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The Playoff Buzzer: Blues rally back against Jets; Sharks extend series vs. Golden Knights

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Although none of Thursday’s games were especially high-scoring affairs, they all started off with early goals. San Jose’s Tomas Hertl scored 1:16 minutes into his contest, Carolina’s Warren Foegele netted his goal 17 seconds in, and Winnipeg’s Adam Lowry was the quickest at just 12 seconds.

So far the road team has won every game of the St. Louis-Winnipeg series. It took a comeback win from the Blues in Winnipeg in Game 5 to keep that run going.

After getting off to a 2-0 series lead, the Washington Capitals have dropped two straight to Carolina. The Capitals aren’t truly in trouble yet, but it’s possible that we’ll see both Wild Card teams advance in the Eastern Conference.

Facing elimination, the Sharks were strong in Game 5. From the moment Hertl found the back of the net at 1:16, San Jose led for the rest of the game en route to a 5-2 victory.

Hurricanes 2, Capitals 1 (Series tied at 2-2)

The Carolina Hurricanes made a statement with their 5-0 win in Game 3, but that contest was the exception rather than the rule in what has been a series of tight games. As noted above, Carolina jumped to a 1-0 lead on a goal by Foegele, but Alex Ovechkin tied the contest on the power play at 10:35 of the second period. Teuvo Teravainen scored his first goal of the series in the final minute of the second to re-establish the lead. Despite the Capitals playing from behind in the third period, they only narrowly edged the Hurricanes in shots 8-7 in the final frame.

Blues 3, Jets 2 (St. Louis leads series 3-2)

Winnipeg had a 2-0 lead after one thanks to goals by Lowry and Kevin Hayes, but that first period could have gone much worse for the Blues. St. Louis forward Robert Thomas took a double minor for high-sticking at 9:31, but the Blues successfully killed it off. The Blues’ comeback took place entirely in the third period. Ryan O'Reilly capitalized on a power-play opportunity at 1:29 of the final period. Brayden Schenn tied it on a goal that needed to be reviewed due to the net coming off at the same time. Jaden Schwartz completed the comeback by scoring the winner with just 15 seconds left in the game.

Sharks 5, Golden Knights 2 (Vegas leads series 3-2)

After dropping three straight, this was a literal must-win game for San Jose and the Sharks answered the call. Hertl and Logan Couture established a 2-0 lead for the Sharks by 11:00 and San Jose also enjoyed 3-1 and 4-2 leads. Sharks goaltender Martin Jones, who had been horrendous over the last three games, held his own in this one, stopping 30 of 32 shots.

Suspension Coming?

Washington’s T.J. Oshie was injured on a hit by Foegele late in the third period and is expected to miss some time. Foegele only got a boarding minor, which angered Ovechkin.

UPDATE: No.

Three Stars

1. Petr Mrazek

Mrazek stopped 30 of 31 shots with his lone blemish being Ovechkin’s power-play goal. He’s now allowed just one goal over his last two starts after surrendering seven goals in the first two games.

2. Jordan Binnington

Binnington continues to be the driving force of the St. Louis Blues. He shook off an early goal in Thursday’s contest to help the Blues pull off their comeback win. Binnington turned aside 29 of 31 shots in Game 5.

3. Tomas Hertl

Hertl was the only player to have a multi-goal game on Thursday. He accounted for the Sharks’ opening goal at 1:16 and gave them some breathing room with his power-play marker at 14:45 of the third period.

Highlight of the Night

Let’s take another look at this close call that changed the course of the Jets-Blues game.

Factoids

Schwartz’s game-winning goal was the second latest scored in regulation time in St. Louis’ postseason history. The record holder is Gino Cavallini, who netted his goal at 19:51 of the third period in 1990. (NHL PR)

Mrazek has surrendered five goals on 83 shots since allowing three goals on his first eight shots of the 2019 playoffs. (Stephen Whyno)

With the two opening goals scored in the first minute of Thursday’s games, we’re up to five in Round 1. That puts us in a four-way tie for the most in an opening round with the other years being 1981, 2012, and 2016. (NHL PR)

Friday’s Games
Game 5: Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins (Series tied at 2-2) (7:00 p.m. ET; NBCSN; Live Stream)
Game 5: Colorado Avalanche at Calgary Flames (Avalanche lead 3-1) (10:00 p.m. ET; NBCSN; Live Stream)

Ryan Dadoun is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @RyanDadoun.

Golden Knights even series with Sharks on night of wild swings

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This was a game of wild momentum swings and certainly had controversy, but when all was said-and-done, Vegas earned a 5-3 victory over San Jose to even the series at 1-1.

Early on, it didn’t look like this contest would be nearly as dramatic. Cody Eakin, Colin Miller, and Max Pacioretty each scored within the first 6:11 minutes of the game to chase Sharks goaltender Martin Jones.

Jones held his own in Game 1, but the 2018-19 campaign was a rough one for him and it raised questions about if the Sharks are truly a serious Stanley Cup contender with him between the pipes. Certainly this game did nothing to silence his critics, but San Jose’s night was far from over. With Aaron Dell now in net, the Sharks stormed back.

Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, and Joe Thornton scored within the span of just 2:09 minutes late in the first period and suddenly the game was actually tied going into the first intermission.

Things seemed to continue to go San Jose’s way when Brent Burns‘ shot beat Marc-Andre Fleury early in the second period. However, the goal was called back because Logan Couture’s elbow swung into Fleury’s head. The fact that the goal was waived off is something that most probably agree with, but it seems safe to say that Sharks fans and the Sharks themselves take issue with the goaltender inference penalty. To make matters worse for San Jose, that penalty proved to be critical as Mark Stone scored the game-winner on the subsequent power play.

Still, it would be wrong to suggest that San Jose was simply robbed Friday night, even if you do disagree with that call. The Sharks had eight power-play opportunities to Vegas’ three. Not only did San Jose only score on one of those power-play chances, but they surrendered two shorthanded goals, including one to William Karlsson at 7:35 of the third period to give the Golden Knights some breathing room.

Between Jones’ sloppy start and San Jose’s less than stellar showing when it came to special teams, it’s not hard to see how Vegas won this one.

Sharks-Golden Knights Game 3 from T-Mobile Arena will be Sunday night at 10:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Ryan Dadoun is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @RyanDadoun.

Golden Knights make quick work of Martin Jones in Game 2

The biggest question for the San Jose Sharks going into the playoffs was if goaltender Martin Jones was up to the task of leading them to a championship. On Friday, we got a reminder as to why there are such serious concerns about him.

Looking to bounce back from a 5-2 loss in Game 1, Vegas came out strong Friday night. Cody Eakin scored just 58 seconds into the game. That goal wasn’t necessarily on Jones, but then Colin Miller scored at 4:37 and Max Pacioretty made it 3-0 at 6:11.

Unlike the Eakin goal, the other two looked like ones Jones should have stopped so it’s not surprising that he was yanked in favor of Aaron Dell. Jones doesn’t have a great resume against Vegas and this only added to that history of misery for him.

After the goaltending change, the Sharks battled back to tie it at 3-3 before the first intermission, but still ended up losing 5-3. The series is still just tied at 1-1, but Vegas’ quick work of Jones serves as a reminder of the larger concern with the Sharks.

Sharks-Golden Knights Game 3 from T-Mobile Arena will be Sunday night at 10:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Ryan Dadoun is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @RyanDadoun.

This time, Sharks dominate Golden Knights in Game 1

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The Sharks were overwhelmed against the Golden Knights last year, losing 7-0. The score wasn’t as lopsided in Game 1 of their Round 1 series to start the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but this time San Jose was the dominant team.

The duo of Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson lived up to its billing on Wednesday, helping the Sharks beat Vegas 5-2, giving San Jose a 1-0 series lead. Burns generated a goal and an assist, while Karlsson collected two helpers. All of their three assists were of the primary variety. Evander Kane and Marc-Edouard Vlasic also chipped in two points apiece with one goal and one assist each.

At times, the game was almost as nasty as the dental repairs Joe Pavelski will require after the 1-0 goal went in off of his chin.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Evander Kane and Ryan Reaves jabbed at each other with their sticks late in the game, and there were some “pleasantries” after the final whistle. The two teams combined for 56 penalty minutes, and Game 1 included a span where the teams went 3-on-3. You … don’t usually see that happen, beyond the 3-on-3 overtime format of the regular season.

Last year’s series got nasty at times, and it seems like even though there are some key changes to both rosters, the disdain remains. This could be a physical, very unfriendly series. For a team that’s still as young as the Golden Knights, it sure seems like they’re building an intense rivalry with San Jose.

After Pavelski’s off-the-face goal made it 1-0 through 20 minutes, the Sharks really swam away with the game in the second period, increasing their lead to 4-1.

Mark Stone scored both of Vegas’ goals, including the 4-2 tally that made things more interesting for a spell in the third period. Beleaguered Sharks goalie Martin Jones was able to stop a Reilly Smith breakaway attempt, and then the Sharks scored the 5-2 empty-netter to end any last grasp at an unlikely Golden Knights rally.

This still seems like a series that could appeal to just about every type of hockey fan, but the Golden Knights need to find answers to make it more competitive after this lopsided Game 1. In other words, they might want to take a page from the Sharks, although Vegas hopes with the same outcome as last year, of the Golden Knights ultimately winning the series.

Golden Knights – Sharks Game 2 from The SAP Center will be Friday night at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Sharks’ belief in goalie remains high despite down season

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — With nine players with at least 50 points, four 30-goal scorers and three world-class defensemen, the San Jose Sharks have almost all the ingredients necessary to make a long playoff run.

The one major question facing the Sharks is in goal, where Martin Jones struggled all season and enters the postseason with the lowest save percentage for any starter on a playoff team.

Despite that apparent weakness, the Sharks never wavered in their confidence in their goaltender. The team declined to make a move before the trade deadline to add a more consistent netminder in the hopes that Jones can regain the form that made him such a valuable part of the franchise in his first three playoffs with the Sharks.

”They should have a stat that says belief in your goaltender,” coach Peter DeBoer said Monday as his team began preparing for a first-round series against Vegas. ”If they had that stat, Jonesy would be batting a thousand with our group. There’s not one mumble or whisper in our group about him or our confidence in him to get the job done. That’s the one analytic stat I can give you guys that maybe you don’t have access to.”

That confidence has been earned the past three postseasons. Jones has a .926 career save percentage in the playoffs, the sixth best in NHL history among goalies with at least 40 starts. He has allowed two or fewer goals in nearly two-thirds of his appearances. He has allowed more than three goals in regulation just twice in his past 32 playoff starts.

That kind of performance is why the Sharks signed him to a six-year, $34.5 million extension two summers ago.

”He seems to really dial in for big games,” defenseman Justin Braun said. ”You’re not worried about him this time of year to make the saves he needs to make.”

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

But that level of play has been missing this season. Jones finished the season with a 2.94 goals against average and an .896 save percentage that ranked 52nd in the league among the 56 goalies with at least 20 starts. He allowed four or more goals in 19 of his 62 games and at least three 36 times – tied for the second most in the league in both categories.

But Jones allowed more than three goals just twice in his last 14 starts.

”I feel pretty good,” he said. ”I think that last stretch of games I haven’t gotten results every time but I feel like I’ve been playing really well down the stretch in a few of these games. I feel good. Ready to rock.”

The struggles in goal this season have placed heavy pressure on San Jose’s offense, which needs to generate lots of scoring to remain in games. The Sharks lost all 20 games they played when scoring two or fewer goals, becoming the first team since Montreal 18 years ago to fail to record a single win when failing to score three goals, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Luckily for the Sharks, they do have plenty of firepower that they don’t need Jones to be brilliant to succeed. They tied for second in the NHL this season with 289 goals and became the first team in 10 years with four 30-goal scorers (Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, Evander Kane).

The one major question has been on the number of goals allowed, which has been fueled in part by turnovers on offense that lead to too many odd-man rushes.

”Goals are breakdowns usually by multiple players on the ice,” forward Logan Couture said. ”That’s defensemen and forwards as well. We didn’t have the year we wanted to with the amount of goals we gave up, but it’s a clean slate right now.”

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports