Sharks seek­ing his­toric come­back

SundayXtra - - NHLPLAYOFFREPORTNHLREPORT - By Jonas Siegel

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Pete DeBoer heard all the doubts about the San Jose Sharks be­fore he be­came the team’s head coach last sum­mer.

“They can’t get it done. There’s not enough char­ac­ter. There’s not enough lead­er­ship,” DeBoer said, list­ing var­i­ous crit­i­cisms of the club fol­low­ing prac­tice Satur­day. “That’s what peo­ple think and it’s so far off base. There’s just no sub­stance to that at all.”

DeBoer be­lieves any doubts about the Sharks’ char­ac­ter have been put to rest this spring, though his team will need a his­toric come­back and ev­ery bit of re­siliency and per­se­ver­ance to rally for the Stan­ley Cup.

San Jose hosts Game 6 at SAP Cen­ter tonight with the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins lead­ing the best- of-seven se­ries 3-2.

The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs are the only team in NHL history to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Stan­ley Cup fi­nal. Only three teams have ever come back to win the Cup af­ter drop­ping the first two games on the road, with two such in­stances oc­cur­ring in the last seven years, in­clud­ing the 2009 Pen­guins.

“Other than pos­si­bly play­ing a Game 7, (today) is go­ing to be prob­a­bly the most ex­cit­ing game I’ve played all year,” said Sharks de­fence­man Mar­cE­douard Vla­sic. “An op­por­tu­nity to win Game 6 at home in the Stan­ley Cup fi­nals, we’re look­ing for­ward to it.”

The Sharks are com­ing off a ner­vous 4-2 win over Pitts­burgh in Game 5, one that saw them badly out­played for long stretches, vic­tory pre­served only by a solid per­for­mance by goal­tender Martin Jones, who made 44 saves.

If any team un­der­stands how quickly a se­ries can turn, it’s the Sharks, who had a 3- 0 se­ries un­ravel against the Los Angeles Kings in 2014.

Paul Martin was a Pen­guin in 2014 when their 3-1 se­ries lead against the New York Rangers slipped away in a seven-game se­cond-round de­feat. Now on the San Jose side, Martin said ev­ery player han­dles mo­men­tum swings dif­fer­ently, whether in a game or a se­ries. Some play­ers are both­ered by the pres­sure, oth­ers han­dle it well, he said.

“I think the team that won (the last game) has to take some kind of pos­i­tive feel­ing from that win and try to build off that,” Martin said. “And as a team that loses you ei­ther can dwell or feel low or in trou­ble or you put it be­hind you (and) you fo­cus on that next one.”

The Sharks have faced elim­i­na­tion twice in the play­offs and won both times, in­clud­ing Thurs­day’s vic­tory in Pitts­burgh and a Game 7 win over the Nashville Preda­tors in the se­cond round.

Do­ing it once more will re­quire a much bet­ter all-around per­for­mance in Game 6. While they raced to their first lead of the se­ries in Game 5, surg­ing in front 2- 0, San Jose was in­creas­ingly over­whelmed by Pitts­burgh’s speedy at­tack, saved only by Jones, who was a per­fect 31-for-31 on shots over the fi­nal 40 min­utes.

San Jose gen­er­ated few scor­ing chances and only 14 shots, in the se­cond and third pe­ri­ods and were out­shot 46-22 over­all.

The club did play maybe its best game of the se­ries at home in Game 4, yield­ing just 20 shots in a 3-1 loss. It was only their third de­feat in 11 games in San Jose dur­ing the play­offs.

“We played ’em pretty good at home last time we were home,” Martin said. “We played a bet­ter de­fen­sive game as far as giv­ing up shots or op­por­tu­ni­ties. So I think for us to get that mo­men­tum to con­tinue, (we) hope­fully get that first goal or get a solid en­ergy game early. (Those) will be big keys for us.”

Pitts­burgh scored first in the first four games of the se­ries, and in­deed, the Sharks will need an­other fast start in Game 6. DeBoer said he won’t be giv­ing any grand speeches for the occasion.

“There’s no speech I’m go­ing to give Patty Mar­leau that’s go­ing to make him un­der­stand the sit­u­a­tion and play harder,” DeBoer said of the 18-year veteran. “I think that’s for movies and Sun­day foot­ball for sure, when you’re play­ing 11 or 12 games a year. When we’re on our 105th game. I’m just try­ing to get our game on the right track, get them out there with as much en­ergy as pos­si­ble and get our ex­e­cu­tion in the right place.”

T-shirts for sale at the Sharks prac­tice fa­cil­ity were em­bla­zoned with the slo­gan: We want Stan­ley in San Jose.

The Sharks will need to make history for that to hap­pen.

GENE J. PUSKAR / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer has a lot of faith in his play­ers.

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