 3, which forced Pavelski to play center.
But Thornton also has a point in each of the four games he’s played this series, his first since 2017 when he skated on torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee in the final four games of the Sharks’ first round series against the Edmonton Oilers.
Thornton now has 127 points in 164 playoff games, as his assist on Tomas Hertl’s third period power play goal in Game 5 on Thursday moved him past Patrick Marleau and Maurice Richard on the NHL’s all-time playoff points list. Thornton is tied for 47th all-time with Yvan Cournoyer and Luc Robitaille.
Five observations from Sharks Game 5 win over Vegas
“He makes a difference,” DeBoer said of Thornton. “Adding him and (Marc-Edouard Vlasic) back in, we’re a different team. Thankfully we’ve got all hands on deck here for Game 6.”
DeBoer isnt wrong. The Sharks havent faired well in many of their visits to the Knights home barn, particularly during the current best-of-seven series. San Jose was outscored 11-3 in Games 3 and 4 at T-Mobile Arena and went 1-for-7 on the power play, which is not good when youre trying to defeat a team that is stealthy at capitalizing on their opponents mistakes. While their Game 5 performance was a vast improvement – they finally kept that Pacioretty-Stastny-Stone line off the scoreboard, for starters – they still need to use the two days prep for Game 6 wisely.
The Sharks, of course, made it to the second round last season before they were eliminated by the Golden Knights. Thornton didn’t play that series, still rehabbing from the torn ACL and MCL he suffered in Jan. 2018.
This isnt to say that San Jose is playing at any more of a grueling pace than other teams in the playoffs. But bumps and bruises are quite common this time of year. Marc-Edouard Vlasic missed two straight playoff games after being hit by a puck during Game 2, Erik Karlsson is still bouncing back from a regular- season injury — heck, Logan Couture is the second player who has had to make a trip to the dentist after losing teeth during a game.
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Related Articles Sharks practice with power play adjustment Drew Remenda on the Sharks: No guarantees — but a plan Sharks’ Erik Karlsson continues to make strides Here’s the post-game guarantee Tomas Hertl really meant to issue What time is the Sharks’ playoff game Sunday? Thornton said at the time that if the Sharks had managed to make it to the Western Conference final, he could have played.
He’s back now, though, trying to make sure the moments that he’s enjoying right now last for at least one more game beyond Sunday.
“It’s going to be great,” Thornton said. “We’re excited, they’re excited. It’s a great building to play in.”
They get the same luxury, Karlsson pointed out, before adding that San Jose isnt putting too much thought into what the other team is doing. I think our biggest focus is on ourselves and what we have to do to be successful.
Martin Jones struggles against the Golden Knights have been well-documented. Following a solid effort from the 29-year-old in Game 1, Jones allowed 11 goals on just 54 shots and was pulled two times in the following three contests.
Game 5, though, was a totally different story. Jones put together the his best performance of the series, stopping 30 of Vegas 32 shots — and one of those saves wound up being his biggest save of the series. With the Knights down one goal with 7:40 remaining in regulation, Jones made a huge pad save on Reilly Smith to deny a quality 2-on-1 opportunity.
Jones may not have a great track record against the Golden Knights, but Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer stuck with his netminder in Game 5, and Jones rewarded him for it in a big way.
While Jones play in Game 5 was impressive, the Golden Knights didnt exactly do a great job at testing him with high-danger opportunities as often as they normally have this series. Through two periods, the majority of Vegas shots were coming from low-danger areas, as evidenced by the graphic below.
The Knights did manage to generate more quality opportunities in the final frame, however — likely a side effect of their desperation to end this series early. For Vegas to win Game 6, though, they will need to continue to pepper Martin Jones with quality scoring chances. If they are unable to accomplish that, this series could very well go the distance.
Quality chances may not have been abundant, but the Knights did take advantage of the opportunities presented to them on the power play. Vegas only received a pair of attempts on the man advantage Thursday night (amazing, considering the amount of penalties weve seen early in the series), but they converted on both of them. Reilly Smith got the first goal (though it was a bit fluky) and Jonathan Marchessault netted the second, beating Jones five-hole to make it a one-score game.
That looks good, said Gallant. Were putting pucks to the net, were getting our opportunities and moving the puck around. I like the power play, its been really good. I like most of our game. They played hard. It was probably the best game of the series for the two teams playing.
Remember how unstoppable the Golden Knights second line of Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny and Mark Stone was earlier in the series? Well, it appears the Sharks may have finally figured out how to slow the trio down. And having defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic back in the lineup after missing a pair of games certainly helped.
I dont think its an accident that you add a world-class defenseman back in your group and you defend better, said DeBoer. Thats not coaching.
“I didn’t see a lot of fundamental breakdowns on it. I think we have to be careful. Right now, it’s just one of those things where everything seems to be going in. We’re finding that line of, what do we need to improve and what is just puck luck that has to go the other way at some point.”
Hes a big part of our team, and were going to need him just like were going to need everybody else to be successful, for us to have a chance, said San Jose defenseman Erik Karlsson. I think he played great [Thursday], and were going to need that and more from him and everybody else going into the game on Sunday.
With Vlasic back in the lineup, all three members of Vegas second line were held off the scoresheet for the first time in the series. And considering how heavily the Knights have relied on that trio to generate scoring, itll be imperative that they get back on track in Game 6.
Speaking of Game 6, the Golden Knights can win a series on home ice for the first time on Sunday. All three times the Knights victoriously ended a series in last years Stanley Cup Playoffs, they did it on the road.
Its impossible to accurately predict whether Vegas will, in fact, end the series Sunday. But being at home certainly does give them a significant advantage.
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Theres not a whole lot you can say about it besides we feed off of [the energy], said defenseman Nate Schmidt. Its the biggest part of our home-ice advantage is being able to play there. You get that type of energy anywhere, youre going to feel it. You feel it on the bench, you feel it in the room, you can feel it around the city yesterday and today. Guys are excited, were excited. Good teams are able to close this out, especially at home.
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