Early Eruption- For a team that had just finished a game 25 and a half hours earlier, the San Jose Sharks came out of the gate well rested, ready and eager to see their Northwestern rival in the Vancouver Canucks. The Sharks wasted no time taking care of business early, often and before the evening was over sent a message to the Canucks that their days of pushing around the Sharks was over. Joe Pavelski scored two goals and red hot Patrick Marleau added a power play tally as team teal took care of the Canucks 4-1 before over 17,000 faithful at the Shark Tank Sunday evening. The win was the fifth straight for the Sharks who now are sporting a very solid 5-0-0 mark. Pavelski’s two goals also marked the fifth time this season in five games that at least one Sharks player has scored at least two goals in a game. Antti Niemi was busy in the net tonight, making 23 saves and getting help from five Canucks scoring attempts that hit off of the goal post. The Sharks also maybe had their best penalty kill performance as a franchise going seven or seven in this department. Ryane Clowe had a night that was very much on the edge. Clowe and the Canucks’ Alex Burrows were both shown the penalty box for unsportsmanlike conduct before the puck was even dropped. This started after Burrows was challenging Logan Couture and appeared to take a swipe at him as the referee was getting ready to drop the puck. Clowe stepped in to defend Couture when the game officials intervened.
Wasting No Time- The Sharks wasted no time making Vancouver Goalie Cory Schneider know he was going to be in for a very busy and tough evening. Joe Thornton re-introduced himself to Schneider by slamming the puck past him into the net just 43 seconds into the game with team teal swarming the Canucks net. However the Sharks also had some luck on their side too as just seconds later the Canucks Jannik Hansen would get a break away only to be denied when his shot it the post, the first of many for the visitors. Just a moment after that, the Canucks would unintentionally set Schneider up for failure as an errant pass from Alexander Elder was intercepted by Pavelski in front of the Vancouver goal. Palvelski immediately drilled a powerful slap shot that beat Schneider to his upper right. The Sharks had a 2-0 lead before the game was 3 1/2 minutes old. The Sharks continued to keep the pressure on the Canucks net minder through much of the period. About five minutes after the Sharks second goal of the evening, Clowe and Vancouver’s Zack Kassian went at it in a fight which Clowe thoroughly dominated. The Sharks penalty kill would also come into play as team teal would draw penalties almost two minutes apart on Brad Stuart and Clowe towards the close of the period. The good news for the Sharks was that Niemi and the penalty kill units were more than ready to meet these challenges.
Canucks Pick Up Pace- The second period saw the visiting Canucks start to pick up their game by controlling the puck better and being able to keep it away from team teal for extended periods of time. The Sharks in this middle period probably saw more of their own defensive zone that they would have liked to. Niemi would face at least 13 more shots this period, and that is only because pucks that hit the goal posts do not count on the shot total. The Canucks hit the post three times which was a very fortunate break for team teal. Vancouver however would find a way to get on the scoreboard in part because of a bad break for the Sharks. On a Canucks odd man rush over half way into the second period, Burrows would put the puck on net. The puck would ricochet of of Dan Boyle’s skate and deflect into the net past Niemi. The bad bounce for the Sharks would cut their lead to 2-1.
Maxim Lapierre a few moments later would find his way to the penalty box when he interfered with the Sharks Andrew Desjardins. This would be costly for the Canucks as the Sharks would cash in on the ensuing power play. A pass by Couture got to Boyle who then shot the puck towards the net. The puck would graze Marleau’s skate and would go into the net because of Schnieder’s glove pushing the puck in as he tried to pick it up. The Sharks were back up by two however the lead would be precarious towards the end of the period as Clowe was called for a high sticking penalty before the second period was over. Clowe seemingly had enough of the referees and let them know about it from the penalty box. The officials at that point would eject Clowe and assess the Sharks a double minor penalty as an unsportsmanlike conduct was added on along with a game misconduct. The penalties carried over into the third period.
Holding The Fort- The double minor penalty that the Sharks would have to kill off would prove to be the pivotal point of the game one way or the other. However, the Sharks hot start has been in part to the penalty kill being very solid early in this campaign. The Sharks penalty kill units along with a very focused Niemi would find away to kill off the double penalties and keep their two goal lead. The double penalty kill seemingly took some of the starch out of the Canucks. Later in the period the Canucks’ Mason Raymond would draw an interference penalty. The Sharks would again cash in a moment later as Pavelski would take a perfect feed pass from Thornton who was to the left of the Vancouver goal. Pavelski would launch another slap shot that beat Schneider over his right shoulder top shelf giving the Sharks a three goal lead. As the game grew late the Canucks started to take out their frustrations on the Sharks but would lose this battle as well as Douglas Murray handled Aaron Volpatti. Later, Kevin Bieksa tried to take out Scott Gomez but found himself getting pounded by Desjardins for his efforts.
The win for the Sharks was not only their fifth straight victory, but also Niemi’s 100th win as an NHL goalie. This win also marked Head Coach Todd McLellan’s 200th win with team teal. This was a big victory and a hard test passed by the Sharks against a team that has been a huge nemesis for the last three seasons. These two teams wont be getting together again until March however it is almost a certainty that the hard feelings between the two teams will spill over into the next game. With Desjardins stepping into to take up for Gomez after Bieksa’s hard hit, the Sharks are showing they are a team that is jelling early and looking to address all nemesis of the past.
Shark Bytes- The three stars of the game were (3) Pavelski, (2) Thornton, and (1) Niemi who probably had the most solid game of all Sharks in frustrating the Canucks. Clowe’s line for the night ended with 35 total penalty minutes, tying him for most penalty minutes in one game with long retired former Shark Link Gaetz. In addition to what Desjardins did late in the game, Clowe took up for Couture before the puck drop as the Canucks were apparently busy with some pregame intimidation tactic. The Sharks were having none of that anymore.
Next Game- Tuesday Night versus the arch rival Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks feature the usual Shark nemesis’ of Teemu Selanee, Cory Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Jonas Hiller. The Ducks also feature two ex-Sharks in Daniel Winnik and Brad Staubitz, who both signed with Anaheim before the lockout. The puck drops at 7:30pm (PT) at the Shark Tank. The game will be carried on CSN California, Center Ice and The Sharks Radio Network (98.5 San Jose/102.1 in San Francisco).
Personal Note- The next “My Two Cents” column will be either Wednesday or Thursday this week. I am delaying for a couple of days as I am trying to get over a bout of bronchitis that just doesn’t want to go away just yet.
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