Logan Couture’s tip in of a Dan Boyle slap shot just 38 seconds into the third period turned out to be the difference as the San Jose Sharks finally got off the schneid and defeated the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 in Alberta’s Capital City. For the Sharks this was their first win in the month of March, snapping a five game winless streak that has put team teal behind the eight ball in the race for the playoffs in the Western Conference. Antti Niemi had a decent night making 20 saves as the Oilers once again provided the Sharks with some stiff competition. With the win the Sharks move up from 11th place to 9th place in the Western Conference standings as Colorado defeated Anaheim while the Phoenix Coyotes picked up one point in a shootout loss to Nashville in the desert Monday evening.
The Sharks have very little time to enjoy this win as they head 145 miles south to meet up with the Calgary Flames in the second game of a back to back on Tuesday evening. The Sharks are not only fighting in their division, but also challenging the Flames for playoff position as well. The Sharks never trailed in against the Oilers though Edmonton managed to tie the game twice. The Sharks were also two for two on the power play which was a huge key to the victory, after going through a 1 for 20 stretch on the man advantage. The Sharks got a good challenge from the Oilers as the game got late however this time team teal answered defensively when they needed it the most. With 14 games left after this one, hopefully this will be the game that is the springboard to the Sharks making a post season run. Of Course, that remains to be scene.
Recap at Rexall Place:
Oh Alberta- In their second of two tours through Alberta this season, the Sharks would get off to an early jump on the Oilers as Torrey Mitchell scored, tipping in the rebound of a Tommy Wingles scoring attempt to give team teal a 1-0 lead just 1:07 into the game. A slap shot by Marc-Edouard Vlasic hit the pad of Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk, and bounced over towards Wingles. From there, Wingles tried to capitalize on the scoring attempt only to see it bounce again off Dubnyk. This second rebound bounced out just far enough to allow Mitchell to get to it first and drive the rubber biscuit into the net. Team teal had some quality chances which challenged Dubnyk, including a point blank shot Brent Burns later in the period. Another slap shot by Couture in the slot would be turned away by Dubnyk late in the period.
Meanwhile Niemi would get challenged often in the first period as the Oilers soon established a decent forecheck and kept a good deal of pressure on team teal. Niemi made some key saves on two sold shots from Edmonton’s Ales Hemsky. Jordan Eberly also had a good chance on Niemi, however the Sharks goalie was able to save and get a clear out despite being backed into the net. Niemi had another scare a few moments later when former Shark Ben Eager knocked down a Sharks clearing attempt and had a breakaway on the team teal net. Fortunately, Eager may have been a little to “eager” and fired a slap shot wide. The Sharks there clearly dodged a very close call.
Late in the period, two slashing penalties were called, one on the Sharks Daniel Winnik and the other on the Oilers Jeff Petry. Both teams would skate out the rest of the period playing four on four. The Sharks had a huge rush on the Oilers goal as a Patrick Marleau slap shot would rebound off of Dubnyk far enough to allow the Oilers go get ahold of the puck and create an odd man rush. Nick Schultz would get ahold of the puck and pass it down ice to Ryan Whitney who was flanked to his right by Eric Belanger. Whitney elected to go ahead and shoot the puck from the left point and drilled it over Niemi’s shoulder to inside the top of the net. With just 49 seconds remaining in the first period the Oilers had tied the game 1-1 as once again the Sharks appeared to have a recurrence of the inability to hold a lead late in a period which has been part of their problem in this long 18 game stretch before this game.
Keeping Busy- The Oilers would give Niemi and the Sharks a tough test as they held team teal in their zone for much of the first seven minutes of the period, out shooting the Sharks 6-2 at one juncture. Niemi was solid and held off all incoming scoring attempts by Edmonton. This would include the help of a timely penalty kill by team teal after Douglas Murray was sent to the penalty box for a holding call. Shortly after the penalty kill was completed, the Sharks started to pull back in this tug-o-war and started to mount some pressure in the Oilers defensive zone. TJ Galiardi narrowly missed scoring his first goal as a member of the Sharks as he could not get a point blank wrister past Dubnyk who had to make quite to save to keep the rubber biscuit out of his net. However team teal kept up the pressure and eventually this would pay off when the Oilers Taylor Hall was whistled for a tripping penalty.
The Sharks immediately capitalized as off the face off Joe Pavelski would drill a slap shot from the point that bounced off of Dubnyk straight to Marleau. Having the puck right on his stick, Marleau immediately sent a feed pass over to Joe Thornton. Thornton from there would wrist a shot that “knuckle balled” on the Oilers goalie and he was not able to snatch it out of the air. Once again, the Sharks had a one goal lead at 2-1 with just under 8 1/2 minutes remaining in the second period and looked as if they were ready to build on it. The power play goal was also the first man advantage goal after not converting their last 14 power play chances over the last few games.
The Sharks would put more pressure on the Oilers in there defensive zone and seemed to be almost certain to put away another puck, that was until Edmonton’s Hall had other plans. About three minutes and change after the Sharks had taken the lead, Dubnyk again had to make a point blank save, this time on Vlasic. The rebounding puck would find it’s way over to Ryan Clowe, who then fed the puck to Burns who was at the right point. Burns then attempted a slap shot that was blocked by Hall. As the puck squirted back towards the Sharks defensive zone, Hall won the race to the puck against Vlasic and drilled a slap shot the beat Niemi to tie the game at 2-2. The Sharks did not do a bad job of pressuring the Edmonton defensive zone, it was just in this instance they were just plain unlucky. The Sharks would mount some more pressure in the Oilers zone after Hall’s tying goal and eventually would draw another penalty. Linus Omark would get called for delay of game as he knocked the puck over the glass with 48 seconds left in the period. The penalty would carry over into the third period.
Taking A Stand- The Sharks would enter the third period with 1:12 of power play time available to them. The Sharks would not miss this opportunity as they needed just 38 second of that time to take the lead again. Taking a feed pass from Thornton who was to the left of the Edmonton goal, Dan Boyle drilled a wrister that beat Dubnyk. In a bit of an oddity, Couture was crosschecked right in front of the Oilers goal and fell towards the Edmonton goalie. Couture though had gotten up quickly and may have gotten either his stick of his leg on the puck. Either way, the Sharks had taken a 3-2 lead. However, there was still 19:22 to play and team teal knew that anything could still happen and have seen that rear up and show it’s ugly head too many times already over the last six weeks.
The Sharks though picked this time to play maybe one of their best defensive periods of the season and it came at a time when it certainly was needed the most. Defensively the Sharks held the Oilers to just six shots on goal in the third period and were able to effectively flood lanes. Edmonton would get a few scoring chances particularly late in the period, however Niemi this time was solid and kept the Oilers off the scoreboard. The Sharks had some chances to score themselves but seemed to be more obsessed with a strong defensive effort which in the end was the best medicine to stop an 0-3-2 skid, and hopefully a 3-12-3 swoon along with it.
Game Analysis- The Sharks put together a solid effort on the ice tonight and were finally rewarded for it. This type of game over the last six weeks usually would be one of those games where the Sharks would give up the tying goal late and even the winning goal just a moment later. The Sharks were very tough defensively and came huge largely because of that. Of Course two power play goals to snap a long drought in this department was a big help too. The two goals the Sharks gave up to the Oilers tonight both came as the results of good defensive plays by Edmonton that paid off for them. Niemi made 20 saves and was really helped by team teals defensive effort. The goal scored by Mitchell in the first period was important because the Sharks too many times during this slide would give up the first goal in the game and would find themselves playing “catch-up” for the remainder of the evening. Thankfully this was not the case again tonight.
The Sharks can by happy with this win however their work to get out of this hole and into the playoff picture has only begun. As far as I am concerned, not only have the playoffs have already begin, but this was Game One of a 15 game truncated schedule. Out of those 15 games, I see the Sharks needing to go 10-5 minimum to get into the post season, and 11-4 or 12-3 if they are to win the Pacific Division. This will not be an easy task for team teal, but at least they are 1-0-0 so far with 14 more games to go. We will see what happens from this point forward…
GO SHARKS, BEAT CALGARY!!!!
The King Shark
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