PITTSBURGH – Thousands of fans gathered in and around CONSOL Energy Center with the hope of celebrating Pittsburgh’s first major championship won in the city in 56 years. San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones ruined the party.
Jones posted 44 saves, including 17 in a brilliant second period, to lead the San Jose Sharks to a 4-2 win Thursday night that extends the Stanley Cup Final to a Game 6 Sunday in San Jose.
“He took the game over after we got the lead,” Sharks forward Chris Tierney said. “He bailed us out a couple of times … he has stolen games for us all year.”
Even with Bill Mazeroski in attendance, the Penguins were unable to earn the first Pittsburgh title in a major sport at home since he clubbed a Game 7 home run to give the Pirates a World Series triumph against the New York Yankees in 1960.
Minutes before the game, tickets for Game 5 were being listed on Stubhub for more than $1,300. “Obviously you don’t want to see a celebration throughout the city,” Tierney said. “It would have been a long bus ride.”
Pittsburgh fans were anticipating a memorable game, and it turned out to be only memorable for the Sharks, who are trying to become the second team out of 33 in NHL history to come back from a 3-1 series deficit to win the Stanley Cup.
The Sharks, trailing 3-2 in the series, have won both of their games on the strength of Jones’ goaltending. Jones posted a .952 save percentage when the Sharks won an overtime game in San Jose and owned a .957 save percentage Thursday in Game 5. He has a .933 save percentage in the series.
“He’s a big-game player,” Tierney said. “I’m sure he will bring the same the next two games.”
Jones is playing at the level the Sharks hoped he would be at when they acquired him last summer from the Boston Bruins for a first-round pick and a prospect. The Bruins had acquired Jones from the Los Angeles Kings, who used Jones as Jonathan Quick’s backup.
“We started the season and it didn’t start as smoothly as we wanted,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said. “He just kept battling and battling. We all recognized then that he has the competitive edge, too. That’s critical.”
The Sharks played their best game of the series, jumping off to a 2-0 lead on goals by Brent Burns and Logan Couture in the opening three minutes. The Sharks were also more physical than they had been in the previous four games. Their top players performed stepped up, including Joe Pavelski, who scored an empty-netter for his first goal of the series.
The Sharks gained confidence with every save Jones made.