Regi­cide! Sharks cul­prits

Solid San Jose club has found win­ning play­off for­mula

Winnipeg Free Press - SundayXtra - - NHLPLAYOFFREPORTNHLREPORT - By Josh Dubow

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The San Jose Sharks proved they are much more than just Joe Thorn­ton, Pa­trick Mar­leau, Joe Pavel­ski and a hand­ful of other stars.

A sea­son-long com­mit­ment to de­vel­op­ing depth paid ma­jor div­i­dends at a most cru­cial time. The sec­ondary play­ers, led by tal­ented Fin­nish rookie Joonas Don­skoi’s two goals, de­liv­ered the bulk of the scor­ing in San Jose’s 6-3 vic­tory Fri­day night over the neme­sis Los An­ge­les Kings, which sent the Sharks to the sec­ond round of the play­offs for just the sec­ond time since 2011.

Af­ter mem­o­rably blow­ing a 3- 0 first-round se­ries lead to Los An­ge­les two years ago and miss­ing the play­offs en­tirely last sea­son, the Sharks might fi­nally have all the in­gre­di­ents to make the long play­off run that has eluded them dur­ing a decade of reg­u­lar-sea­son suc­cess led by stars such as Thorn­ton and Mar­leau.

“Our depth was great all se­ries,” de­fence­man Brent Burns said. “We had four lines go­ing. We had six D. That was a se­ries where our depth re­ally shined. The hits guys are tak­ing to make plays, block­ing shots, the guys re­ally stepped up and played a great se­ries.”

While Thorn­ton an­chored a top line that dom­i­nated play through­out the se­ries, he was kept off the score­sheet en­tirely in the clincher. Thorn­ton also didn’t score in the Game 1 win, mark­ing the only two times since the 2007 play­offs San Jose scored at least four goals with­out ei­ther a goal or an as­sist from the player known as Jumbo.

Thorn­ton had just three points in the en­tire se­ries, but it proved to be enough. While Pavel­ski (five goals, one as­sist) and Burns (two goals, six as­sists) car­ried the bulk of the scor­ing, it was the lower line play­ers and first-year start­ing goalie Martin Jones who came through at the end.

Don­skoi, who quickly es­tab­lished him­self as a key player on the sec­ond line cen­tred by Lo­gan Cou­ture this sea­son, opened the scor­ing 68 sec­onds into the game and then de­liv­ered the game-win­ner early in the third af­ter San Jose had squan­dered a 3- 0 lead. Don­skoi warded off top de­fender Drew Doughty on his way to the net and then came around the crease to take a pass from Burns and knock it in to put San Jose up 4-3.

“You don’t come in ex­pect­ing to score two goals, but we can’t only rely on our first-line guys,” Don­skoi said. “We have to get goals from all four lines, and that’s what we were able to do tonight.”

Fourth-line cen­tre Chris Tier­ney also scored his first ca­reer play­off goal and sec­ond-year for­ward Melker Karls­son sealed it with an empty-net­ter for his first post-sea­son goal. Third-line winger Matt Ni­eto also got in­volved when he scored to make it 3- 0.

Coach Peter DeBoer’s com­mit­ment to rolling four lines and us­ing all three de­fen­sive pairs paid off.

“The guys re­ally stepped up, matched that, and found a way,” Pavel­ski said. “It’s step one for us. It’s not go­ing to win us any­thing. It’s go­ing to get us closer. We’re go­ing to be able to take a few things from it, but the big­gest mes­sage out of this is it feels good. We’ll en­joy it, we’ll get some rest, and it’s just step one.”

The only one of the big stars to score a goal was the cap­tain, Pavel­ski, whose in­surance goal mid­way through the third gave San Jose a two-goal lead that helped ease the ten­sion in the fi­nal min­utes.

MARK J. TER­RILL / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

San Jose Sharks left-winger Matt Ni­eto cel­e­brates his goal on Los An­ge­les Kings goalie Jonathan Quick dur­ing the sec­ond pe­riod of Game 5.

MARK J. TER­RILL / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

San Jose Sharks cen­tre Lo­gan Cou­ture goes down but keeps scram­bling.

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