After an improbable comeback against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 7 of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the San Jose Sharks took on the Colorado Avalanche in Game 1 of the second round on Friday night.
Despite much criticism through the regular season and much of the series against Vegas, Martin Jones improved significantly in the back half of the first round for the Sharks. In the first few minutes of the opening frame, when Gabriel Bourque slammed home a rebound off a shot from Cale Makar, it seemed as if Jones had reverted to his old, less-than-stellar ways
Looking back at it, though, it wasn’t completely his fault. Yes, he made a bad push, but the defense could’ve done better at trying to prevent the rebound. It was certainly a frustrating goal, but not one that would change the tide.
The Avalanche had begun to take control of the first period following the early goal. At score- and venue-adjusted 5-on-5 — the majority of the period, as the Avalanche took the only penalty of the opening frame, a bench minor for too many men — the Avs led with a 68.49 percent Corsi for and 66.5 percent edge in expected goals for. Despite their few opportunities, the Sharks were able to equalize.
Brent Burns dodged a forechecking Alexander Kerfoot and put a shot on Philipp Grubauer, who made a quick pad save, but Gustav Nyquist was right there to put home the rebound past a sprawling Grubauer to tie the game.
If the Sharks seemed to get back on the right foot before the first period closed out, they stumbled a bit going into the second when Dylan Gambrell was sent to the box for a tripping penalty.
Mikko Rantanen, as he always seems to do on the man-advantage, created a great opportunity for the Avalanche with a shot from the top of the circle, which took a bounce off the blade of Erik Karlsson’s stick. The deflection went directly to Colin Wilson, who one-timed it past Martin Jones to give the Avalanche the lead back.
The Sharks had nine high-danger scoring chances in the second frame, but the two-on-one chance created by Marcus Sorensen and Joe Thornton was as high-danger as it gets.
Sorensen took the puck and waited until Samuel Girard had gone into the starfish defensive posture and passed it to Joe Thornton, who sniped it right past Grubauer’s five-hole to tie the game.
From that goal, it was all Sharks.
Kevin Labanc gave the Sharks their first lead of the night, passing the puck between Rantanen’s legs before picking it up and netting his third goal of the postseason.
Brent Burns made history as the first Sharks defenseman to have to tally four points in a playoff game. His goal with just a minute to go in the second period extended the Sharks’ lead to two.
Through the final period, the Sharks began to pull ahead in scoring chances. They had adjusted to the pace and score of the game and were edging shots at 5-on-5, but weren’t able to find the net until Philipp Grubauer was pulled with around two minutes to go in the third. With just under 30 seconds to go, Timo Meier broke his cold streak with an empty-net goal, his second of the playoffs, to ice the game.
The catalyst for the Sharks’ surge in scoring chances in the second period was, in fact, that Joe Thornton goal.
The Sharks took the majority of their shots right in front of the net, as did the Avalanche. The Avalanche were more effective at driving the slot, which will certainly keep Martin Jones on his toes.