Winning Play: Game 5’s most interesting shift

It’s not all the time that one shift encapsulates so many of my thoughts about a game.

But the Vladimir Tarasenko penalty shot goal, and the shift leading up to it, was fascinating in many ways.

It started with a smart Erik Karlsson (65) pinch (0:01) on Tarasenko (91).

Should Karlsson have even played will dominate talk after he failed to even finish the contest.

“Hindsight’s 20/20. We make those decisions based on the reports we get from the player and the medical. The report was they felt he could play and get through the game,” Peter DeBoer offered. “It’s easy to sit here and say now, yeah, sure you have regrets.”

I will defend DeBoer for this decision. If you believe your two-time Norris Trophy, however hampered, is healthy enough to help you win a playoff game? He’s suiting up 100 percent of the time.

And while we saw Karlsson’s limitations on the game-opening Oskar Sundqvist score, for this brief moment, we also saw why Karlsson could still be so valuable. Robbed of the edge that his skating should normally give him, he’s still as smart a player as there is.

Next, Karlsson went low and found Tomas Hertl (48) charging down the slot. Jordan Binnington turned Hertl away, but this made me think of how many close calls that San Jose had to put a goal up and change the momentum: An Evander Kane post 12 seconds into the contest, then another Kane post 21 seconds before Jaden Schwartz made it 2-0 in the middle frame.

Hockey is a cruel game and can turn so quickly, which is also a positive Game 6 sign for the reeling Sharks.

As Jay Bouwmeester (19) headed back to retrieve the puck in the corner, Karlsson did his best to get back in position. Evander Kane (9), as he normally would, broke toward the puck on the switch (0:07).

But this wasn’t normal circumstances with Karlsson hampered. This was the clear downside of trying Karlsson out. Tarasenko streaked up the ice, uncovered. Bouwmeester lofted an intelligent area pass toward Tarasenko and Ivan Barbashev (49) (0:09).

There was only one Sharks defender back, Brent Burns (88).

It would get lonelier for Burns in a little bit, as Karlsson failed to come out for the third period. While I can defend DeBoer for trying out his All-Star defenseman, it’s fair to wonder why a seventh defenseman wasn’t dressed.

Meanwhile, Barbashev made an incredible play, holding off the man mountain and serving the puck to Tarasenko. This was essentially a two-on-one. Burns made a desperate swipe on Tarasenko, but no dice.

However, should Barbashev have even been playing at this moment?

“Arguably a 5-minute major on Hertl,” DeBoer said of this first period side-swipe. “If it’s called, that’s momentum-changing.”

Hertl would miss the third period and his status for Game 6 is in doubt.

Regardless, Barbashev and his line’s impact on this series has been staggering. San Jose’s forward depth was much-trumpeted going into this series, but the St. Louis fourth line has answered back, game after game. The Blues have proven every bit as deep as the Sharks up front.

This was the fourth straight contest that Barbashev or Sundqvist or Alexander Steen have scored in. You can’t say that about any of San Jose’s lines.

Tarasenko, of course, would drive the dagger home, giving the Blues a 3-0 lead with a successful penalty shot. But he made sure to shout out Barbashev and company:

“It was the one possible play he could make. He’s a smart player, he can make those plays.

“I want to mention all the guys on the fourth line. They were amazing, they gave us a lot of energy. Gave us good starts to the game and the period.

“They play a huge role in our team’s success.”

Speaking to Tarasenko’s point, this “fourth” line has started the last six periods of the series. That’s remarkable.

As for the battered Sharks, DeBoer will speak at about 10 a.m. tomorrow. We’ll see if there’s any update on Karlsson, Hertl or Joe Pavelski.