Last year, the San Jose Sharks’ playoff run took them all the way to their first Stanley Cup Final before losing in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
This year, they’re trying to avoid being eliminated in the first round by an upstart team that seems to have the pieces necessary up and down the roster to enjoy postseason success for some time.
The Sharks look to push the series to the limit on Saturday when they host the Edmonton Oilers in Game 6 at SAP Center.
Edmonton rebounded from Tuesday’s decisive loss in northern California with a 4-3 victory at home in Game 5 on Thursday. David Desharnais, who scored six goals in 49 games with the Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton, notched the game-winner with 1:45 to play in the first overtime period.
Desharnais also assisted on Oscar Klefbom’s tally with less than three minutes left in regulation en route to his third career multi-point playoff game.
“That’s how you win in the playoffs. You need everyone to step up. You need guys that maybe usually don’t put the puck in the net,” forward Leon Draisaitl told the team’s official website.
That’s certainly true in this series. The Oilers’ Zack Kassian had game-winning goals in Games 2 and 3 — both shutouts — and Klefbom is tied with the fourth-liner for the team lead in goals in the series with two. Connor McDavid, the team’s young captain and Art Ross Trophy winner after recording 100 points in his second season, has just three points (one goal, two assists), as does veteran Mark Letestu.
Coach Todd McLellan said Edmonton made “amends” for a 7-0 loss in Game 4 on Tuesday, but that the team cannot afford to let up now.
“I’d like to think we learned our lesson now, that when you have a little bit of success, you have to take it to another level on Saturday,” he said.
Sharks coach Peter DeBoer told the San Jose Mercury News that he is also expecting big things.
“We know if we lose, we’re done, so that always brings out your best game, especially with our group,” he said. “We’ve been a team that’s been able to bounce back after tough losses all year and get wins, so I’m confident we’ll be ready to play.”
For the Sharks to force a Game 7, they’ll need goaltender Martin Jones to excel again. Despite the team losing three of the first five contests, Jones has a 1.69 goals-against average and .939 save percentage.
“What can we do? We’ve just got to get ready for the next one,” said Jones, who has turned away 139 of 148 shots. “Our backs are against the wall now. So we’ve got to play with some urgency and win a home game.”
As has been the case throughout the series, San Jose’s top offensive players have struggled to produce. High-scoring defenseman and Norris Trophy finalist Brent Burns has three assists so far. Captain Joe Pavelski has two goals and two assists through five games, with all but one assist coming in Game 4.
In that contest, San Jose chased Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot after he surrendered five goals in less than 33 minutes. Laurent Brossoit finished the game, stopping only six of eight shots.
“You’ve got to have a short memory in the playoffs,” said Sharks defenseman David Schlemko, who has goals in each of the last two games to match his output in 62 regular-season contests.
Edmonton has won three straight Game 6s, all in 2006 when it reached the Stanley Cup Final and lost to the Carolina Hurricanes.
“Two years ago, we started and talked about not folding your hand,” said McLellan, who took over for interim coach Todd Nelson in May 2015. “And, in fact, that started in training camp two years ago. It’s for these moments.”
If the Sharks win, Game 7 is scheduled for Monday night in Edmonton.
If the Oilers advance, they would face the Pacific Division champion Anaheim Ducks in the next round.