Here’s something I wasn’t sure we’d see in these Finals, and I definitely didn’t think we’d see after he gave back two goals just five minutes in: a Martin Jones game.
The Sharks avoided elimination and sent the series back west for a Game 6 with a gripping 4-2 win in couch-free Pittsburgh last night, and it is only barely hyperbole to note that they might’ve lost by a dozen if not for Jones having a historic game. His 44 saves (on 46 shots; why wouldn’t anyone help the poor man?) were the most for any goalie facing elimination in the Final since 1968, and was just the third 40-save Cup Final game in the last 30 years.
“He’s been playing like this for a long time, regular season, playoffs,” Logan Couture said. “A lot of people unfortunately don’t get to see him, us being on the West Coast. He’s been unbelievable for us.”
Ehhhhh. I don’t think anyone would confuse Jones with a truly great
goalie. But he’s been perfectly good and consistent and has done everything the Sharks have needed to get within two wins of a championship (and he’s the only player on this team whose name is already on the Cup), and last night, he was indeed remarkable.
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The Sharks put the brakes on the Penguins’ parade with two goals in the game’s first 173 seconds, but gave it all right back minutes later. According to Elias, four goals in 5:03 is a Cup Final record. So when Melker Karlsson scored at 14:47, I don’t think anyone thought it would stand up. Certainly, it didn’t seem like the Sharks were safe in sitting back and trying to protect that lead. Yet that’s exactly what they did, and left it to all to Jones. He came up big every time.
The Mercury News asked the Sharks’ skaters which of Jones’s saves was the best. Marc-Edouard Vlasic gave the correct answer, saying “my favorite was all 44 during the game.” But another acceptable answer is this pad stop to stone Nick Bonino’s chance on a rebound:
Add to Jones’s performance a three-point night from Logan Couture (who leads the playoffs in both points and assists), and it was a great night for the Sharks, keeping the champagne on ice and forcing the Cup itself to fly cross-country. And wouldn’t you know, the prospect of winning two in a row isn’t nearly as daunting as three seemed.