Handzus, Niemi give Sharks 3-2 shootout win in Vancouver...

Michal Handzus scored the only goal in the shootout while Antti Niemi had arguably his best game of the season, stopping 27 shots plus three in the shootout as the San Jose Sharks got past the Vancouver Canucks 3-2. The win give the Sharks their first win over the Canucks this season, and temporarily reinstalled the Sharks as the leader in the Pacific Division (until the L A Kings gained a point in the standings via a shootout loss to the Colorado Avs). Handzus shootout winner came on the heals of Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo turning away shootout attempts from Ryane Clowe and Joe Pavelski. Luongo made 33 saves on the evening prior to the shootout period.

Meanwhile Antti Niemi was solid in the net and was the difference maker for the Sharks. Niemi came up huge early in the third period and was the key component in the Sharks turning away a Canucks five on three opportunity that lasted 69 seconds. One of Niemi’s key saves came off of a Joe Thornton turnover when Cody Hodgson intercepted the puck and had a clear path to the Sharks goal. Niemi held firm and kicked away Hodgson’s wrister and kept the Sharks above water.  In the overtime period, Niemi turned away what appeared to be a certain game winner for the Canucks, as he was able to direct a Dan Hamhuis shot to the post on what appeared to be an open net opportunity created from a rebound of a shot on goal by Kevin Bieksa.

Recapping Monday’s Game:

The Great White North – This was the Sharks first trip north or the border this season, and they knew they had to make this one count. The Sharks brought their A-Game to British Columbia and gave the Canucks a strong effort. The frustrating thing for the Sharks this season is two losses to the Canucks both by the same 3-2 scores at the Tank, so that meant anything less than the A-Game was not going to cut the mustard. The first period was fairly tight, with the Sharks getting a strong scoring chance early as a slap shot by Logan Couture just missed the net and surprised Luongo. Meanwhile, Niemi was holding the fort for the Sharks turning away nine Vancouver shots on the net. However, the one that Niemi could not stop was a puck thrown towards the net by the Canucks Jannik Hansen on a Vancouver three on one breakaway. The puck hit Jamie McGinn’s stick while he was trying to cut off Hansen’s pass and it went into the net, giving the Canucks a 1-0 lead with 4:18 left in the first period.

The Sharks came out with significantly more energy in the second period and launched an all out assault on the Vancouver net, keeping Mr Luongo quite busy. The Sharks would tie the game just 1:34 into the period as Benn Ferriero was able to flip the puck over Luongo, making a good second effort after the first shot was turned away. This sequence started with Couture drilled a shot that K Bieksa blocked, though the puck also knocked Bieksa down as it hit him flush on the knee. Clowe took the rebound and got behind the net, where he was able to get a feed pass to Ferriero who was able to wrist the puck past Luongo as a fallen Bieksa did his best to try and clear the puck. Later in the period, Luongo would make his best save of the evening turning away a J Thornton point blank shot that came after an across the goal crease pass from Patrick Marleau. The Sharks would get their first lead over Vancouver this season with Marleau’s 14th goal of the season. Marleau was able to get off a back handed wrist shot off of a rebound of a shot from Justin Braun. The Sharks outshot the Canucks 17-7 and were clearly dominant throughout the period.

The third period was a tough period for the Sharks as they fell into early penalty trouble getting whistled for two penalties 51 seconds apart. Jason Demers was shown the penalty box for tripping at 1:40 of the period. Brent Burns would join Demers in the box less than a minute later for high sticking. The Sharks were faced with a 2 man disadvantage against the top power play in the league. The Sharks penalty killers stepped it up as the team of Douglas Murray, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Marleau along with Niemi’s turning away four shots on goal made all of the difference as they were able to get three clears and keep the Canucks from scoring. The Sharks would go on to kill the remainder of the penalty once Demers was able to get back onto the ice. Later in the period, Clowe would get a holding penalty as he got caught up with Alexandre Burrows and both fell to the ice. The Sharks penalty kill this time would fail them as the Canucks’s C Hodgson would drill a slap shot past Niemi 1:04 into the Canucks man advantage to tie the game at 2-2. The game would stay that way until the end of regulation, despite a slapshot by Torrey Mitchel that got past Luongo into the net. The only problem was that Mitchel launched his shot just as the horn sounded, and the puck did not cross the goal line before the clock read 0:00…just .04 of a second earlier and the Sharks win in regulation. Both teams went scoreless in the overtime period and proceeded to go to the tie breaking shootout.

Shootout in BC - In the shootout period Niemi had to take on three of the Canucks best goal scores as he faced A Burrows, C Hodgson and Ryan Kesler. Niemi was able to stop shot attempts by Burrows and Hodgson holding his position on the ice long enough to force both shooters to fire the puck towards areas that Niemi had covered. On Kesler’s shot, Niemi had an assist from the goalies best friend, in this case it was the right post. Meanwhile, Luongo was able to turn way Clowe and Pavelski before M Handzus got his turn. Handzus was able to control the puck and when it was time to shoot lifted the puck over Luongo’s pad on the left. The puck cleared Luongo’s pad and hit near the top shelf of the net, giving the Sharks a hard earned win and ending the evenings festivities.

Staying out of the “Box” - On the evening the Sharks drew seven penalties, yet held the Canucks to one power play goal. Honestly, that’s not bad at all considering where Vancouver’s power play ranks. One of the keys for the Sharks here is that they are going to need to find ways to avoid drawing so many penalties. In a fast paced game as hockey is you are going to get penalites, that’s inevitable. What the Sharks are going to need to focus on going forward is finding ways to cut this down, especially when it appears the game officials are looking for this albeit their own experience with games involving the Sharks, or the opposing team telling the refs during the course of a game to watch for certain things they think are happening. Also, it seemed there was a point in the game where Thonrton was hooked in the Sharks defensive zone and no call was made.

Duck Soup - This win versus Vancouver (for now) exercises one hex the Sharks have been dealing with. Wednesday night, the Sharks need to exercise another hex, and maybe one that’s been even more painful. The Anaheim Ducks are three for three against the Sharks, winning two of those at the Tank. The Sharks last trip to the Honda Center was on October 14th, a very frustrating to watch 1-0 loss and Jonas Hiller pitched his only shutout of the season. In some ways, even if it’s just for the psyche alone, this game (like Monday’s game at Vancouver) is a “must win”. The Sharks cannot be leaving points in the standings behind, and really need to start treating the Ducks in the same manner they would treat a game against Detroit, Vancouver or Chicago. 1-3 vs the Ducks is still lousy, but a heck of a lot better than 0-4 or 0-3-1. The Sharks need to come correct here and start making some hey as the Ducks will enter this game with a 10-21-6 mark. The Ducks have been outscored 127-84 this season. There is no reason the Sharks cannot go into Anaheim and not come out without a “W”…unless they play to the opponent’s level like they did in the other three meetings…



The King Shark

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