Sharks vs. Blues, Game 5, The Morning After: San Jose is on the brink of history
The Sharks are a win away from the Stanley Cup Finals.
Never in doubt, right? The Sharks came from behind twice on Monday night to do what no San Jose team did before it. The Sharks won their third game of the 2016 Western Conference Finals to move just one win away from the Stanley Cup Finals.
I don't need to tell you the Sharks never found that third win in their Western Conference Finals series against the Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks or Vancouver Canucks. You already know. I don't need to tell you the Sharks' history or provide context for how important last night's win is. What feels better than waking up this morning to a 3-2 San Jose series lead is that this team feels so capable of winning the fourth.
Down 2-1 the Sharks continued to play their game. Down 3-2 after a brutal Roman Polak penalty San Jose regrouped and recovered. Tied 3-3 entering the third period Joe Pavelski took the game by the horns and refused to let go. San Jose led 4-3 for more than 15 minutes before getting the insurance goal our respective hearts so desperately needed. I don't need to tell you how long those 15 minutes of game time felt.
Like an eternity. Then Chris Tierney, in the most important shift of his NHL career, turned in one of the most impressive performances I've seen this postseason. With the puck behind the vacant St. Louis net, Tierney refused to cede possession and he battle the Blues' top players long enough to reward himself with the crucial empty net goal. He deserved it.
Tierney finished the night with a +3 at even strength corsi and he, along with the rest of the bottom six, performed admirably throughout the majority of the contest. San Jose can't rely on them to carry the team, but the depth that proved so critical time and again throughout the regular season came up large when the Sharks needed them most.
Chris Tierney posted betters possession numbers head-to-head at 5v5 play against Vladimir Tarasenko, Robby Fabbri and Jori Lehtera. The Melker Karlsson, Joel Ward and Tierney line scored both empty net goals and Ward also potted a crucial power-play goal to tie the game at two in the second period.
The Sharks' big guns came up huge as Pavelski scored twice and Joe Thornton added three assists. With the most important period of San Jose Sharks history ahead of them, the team attacked the game. They outplayed the Blues in the second and third periods by a wide margin, and despite trailing twice never let the pressure get to them.
Now San Jose sits a measly win away from the most important series in franchise history. The Stanley Cup sits just five wins away, closer than it ever has been to coming to the Bay Area for the first time. Game six is at The Tank on Wednesday — but you already knew that.