Last night, the San Jose Sharks opportunity to test out their late season resurgence on the class of the NHL almost ended up resembling yet another one of their thrilling “last second victory from the jaws of defeat” games. In fact, right up until the end of regulation, the game was right on script. This would be the script that has the Sharks getting down two goals early (0-2), then clawing back to tie the game (2-2) only to go down a goal (2-3).
And then tying it up again (3-3).
Then going down a goal once more (3-4).
And then tying it up again (4-4).
Now, when compared to their inspiring games of late, the script is supposed to then call for the horn to sound on regulation and the Sharks either going on to win it in OT or on a Ryane Clowe shootout winner.
Not this time and how you say, ‘not so fast Yankee man’ in Swedish?
Last night, the Sharks were up against frankly just a better squad in the Vancouver Canucks, who are without question, the predominant team in the NHL right now, and who looked every bit of it last night as they dictated pace from the first drop of the puck.
The old-look, scattered Sharks from earlier this season were unfortunately the first ones to hit the ice.
After getting almost run out of their own rink in the first frame with Vancouver goals by Alex Burrows (remember that name) and Sami Salo, the Canucks went in confidently to the first break leading by a pair.
What the Canucks couldn’t have known as the second frame opened up was that Todd McLellan apparently performed a team exorcism during the break, or at the very least had rolled around the Sharks dressing room with a defibrillator casually reminding the boys to pick it up.
Enter the late season, new-look, juggernaut, two-actresses-and-a-Charlie-Sheen-suitcase-full-of-wrongful inspiration Sharks.
The second period opened up, and if you happened to get to your seat late, you missed a double from two of the Sharks most celebrated late season producers. By “late”, I mean if you got back down the stairs two minutes after they dropped the puck, you missed both Devin Setoguchi and Ryane Clowe lighting the lamp and bringing the game level.
Now that team, the one the Sharks rolled out at the top of the second is the best in hockey, no doubt about it.
The Canucks for their part looked stunned after Clowey’s goal, and the Vancouver school bully had just taken a right cross and gut punch from, who they had remembered as the Western Conference’s drama geek. Well, at least “geek” the last time these teams faced off, though the Sharks had long since ditched the Ibsen and Shakespeare for P90X and daily affirmations, put on about 50 pounds of hate and gone on a rampage through the NHL.
It was the answer by the Canucks Mason Raymond that put Vancouver back up by a goal only three minutes after the tie game high-fives had concluded, that proved Vancouver doesn’t stay stunned for long and get back to Beast Level rather quickly.
It feels a little odd to term the Sharks as “scrappy”, but that is exactly how they played as they kept the game tight in the second period, and the deficit at only a single goal heading into the second intermission. The game stayed tight well into the third period, when in a seeming reward for their tenacious play, Torrey Mitchell scored the equalizer on one of his best ever tallies.
Mitchell started the play just outside of his own faceoff circle by flipping the puck to Kyle Wellwood, who immediately slid it back to Mitchell who then proceeded to dangle his way through the entire Canuck defense before slinging one past netminder Cory Schneider. It was EA Sports move special, and for Mitchell fans, who are used to him making almost all the right moves before losing the puck and just missing out on a goal, this finish was even more exhilarating.
The elation didn’t last unfortunately as Team Sedin quickly paired up on a powerplay advantage less than a minute later, when Daniel Sedin scored to put the Canucks up by a score of 4-3, with less than two minutes remaining in the game.
But, here the Sharks came back. This time with only seconds remaining in the game and after having pulled Antti Niemi for an extra attacker. With the Sharks buzzing around and time ticking away, Joe Thornton found Ryane Clowe in front of the Vancouver net for a quick one time finish to tie the game up with around 20 seconds remaining. The building was rocking, the Sharks had come back (again) against the best team in the NHL and we only needed now was the final cherry on top, a win.
That didn’t happen though, and the teams played to a stalemate before heading into the shootout. The Sharks would end up whiffing in their three attempts and Alex Burrows of the Canucks would not. The man who had opened up the scoring, who had taken a late, boneheaded penalty allowing the Sharks to tie the game in its’ dying seconds…
…had just won the game for the Canucks.
The loss was tough and proved that the work on transformation to a playoff contender is not yet done, but to see the Sharks claw back all night was pretty thrilling in itself. No, thrilling isn’t as good as winning, but to see that San Jose can more than hang with the NHL’s best should give any fan high confidence as we roll closer to the playoffs…when possibly facing this same Canucks team under very different circumstances is a reason for excitement and anticipation, not abject fear of getting blown out in a four game sweep.
Follow Blades of Teal on Facebook
Follow Blades of Teal on Twitter @bladesofteal
Please visit our NHL Main Page: Too Many Men On The Site.