San Jose scored four unanswered goals, including two by the captain, to move one win away from the Stanley Cup Final.
When the San Jose Sharks need a goal, who do you call? Joe Pavelski.
Pavelski lived up to his billing as captain clutch, scoring two goals, including the game-winner, to lead San Jose to a 6-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues in Game 5 to put the Blues on the brink of elimination.
There was no feeling out period in this one as both teams were flying in the early going. San Jose would break the deadlock less than four minutes into the contest off a well-executed faceoff play.
Joe Thornton won the puck to Pavelski who was able to keep the puck in at the blue line before sending a backhand pass to Marc-Edouard Vlasic who blasted home his first goal of the playoffs, giving the Sharks the all-important first goal.
Team teal would feed off the early goal and continue to apply pressure, as Thornton nearly made it 2-0 just minutes later but Jake Allen was just able to get a piece of it over the net. That save would prove to be big as the Blues would able to get the tying goal on a textbook St. Louis forecheck.
The Blues got the puck in deep and were able to work it out where Patrik Berglund took an innocent looking shot that never made it to Martin Jones, but Jaden Schwartz was there to bang in the rebound to even things up at the 7:04 mark.
The goal got the crowd back into the game, but San Jose was still able to generate some Grade-A chances including a Logan Couture attempt alone in the slot that Allen was able to snuff out.
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Then, St. Louis would take the lead behind Troy Brouwer who has easily been the best forward for the Blues in this series. San Jose got a little of whack in their defensive zone coverage allowing Paul Statsny to have an opportunity from straight on that Jones denied with his blocker, but Brouwer was there to bat in the rebound out of midair for his team-leading eighth of the playoffs to give the Blues the lead at the intermission.
It was a tremendous display of hand-eye coordination by Brouwer, but Jones didn’t need to be as aggressive as he was in allowing a wide open net on the back side.
The first was a frustrating one for the boys in white who had the more dangerous chances in the period but found themselves trailing after one.
After a frenetic pace to the opening frame, the second was much more methodical on both sides. The Sharks would get a chance to get their power play going when Kevin Shattenkirk was given an extra two minutes for roughing Tommy Wingels, before the two decided to drop the gloves.
The first unit generated some great opportunities but they couldn’t hit the net. Then, with the seconds winding down Vlasic finally hit the net, ringing one off the post that Joel Ward batted in for his third goal of the playoffs to tie things up at the 4:37 mark of the second.
However, after tying the game, San Jose found themselves in penalty trouble that ultimately came back to bite them. Team teal was able to do a good job of killing off a Justin Braun minor, but Roman Polak would take an incredibly stupid roughing minor in the corner right in front of the referee.
St. Louis would cash in when Robby Fabbri, who caused fits for San Jose all night, would one-time home his fourth of the postseason to reclaim the lead for the home team. It was another shot that Jones has to stop as he picked up the puck late from the blue line as it snuck right in below his left pad.
But the Sharks would respond on the man advantage once again as Brent Burns made a beautiful stretch pass to spring Tomas Hertl on a mini break and Shattenkirk was forced to hook him. San Jose appealed for a penalty shot, but it made no difference.
The visitors would strike after some great work down low from Patrick Marleau and Couture, who out-battled all four Blues in the corner, to work the puck to Thornton who fed Pavelski all alone in the slot, and he made no mistake, one-timing it past Allen for his 11th of the playoffs to knot it up at three after 40 minutes.
Facing their biggest third period in franchise history, who else but the captain got the Sharks off on the right foot doing what he does best.
Following an icing call, San Jose won the draw and worked it back to Burns who sent a wrist shot that was going at least two feet wide, but Pavelski reached out and beautifully tipped home his second of the night just 16 seconds into the third, regaining the playoff scoring lead with his 12th of this postseason.
The goal stunned the sellout crowd at Scottrade Center who witnessed their team give up two goals in a 1:43 span of game action to fall behind once again.
However, San Jose would have their work cut out for them to make the lead hold up over the course of the final 19:44 of the third.
There were a few close moments on 4-on-4 when Stastny rung one off the post following another rebound opportunity.
But San Jose did a phenomenal job of limiting any quality chances for St. Louis in the final frame as they played a perfect road period. The Sharks actually outshot the Blues in the third by a 9-7 margin, and they closed this one out with empty-net goals from Chris Tierney and Ward to put this one on ice.
San Jose responded with a tremendous period of hockey when they needed it most, led by who else but the captain. It wasn’t their best game by any stretch, but they found a way to win which is all that matters at this point.
The Sharks now find themselves one win away from the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history. It’ll be a raucous atmosphere at SAP Center on Wednesday night as San Jose looks to finally break through.