SAN JOSE – When it came to defeating the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night, Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said that his team really "gutted it out." With multiple players battling the flu and two much-needed points in the standings on the line, San Jose had to dig deep.
At the end of the night, the team gave a lot of credit to the man between the pipes – gaoltender Martin Jones.
"Jones was great for us," Tomas Hertl said after the hard-fought 5-2 victory. "It was his game."
San Jose may have gone into the dressing room with a 2-1 lead after the first 20 minutes, but the Sharks were getting heavily outshot – 15-5, to be exact. It was up to Jones to stand tall and keep the game from getting out of hand.
Although the first goal he allowed wasn't his best work, he very noticeably buckled down afterward to keep the score in the Sharks' favor. By the end of the night, Jones had turned away 37 of 39 shots sent his way.
"I thought he made some big saves in the first 40 minutes, especially," DeBoer said. "Our goalie was our best player tonight, which gave us a chance."
Captain Joe Pavelski agreed: "He was great, especially early," the captain said. "You look up at the shots and they're 15-5. It didn't feel like we played in the o-zone very much. Didn't have a lot of faceoffs in the o-zone. He was on tonight, he was working. He made a lot of quality saves for us."
With the win, Jones improved to 8-1-0 against the Canadiens in his career, with a 1.89 goals-against average and .937 save percentage. It was Jones' 32nd win of the season, and he improved his home record to 20-4-4. Three of those W's have come on the Sharks' current homestand, which is a good sign for a team that will spend so much time at home down the stretch.
It also didn't hurt that the calm-and-collected demeanor Jones is known for in the playoffs was on full display Thursday.
"He's always done that, right from Day 1," Pavelski said. "He gives us that confidence where he'll make that key save for us. If we're a little bit under siege he'll stop a two-on-one, he'll make a big save and he'll keep the game on our side. You saw a good example of that tonight."
Most importantly for the Sharks, Jones' performance helped them gain ground in the standings. With the victory over Montreal, San Jose came within one point of the Calgary Flames for the lead in the Pacific Division and the Western Conference.
Had it not been for Jones' 37-save effort in his third consecutive home win, the Sharks might not be so close.
"The two points were really important for us," Pavelski said. "At the end of the night, our best player was probably (Jones). He really stepped up for us."