Although the first period of game five played out like much of the series to this point, the Sharks consistent pressure the last three games finally paid off in the form of goals scored in game five.
Logan Couture (who netted two) and Dwight Helminen both scored their first career Stanley Cup playoff goals, Joe Pavelski potted his third of the series, and Patrick Marleau scored his first goal of the opening round as he added a power play tally in the final frame. The Sharks, who have had few answers for Anderson thus far, chased the Avalanche's series MVP in the third period.
Like the rest of the Avalanche, the pressure that the Sharks have put on Anderson up to this point seems to have finally worn the netminder down. He made some solid saves in the opening frame, but the apparent fatigue seemed to get to him as he had trouble staying on his feet, controlling rebounds, and getting in the proper position to make saves. After being so incredible in three of the first four games, the performance by Anderson was surprisingly poor.
The Sharks scored goals the right way. Couture scored the first goal of the game by getting in Anderson's eyes and redirecting the puck. He benefited from a pretty lucky bounce off his own rear end, but things like that happen when players drive to the net and get into the goaltender's face. For a player with such great skill, he sure scores some ugly goals.
Pavelski's goal was also the result of a lucky play, as Anderson slipped in a shorthanded situation and was unable to get back to the net in time to stop Pavelski's point shot. However, credit Joe for recognizing that Anderson was out of position and getting the puck to the net. The Avalanche have been so good at blocking shots, kudos to Pavelski for finding a lane. That would put the Sharks up 2-0.
Believe it or not, that was the biggest lead of the series by either team. The Sharks weren't done yet, though. Helminen, after barely missing on a drive earlier in the game, made a nice stretch to corral a shot-pass from Nichol and roof it past Anderson. From there, Couture would score another on a beautiful series of moves from Devin Setoguchi and Ryane Clowe, while Marleau bucked the monkey off his back and put one past Budaj.
Marleau, for those of you keeping score, added an assist as well. Heatley, who looked much better in his second game back from injury, had two assists. Thornton, who didn't score in the game, still looked solid and generated chances for his teammates. He was strong on the forecheck and used his size well. Although he was usually the first man in, he generated turnovers and controlled the play. Good game for the top line tonight.
After the score became a bit lopsided, Cody McLeod started to get a little chippy. After he somehow avoided an obvious cross-checking call onDouglas Murray, the charging penalty he committed on Jamie McGinn was blatant and dangerous. McLeod received a major penalty, and in my opinion, should have gotten a game misconduct. If the referees saw the cross check, I think that would have been the case. People have claimed that the officiating has been uneven. We'll all have our biases, and I have probably overlooked a few calls that could have gone in the Av's favor. That' s fine, and everyone is entitled to their opionion. But McLeod was out to injure, and I'm not cool with that.
Hand it to the Sharks though, for not letting the agitation get to them. Although they roughed it up a bit, they decided to make the Avalanche pay on the scoreboard. I was very impressed with their composure and maturity. Game six will undoubtedly have some extracurriculars as well; we'll see if the Sharks can continue to deal with the Av's provoking.
Defensively, the Sharks were solid until about four minutes left in the third, when the game was already in the bag. It was a complete effort by the team, all players were in on the defensive act. The Sharks again limited Colorado's opportunities, holding them to just two shots in the first and eleven in the first 40 minutes. Nabokov has had the swagger he's known for when he's on top of his game, and the Sharks did a good job clearing the puck out of dangerous areas.
One issue that did worry me was the high number of icings committed by San Jose; Colorado's forwards caught San Jose in need of a change multiple times. I guess I'm nitpicking. Positively, though the Sharks recovered in the face off circle and had a very complete game.
This was a pivotal game in the series, and the Sharks now have two chances to eliminate the Avalanche. It remains to be seen if Anderson can recover from his poor showing, but if the Sharks continue their strong play it shouldn't matter. It's all about maintaining the furious level of play from here on out, and it seems as if the Sharks are prepared to do that.