Sharks vs. Predators, Game 2: Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski join the round two party
Joe Thornton set up Joe Pavelski and scored what ended up as the game-winner.
Game one was all about the second line. Joonas Donskoi, Logan Couture and Joel Ward provided the goods to put the Sharks up 1-0 in the second round series. The trio played well again on Sunday evening, but the game two victory belongs to the Joes.
Joe Thornton scored what ended up as the game-winner into an empty net, and it was Jumbo's pass that set up Joe Pavelski for the second goal of the night. Both plays proved to be key components for the Sharks win and announce the arrival of two of San Jose's most important players to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
That's an oversimplification, of course. Both players played well in game one and Pavelski tallied a primary assist on Logan Couture's game-winner, but seeing both strike for goals brought back memories of a first round series the two absolutely dominated. Sunday wasn't either's best possession game of the year, far from it in fact.
Thornton ended up even in 5v5 corsi differential while Pavelski was a -2. Both enjoyed few offensive zone starts, but more will be expected from the Joes in terms of possession throughout the remainder of this series. The great thing about hockey is that if you stay in a game long enough, great players can provide individual moments of brilliance that make up for previously average play. We saw some of that on this beauty.
Thornton sets this all up with an absolutely perfect pass to Matt Nieto. Pekka Rinne stopped the Long Beach native's shot, but Pavelski came through to bang home the rebound and put the Sharks up 2-1. Pavelski has milliseconds to slap this puck home as Rinne scrambles back and Shea Weber dives to the ice to block it but we've seen the captain do this before.
Pavelski gets the goal, of course, and Thornton doesn't even end up with a primary assist on this play, but my goodness what an incredible pass. Everyone on the ice knows what he's going to do here — hell, everyone in the damn building knew where this sucker was going. Somehow he manages to thread the needle here with a brilliant combination of vision and precision passing.
Thornton ended up with another important pass in this game. The game-winning pass, actually.
Thornton gambles a little bit here by charging out of the Sharks' zone before Logan Couture even received the pass from Pavelski. The gamble paid off and Couture fed Jumbo who easily slid the puck into the open net. That gave both he and Pavelski two-point nights and moves the captain just two points away from the top of the playoff leaderboard. His 10 points sits a point behind Brent Burns and sees Pavelski deadlocked with Couture, who had another fabulous game.
The top line dominated the first round win against the Kings and the second line showed up to play in game one against Nashville, but on a night when late goals were needed it was all about the Joes. That's a familiar script the Sharks hope to remake again and again.