Mar 26, 2012; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski (8) scores a goal against the Colorado Avalanche during the third period at HP Pavilion. San Jose defeated Colorado, 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE

Sharks Retake Pacific Lead with 5-1 Rout of Avs

The San Jose Sharks got team wide contributions in all areas of the ice as team teal dropped the hammer on the Colorado Avalanche 5-1 before another full house at the Shark Tank. Team teal pulled out all stops and were only a few posts short of what could have been their largest margin of victory this season. Teal teal’s conquest of the visitors from Denver gives the Sharks two huge points which allowed them to climb to the top of the Pacific Division and the third seed in the Western Conference overall standings. Regulation losses by the LA Kings in Vancouver (1-0), the Dallas Stars in Calgary (5-4) plus Phoenix this past Sunday night against St.Louis (4-0) cleared the path for the Sharks to make this quantum leap to the top, though their lead is very much on the razor thin side with six games remaining.

Joe Pavelski’s two goals, combined with goals from Andrew Desjardins, Torrey Mitchell, and Ryane Clowe gave the Sharks their largest margin of victory since January. The game also witnessed Dan Boyle collect his 500th career assist. The game though like most Sharks games this season did not come with it’s share of frustrations as team teal Captain Joe Thornton missed a wide open net, Clowe had an early look at an empty net too but could not control the puck. Martin Havlet came close to scoring on two juicy point blank chances. The Sharks were not perfect, but looked more settled, focused and solid. Antti Niemi speaking of solid made 31 saves to keep the Avs at bay. Former Shark Jamie McGinn’s return to the Shark Tank was not his most memorable night. The Sharks defense held McGinn to four shots on goal, and the former Shark was a minus four for the night. Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan in a post game interview stated “I really liked the poise of our leaders on the bench tonight. They were saying the right things and that’s a good sign for us now” **

The win allowed the Sharks to complete a home stand 3-0-0 following wins over Boston and Phoenix. The Sharks will ride a three game winning streak as they now travel to Anaheim to take on the arch rival Ducks on Wednesday. The Ducks have punished team teal this season, and the road gets no easier the following night in a rematch against the Phoenix Coyotes. With six games remaining, the Sharks still have time to start adding to their recaptured Pacific Division lead and will need to keep the division lead to prevent further jeopardy to their post season hopes.

Recapping the Solid Teal Effort:

Fire & Avs- Team teal took the ice at the Shark Tank and skated hard throughout much of the first period. The Sharks got a number of good looks at the Avs goal and had a wealth of opportunities to take the early lead. Colorado Av’s net minder Semyon Varlamov was quite busy keeping his team in the game with a number of saves, the first big one being off of a Patrick Marleau breakaway opportunity about five minutes into the game. Earlier Varlamov handled a hard slap shot from Boyle that he had to struggle with though making the stop. Later former Av’ Daniel Winnik had a breakaway from the right point but was denied by Valarmov while Shane O’Brien was called for a roughing penalty when he tacked Tommy Wingles, forcing him to slide into the net.

The Sharks would not score on this power play opportunity though or the next one they would get a few minutes later as Valarmov was Colorado’s best penalty killer on the ice. Later in the period the Avs would see the momentum shift to their direction and Niemi who had a relatively quite first 15 minutes had a very noisy final five minutes of the first period. Niemi was up to the challenge was unfazed by shots on goal from former teammate McGinn as well as Matt Hunwick who’s stuff in attempt came close to getting in the net. The Avs would get the last six shots on goal in the first period as neither team scored.

Teal Avalanche- Team teal opened the second period right in the middle of trying to kill of a Colorado power play opportunity. Brent Burns made a key defensive play here when he was able to deny the Avs’ Ryan O’Reilly from receiving a perfect feed pass from Paul Stastny which had it connected would have likely been a goal. With 16:10 remaining in the period, Pavelski was in the perfect spot to get a rebound near the Avs goal crease. Justin Braun’s slap shot was stopped by Valarmov, however the rebound came straight to Pavelski who drilled the puck into the net to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead. The Sharks would get some challenges on their end of the ice following this goal. Niemi did his job here in holding down the fort for team teal with some key saves including a very loud shot in bet by O’Brien.

Later in the period the Sharks would get another chance to control the rubber biscuit in the Colorado zone. Another loud shot, this time from Braun hit the back boards behind the net and the puck would bounce towards Boyle. As Boyle tried to control the puck, he was able to somehow feed it over to where Desjardins was waiting. Desjardins got the rubber biscuit and drilled it past Valarmov to give the Sharks a two goal lead. The Sharks just narrowly missed taking a three goal lead as Valarmov would later need to stop a point blank attempt from Michal Handzus. The two goal margin did not last too long as Colorado would soon respond with a goal from O’Brien some two and a half minutes later too keep the Avs within a single goal. Niemi would later be challenged by Stasny who’s point blank chance was right on the crease but turned away.

A few minutes later the Sharks were at it again keeping the pressure on the Avs when both Dominic Moore and Handzus were able to fight for the puck from the back of the Colorado goal. Moore was able to get the puck over to Mitchell who initial shot was wide. The puck sailed over to Handzus who fed it back to Mitchell, who in return drilled it past Valarmov from the slot to give team teal a 3-1 lead. Just seconds after the following face off the Avs just missed a second goal when a David Jones shot hit the crossbar of the Sharks goal. The Sharks would soon feel some frustration of their own when Thornton thought he had a certain goal only to hit the outside post and watch it bounce away as he had a virtually wide open net to shoot at.

Teal Mountain High- The Sharks wasted little time dispatching the Avs in the final period as a carry over power play from the previous period would hurt Colorado. Pavelski would soon strike again getting his second goal of the game 35 seconds into the final stanza to put team teal up by three, stuffing the puck underneath Valarmov. The Sharks would continue to pepper Valarmov for much of the third period while shutting down the Avs attack on just nine more shots on goal. The Sharks would later get their fifth goal of this game from Clowe as he hit an empty netter after Colorado went for broke with 4:15 remaining and pulled their goalie for an extra attacker. Clowe’s score 38 seconds later put an end to that plan and the Avs evening. The Sharks attack again lasted for much of the period and did not disapoint this time around.

Game Analysis- The Sharks tonight played what I would call (to use baseball terminology) a complete game. The Sharks were not perfect by any means however they brought a fight to the Tank tonight and played as a more hungry, desperate and with a chip on their collective shoulders. Team teal stayed the aggressor and showed what they are capable of as a team. As a team, they work well together. When off on their own so to speak, the Sharks tend to drop off in their play as was witnessed last Monday night. All sides did well enough tonight, Niemi was certainly strong in net as he got the support he also needed. The Sharks still need to do some work on the power play as they did get pucks that could have been converted into goals. Counting the missed opportunities, this game could have ended 8-1. The Sharks were that dominant. They did score a power play goal early in the third period to end a 0 for 9 slide in that department as well.

The Sharks treated this game as one of the more important games of the year. That will need to be the ongoing theme and approach for the rest of the regular season (and on to the post season if they make it). Each game is the most important game the rest of the way. The one good thing for the Sharks here is that they finally got the type of game they were looking for, a game where (almost) everything clicked and that they were in control of for most of the way. With Colorado fighting for a playoff spot themselves the Sharks had to know that a team that is just as desperate and will stop at nothing. This is how team teal has to be and from some of the post game pressers it seemed players throughout the team get that point. This will bode well for the Sharks playoff chances. However, keeping the third seed and not falling to 7th or 8th would be a huge help.

If the Sharks don’t hold on the Pacific Division lead here, there’s at least a 50/50 chance the post season will be missed. Though the Sharks are still skating on thin ice, maybe that knowledge and the challenge this represents will be just enough to light the fire under their skates and propel them to a long winning steak that carries into the playoffs. It all remains to be seen…


The King Shark

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