Joe Thornton’s two goals and two assist coupled with 30 saves from goalie Antti Niemi powered the San Jose Sharks to a 6-0 blowout win over the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets before a full house at The Shark Tank Tuesday evening. In a game that featured almost everything from strong net minding by Niemi to timely opportunities that the Sharks took full advantage of, team teal opened the post-All Star Break part of this campaign with a much needed resounding victory over an opponent who is down and out. The Sharks with the win improve their season mark to 28-14-6 and lead the Pacific Division with 62 points and have two games in hand over the L A Kings. Team teal also sits at 3rd place in the overall Western Conference Standings.
The contest proved to also an very emotional one as several fights broke out over the course of the game. This was the 800th career NHL game for Dan Boyle, as well as Brent Burns’ 500th career NHL game and Douglas Murray’s 400th. This was a memorable game for Boyle for more than one reason. Boyle of all people would probably the least likely to draw a fighting major and a game misconduct, but that’s exactly what happened late in the third period (more on that later). For the Sharks, this is the kind of game they’ve needed for sometime, not just because of the 6-0 score. The Sharks had a game where for the most part they executed as well as they have at any point of the season, and the scoring chances that weren’t cashed in were only because Columbus goalie Steve Mason had to make some huge plays to keep it from being a 10-0 final.
Here is a Recap of the Festivities:
No Jacket Required- The tone for this game may have been set inside of the first 20 seconds as Thornton took a hit to the head from the Blue Jackets Jared Boll. The Sharks got an early power play as the result. The Sharks despite not scoring on this opportunity did put several pucks on Mason who made some good saves early. Not to be out done, Niemi was quite busy himself turning away an effective Columbus counter attack. With just over 12 minutes to go in the first period and the Sharks pressuring the Blue Jackets zone, Justin Braun would launch a slap shot from the right point that was saved by Mason. The rebound would bounce off a skate of a Blue Jacket defender and over to Patrick Marleau who rushed to the puck and wristed it past Mason to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead. The key to Marleau’s goal was Logan Couture being stationed in front of the Columbus goal, occupying two Blue Jackets defenders.
As the puck dropped to resume play, the Sharks’ Jim Vandermeer and the Blue Jackets’ Boll dropped gloves as Vandermeer took up for Thornton from Boll’s earlier head shot. Boll, who usually wins the majority of his fights was not able to win this one as Vandermeer delived more punches and even smiled at Boll as to say “…Is that all you’ve got?”. Just under two minutes later Andrew Desjardins forced a Blue Jacket turnover deep in their end of the ice and got the loose puck over to Thornton who did the rest. Mason would save Thornton’s first shot on goal, but the rebound came right back to Jumbo Joe and this time he didn’t miss slapping the puck into the back of the net for a two goal team teal lead.
Niemi Steps Up Early- Just moments after Thornton gave the Sharks a 2-0 lead, it was Niemi’s turn to make the early lead hold up. On a Columbus rush into the Shark defensive zone, Derek Dorsett put a shot on goal that Niemi kicked away. The rebound hit off the back boards and came right to the stick of Ryan Russell. Russell tried to gain control of the puck to stuff it in the net, however Niemi got there just a split second sooner and stopped Russell’s attempt cold. The Blue Jackets had a few good looks late in the period, only to find that Niemi was more than up to the task and on top of his game.
Unlucky Jackets – The first period turned out to be just the start of a rough evening for Columbus. The Sharks would continue to pressure the Blue Jackets zone and eventually draw a penalty to Derick Brassard for interference. Team teal would take advantage of this power play opportunity as Joe Pavelski would drill a slap shot that hit the skate of Columbus defender Derek MacKenzie and deflected underneath Mason and on into the net at the 4:56 mark. MacKenzie’s stick broke early in the power play. Because the Sharks applied continuous pressure in the Blue Jackets zone, MacKenzie could not go to get another stick and did his best to defend without one to no avail. Mason would redeem himself a few minutes later make a great save in stealing a goal from a Marleau slap shot. Mason would later deny good scoring chances from Boyle and Pavelski. All the while, Niemi on his end of the ice continued to stone Blue Jacket opportunities which as the period lingered on became fewer and fewer.
With just 3:07 remaining in the period, off of a faceoff Jamie McGinn was able to score from a rebound of a Murray shot on goal to give team teal a 4-0 lead. Michal Handzus won the draw and got the puck over to Murray who drilled the slap shot that would bounce McGinn’s way. This goal was probably the one that broke the camel’s back for the Blue Jackets as the Sharks dominance in the game had taken hold.
Put Your Jackets Away- Just barley two minutes into the third period the Sharks would increase their lead to five as Handzus again was able to take advantage of another Blue Jackets turnover in front of their own goal. McGinn was able to poke check the puck away from Columbus’ Antoine Vermette and the rubber biscuit went towards the skate of Handzus. From there, Handzus quickly got control of the puck and shot it over Mason’s outreached glove into the net. Just a moment later a second scrap between Vandermeer and Boll insued, with Boll getting in punches that would only connect to Vandermeer’s helmet. Vandermeer got in a few shots and the fight was soon broken up.
With 9:10 remaining the Sharks would add to their lead with a perfectly executed odd man rush. Dejardens captured the puck in the Sharks zone and carried it past the blue line where he would feed the biscutt to Pavelski. As Pavelski neared the Columbus goal, he was able to feed the puck back to Thornton who was trailing the rush. Thornton got the rubber biscutt and drilled it past Mason and the Sharks would have their sixth goal of the evening, Thornton would have his second. Niemi as he did all game long would do the rest for team teal keeping the frustrated Blue Jackets off of the board despite a total of 30 shots on goal.
“Boyle-ing Over”- As the game was nearing it’s conclusion, the Blue Jackets despite the blowout would not go peacefully into that good night. The late game shenanigans would start with 4:06 remaining in the game when Boyle took exception to Derick Brassard jamming the blade of his stick (confirmed on replay) into an unmentionable area. Needless to say, Boyle took serious umbrage towards Brassard’s actions. Boyle crosschecked Brassard, who then fell over like a sack of potatoes in an attempt to draw a penalty through embellishment. Boyle also took exception to this and let Brassard know as about it he got up. The two then exchanged ideas about each others ancestry and the gloves dropped, and it was on. Boyle immediately grabbed Brassard and started to just pond him, clearly getting the best end of the exchange. (I have not seen a Sharks player’s fight be this one sided since Rivet versus Ott in 2007.) The officials broke up the scrap rather quickly having to pull Boyle off of Brassard. As this was going on, Boyle and Rick Nash started to exchange words. Boyle and Brassard got 5 minute majors each for fighting, while Boyle received an additional 10 minute game misconduct penalty, getting the gate.
Things would get even chippier inside of three minutes remaining as Colin White would get checked hard by Dorsett. The two would square off just a few seconds later when Dorsett rammed his stick into White’s shoulder. White would get the best of the exchange there. Meanwhile, a separate fracas involving Braun and Fedor Tyutin was going on just a few feet away in the corner, with Braun taking down Tyutin. All involved received fighting majors and the gate. The final skirmish of the night between the Sharks’ John McCarthy and the Blue Jackets’ Aaron Johnson would not amount to much, however the officials had seen enough fights for one night and gave both players game misconducts.
Game Assessment- If the Sharks wanted to start the second half of the season on the right note they certainly accomplished that. The game was a complete team effort despite the slightly depleted roster. Though Columbus also had a few players out with the injury bug, this was still an important game for the Sharks to get. Hopefully this game will represent a tone setter for the remaining schedule as the race for the post season now begins in earnest. This game should be a confidence booster for the Sharks as they played strong and stuck up for one another. With a huge road trip on the horizon, all the games at The Shark Tank become that much more critical.
Return of the Stars- Next up for the Sharks is one of the chief Pacific Division rivals in the Dallas Stars. The Sharks this season have gotten the better end of the deal against the Stars, and are 3-0 versus a team that over the years had been a perennial thorn in their side. The Sharks who opened the season trailing the Stars by 10 points in the standings, now lead Dallas by 10 points. Team Teal would love to get as much separation from Dallas in the standings as possible as each game is becoming even more meaningful. There are 33 games left, and the Sharks figure to need about 44 more points to lock down a solid playoff position.
GO SHARKS!!! BEAT DALLAS!!!
The King Shark
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