Benn Ferriero’s goal at 5:40 of the third period plus Jamie McGinn’s power play tally at the 14:04 mark lifted the San Jose Sharks to a 5-3 victory of the Chicago Blackhawks before another full house at The Shark Tank. The Sharks, coming off of a tough loss to Calgary on Wednesday, came out with a strong first period effort and followed it up with a third period which in the end truly electrified The Tank. This was a crucial game for team teal as it was the final home game for almost three weeks. The Sharks now embark on their annual tennis road trip. This years version of their annual February trek is nine games in length.
This game was one that saw the Sharks dominate one period, only to find themselves become “the dominated” in the next one. Antti Niemi had a strong night in the net despite giving up three goals as he made 30 saves on a Chicago Blackhawks attack that refused to go gently into that good night. With the win the Sharks overall record goes to 30-16-6 for 66 points in the Western Conference standings. Team teal keeps their hold on 3rd place while still having three games in hand on the L A Kings. The upcoming road trip will certainly test the metal of the Sharks as they will be going up against some top caliber teams starting at St Louis versus the Blues on Sunday. The Sharks need to carry the momentum from this game onto the road trip as a lot will be demanded of them over the next 18 days.
A Fun Filled Friday at The Tank Recap:
Early Shark Attack- The Sharks would get a break not too long into the start of Friday’s festivities. The Blackhawks Michael Frolik would draw the game’s first penalty just 58 seconds into the contest when he gave Joe Pavelski an up close look at his hockey stick, which cut Pavelski below his chin. Because blood was drawn, Frolik would spend up to four quality minutes in the penalty box and give the Sharks a good power play opportunity. The Sharks only needed about a minute to convert on the first half of the opportunity as Justin Braun found a way to celebrate his 25th birthday as so few of us ever could. Off of a Brent Burns slap shot that Crawford saved, the rebound was taken by Logan Couture who skated behind the net. Couture found the on rushing Braun to the right of the net and got off a quick feed pass. Braun got the puck on his stick and immediately turned the pass into a shot that Crawford could not get to. With the rubber biscuit striking the back of the net the Sharks had an early 1-0 lead.
As the double minor to the Blackhawks’ Frolik continued, the Sharks continued to mount the pressure in the Chicago defensive zone. It would pay off at the 3:46 mark of the period as Couture was able to drill another puck past Crawford. However, Patrick Marleau apparently got too close to Crawford and the officials immediately waived off the goal and sent Marleau to the penalty box for goalie interference. This also happened to Marleau Wednesday night against Calgary, though in that instance no penalty was called. The penalty negated the power play for the Sharks and put the Blackhawks on a 1:47 man advantage. The team teal penalty kill though would shut down the Chicago power play, keeping the Sharks lead at 1-0.
Later in the period a fracas started up when Joe Thornton and Chicago’s Jonathan Toews got into a shoving match that quickly escalated to multiple players giving each other the business. This led to a total of five roughing penalties, three of which were assessed against the Blackhawks. The Sharks would go on the power play and again would capitalize as Dan Boyle would the beneficiary of a rebound when Couture’s slap shot from the right point bounced off of Crawford. The puck sailed straight to Boyle who buried the puck into the net to give the Sharks a two goal lead. The Sharks were looking good going two for three on the power play and flooding Chicago’s shooting lanes on the other side of the ice, holding the Blackhawks to just seven shots on goal.
Blackhawk Up- The second period for a long while was the absolute polar opposite of the first period. As well as team teal dominated the first period, the Blackhawks awoke in the second period and took the play to the Sharks. The Sharks weathered the Chicago storm for awhile but never really could gain any control of the puck. The Blackhawks forecheck really came on strong and established a good deal of dominance. Chicago finally broke through with 13:05 remaining in the second period when Marcus Kruger, stationed in front of the Sharks net slammed in a rebound of a slap shot from Nick Leddy that hit the right post. With the deficit cut to one, the Blackhawks continued to keep the pressure on the Sharks as once again the forecheck for Chicago kept winning battles for the puck.
Exactly three minutes after Kruger scored his first goal of the night, he would once again for Chicago be in the right place at the right time. Kruger would sweep a puck past Niemi after collecting the rebound of a Brent Seabrook slapshot from the point to tie the game at 2-2. Patrick Sharp who had an assist on the first Blackhawk goal would notch another assist here as well. The Blackhawks would continue to pressure the Sharks as Niemi would need to be stellar in the net the rest of the evening if the Sharks were to have a chance. Niemi despite the Blackhawks assault in the Sharks zone would manage to make 15 of his 30 saves here. Meanwhile on the other end of the ice, Chicago goalie Crawford was not seeing too much of the puck as the Sharks scoring chances were few and far in between. The Blackhawks would outshoot team teal 17-3 in the second period.
Feeling A Little Captain In Him- The second period though dominated by the Blackhawks would not preclude the Sharks from getting a few opportunities. With 4:25 remaining in the period, the Sharks finally would get an odd man rush up ice with Pavelski carrying the puck being flanked by Marleau. Pavelski’s attempted feed pass missed Marleau’s stick but was quickly gathered by Thornton. The Sharks Captain then would use the ice he had available and approached Crawford. As it looked like Thornton was about to go behind the net, Jumbo Joe instead attempted to pass the puck towards Marleau. The pass hit Blackhawk Dylan Olsen’s stick and deflected past Crawford into the net as the Sharks would regain a one goal lead at 3-2. The Sharks, who got a bit of the “own goal bug” last week, finally got one of those back. It may be true that things like this do eventually even out and here they finally did for team teal.
Saving the Best for Last- The third period would be one of those that would keep the full house at the Shark Tank on the edge of their seats almost the entire period. As the period got underway, for a few moments it looked like the Blackhawks would keep the momentum and the puck in the Sharks defensive zone. The early Chicago forecheck would once again pay dividends for the Blackhawks. Bryan Bickell would drill a quick wrister past Niemi after a perfect feed by David Bolland from near the corner area of team teal’s defensive zone. Just 2:15 into the third period Chicago pulled even once again at 3-3.
Soon after the Blackhawks tied the game, the Sharks would catch their second wind and get a major spark. That spark came from McGinn, who after seeing a shoving match involving Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Chicago’s Bickell along the boards near the benches, took up for Vlasic and met up with Bickell. After exchanging some pleasantries, McGinn and Bickell’s meeting quickly escolated in to a full scale fight in which both players threw some hay makers. McGinn would get the better of the exchange. As both players were escorted to the penalty boxes, a fire was lit under team teal. And it wasn’t very long before that fire in the Sharks belly would explode.
Off of a faceoff in the Chicago zone, Andrew Desjardins would win the draw and get the puck back towards Burns who launched a slap shot from the left point which bounced off of Crawford and over to Brad Winchester. From there Winchester would try to stuff the puck. Though Winchester here was unsuccessful with his attempt he somehow managed to keep control of the puck and go behind the net. Winchester then made a heads up feed pass to Ferriero who immediately drilled the puck into the net underneath Crawford’s five hole restoring the Sharks lead once again at 4-3. The Sharks and Blackhawks would exchange opportunities as the period went on. After giving up an early goal in the period, Niemi would be sharp and denied Chicago despite their offensive pressure.
With 7:24 remaining in the contest, Chicago’s Andrew Shaw made a very ill advised check to the head of Douglas Murray. Of course Murray did not appreciate the head hit and glass facial, and was not shy in letting Shaw know about it. Shaw would draw a two minute minor for the check to the head putting team teal back on the power play. With six minutes remaining and the Sharks forecheck having established itself, Burns would send a cross ice pass to Clowe. With McGinn near the net, Clowe then sent him a feed pass. McGinn took the feed pass, then put the puck from the back of his stick blade to the front. McGinn would then flip the biscuit over Crawford for a huge power play goal. The Sharks now were back up by two goals again and this time would hold serve as the Blackhawks would only manage a few more opportunities on the night. A tripping penalty to Toews with 2:28 left to play ended any chance Chicago would have to stage a late comeback giving the Sharks a win that broke a brief two game slide.
Game Analysis- On the whole this was a critical game for the Sharks to get on the doorstep of their longest road trip of the season. The Blackhawks as always come at the Sharks hard, though this time the Sharks when they were down got off the mat and answered the bell. For McGinn, if there was any questions still somehow remaining about whether or not he could rise to any occasion when the team needed him the most, let’s just put those questions to rest for good. McGinn tonight graduated into the territory as a player that is right at the level of Clowe, Thornton, Marleau, Pavelski, Burns, and even Murray. McGinn will be an integral part of the Sharks success now and in the future. In this game, the Sharks got as tough of a challenge as any all season and still managed to find a way to win. The second period was an ugly one for team teal, yet Thornton’s goal late in that period put the Sharks in a position where they could be one solid period away from a key win. That goal was huge as team teal was all but shut down in the period. Niemi had a solid game as he handled a lot of hot pucks that seemingly never stopped coming his way especially in the final two periods. The Sharks need to take this win and start to feed of it. In order to do that the Sharks need to become stronger in areas of puck control, and clearing zones. The Sharks had two good periods tonight and got a goal late in the middle period which slowed down the Blackhawks momentum and salvaged a bad period.
The Long and Winding Road Ahead- The Sharks first stop is St Louis, where the Blues are 22-3-4 at home this year. It wont get any easier afterward. With stops in Washington, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Detroit (Sunday 2/19 NBC 9:30am PT), Columbus, Toronto, Nashville, and finally Minnesota the Sharks certainly will have their work cut out for them. If the Sharks away from home can bond as a team, this could be a strong road trip. The Sharks will need this to be a strong road trip, the dog days of March and April are not too far away. In fact, with this trip the Sharks dog days start in St Louis on Sunday.
GO SHARKS!!! LETS GET AFTER THOSE BLUES!!!
The King Shark
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