Sharks ‘get to live another day,’ thanks mostly to Jones

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PITTSBURGH — Joe Thornton knew it wasn’t a dominant victory. He wasn’t about to pretend otherwise. He saw the shot clock. The Penguins racked up 46 on Martin Jones, the Sharks just 22 on Matt Murray.

But Thornton’s also been around a while. He knows that’s just hockey sometimes. A great goaltending performance can steal a game, and that’s exactly what happened Thursday evening at Consol Energy Center.

“It’s a win, that’s all that matters right now,” said Thornton. “It’s a huge win, we get to live another day.”

Mostly because of Jones, who’d been a bit of a forgotten man over the first four games of the series. If people were talking about a goalie, it was usually about the rookie in the Penguins’ net. Even the lone game the Sharks won, it was Murray’s inability to stop that shot by Joel Ward that became the focus, not Jones’ 40 saves.

“You know, he’s been doing it all year,” Thornton said of Jones, whose save percentage climbed to .933 in the Cup Final. “Not just tonight, he does it every game for us. He’s just a stud for us.”

“He’s very calm,” added defenseman Paul Martin. “He’s got the quiet confidence about him. He goes about his business, and we trust him back there. He gives us that chance to win every night.”

And for the first time in this series, the Sharks gave Jones a lead to protect. They were up 2-0 just 2:53 into the game.

“To start quick like that, it’s huge,” said Thornton. “I know they came back and scored the two, but to start like that, in a building like this, in a game like this, it was huge.”

Even huger was answering back and making it 3-2 late in the first. A little luck helped, too. Chris Kunitz hit the post. Phil Kessel hit the post, twice.

Then it was the Jones Show. He stopped 17 shots in the second, 14 more in the third. His best of the night came on a rebound opportunity by Nick Bonino. He never quit and stopped it with his toe.

“Kind of made life a little difficult for myself a few times tonight with a couple rebounds,” said Jones. “Just tried to get over it and take away the bottom of the net.”

And so the Sharks head home, not done yet after a 4-2 victory. They’ve been outplayed for most of the series, but win Sunday and anything could happen in a Game 7.

Win Sunday, though — that’s the first order of business. As we just saw, home ice guarantees nothing. The Penguins have only lost consecutive games once in these playoffs, and they certainly didn’t hate the way they played tonight.

“When you look at how the game was played, there’s a lot of things to like about how we played,” said coach Mike Sullivan. “I loved our energy. I thought we were on the puck. I thought we were fast. I thought we controlled territory. I thought we controlled the scoring chances, the shot clock.”

They just couldn’t solve Jones, and now they’ll have to play at least once more.

“They’re going to show up for Game 6,” said Thornton, “and so are we.”