In a game they were dominated for long stretches, Martin Jones stood on his head in a historic performance for team teal.
For fans that have followed the San Jose Sharks throughout their 25-year history, Thursday night’s performance brought back familiar emotions, just from the other side.
San Jose’s history has been riddled with games like Game 5 where the opposing goaltender simply steals the show and the Sharks end up with a loss despite outplaying their foe.
Fortunately for team teal, Martin Jones was the goaltender in the white sweater who was the best player on the ice and kept San Jose’s Cup dreams alive.
In their 4-2 victory last night, Jones put forth perhaps the greatest goaltending display in franchise history, and it was absolutely necessary for this series to shift back to the Bay Area for Game 6.
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The funny thing of his performance was he didn’t get off to a great start. While his teammates certainly did in scoring two goals in less than three minutes, Jones looked shaky early on.
On Evgeni Malkin’s goal, he overcommitted to the point he was sliding on the ice and it was surprising to see that Malkin didn’t take the shot himself. Then, he didn’t appear as aggressive when Nick Bonino’s shot deflected off Carl Hagelin and in.
Following those two goals, the Penguins continued the onslaught when they were gifted another power play. Chris Kunitz rang one of the post before a Phil Kessel shot hit off both posts before somehow staying out of the net. Jones himself seemed resigned to the fact that Kessel’s shot had gone in.
However, from that point onward, Jones was a brick wall between the pipes. His positioning improved. His confidence grew. His rebound control was excellent.
Once Melker Karlsson gave the Sharks the lead back at 3-2, it’s almost as if Jones knew he couldn’t allow another goal.
He would do just that in making 44 saves on the night, many of the dangerous variety. According to War on Ice, Jones made an astounding 16 high-danger saves in Game 5 and even that number feels like it could’ve been higher.
A vast majority of those 44 saves came right on his door step as Pittsburgh threw the kitchen sink at the Sharks netminder. Jones stood his ground though, especially during the second period when there appeared to be a pileup in his crease on every shift.
Pick anyone on the Penguins roster and Jones likely made a highlight reel save in denying them the tying goal.
Sidney Crosby. Conor Sheary. Patric Hornqvist. Bryan Rust. Malkin. Kessel. The list goes on and on, but perhaps his best save of the night came with less than five minutes remaining in the second.
Following a shot from the right wing by Kessel, Jones made the initial save but the puck bounced right out to Nick Bonino who appeared to have a wide open net. That is until Jones extended his left pad and denied the Penguins center of a sure-fire goal.
The save epitomized the night for Jones who has been the best player for the Sharks in this series thus far. Jones has posted a 2.31 GAA and a .933 save percentage through the first five games, and he became the first goaltender in the expansion era to record multiple 40-plus save efforts in victories in the Stanley Cup Final (via Elias Sports).
There are still plenty more stats and figures to describe his performance, but the best narrative is that he kept his team alive.
As Marc-Edouard Vlasic pointed out, each save was a crucial one:
Shifting things forward, San Jose knows they must be better to have any shot of forcing a Game 7.
They can’t rely on heroic performances from Jones every night if they want to hoist the Cup. It’s a great confidence booster to know he can eliminate any mistake at any moment, but team teal has to be better in front of their netminder.
Game 5 belonged to Jones and now the Sharks return home for what is sure to be a frenzied atmosphere at the Shark Tank. Just make sure Jones is on that charter as they will surely need him moving forward.