Time For Duck- When the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks get together, you are guaranteed fireworks whenever the two teams do battle. Tuesday Night was no exception as these teams wrote another chapter in the 20 year rivalry. Logan Couture’s game tying goal with 2:45 remaining in the third period, coupled with Antti Niemi’s solid play extending through the shootout period enabled team teal to claim a 3-2 victory. The win ended Anaheim’s four game winning streak at the Shark Tank as the Ducks made team teal earn this victory. The Ducks outshot the Sharks on the evening 30-18 and forced team teal into a lot of turnovers thanks to a tough Anaheim defensive strategy. Niemi in addition to making 28 saves made 3 more in the shootout period against the Ducks murderers row line-up of Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne.
Tough Sledding- The Ducks came out strong on both sides of the ice and carried much of the play in the first period outshooting the Sharks 13-4. The Sharks had a very difficult time clearing their defensive zone as Anaheim displayed very aggressive and quick moves with the puck throughout the period. The Sharks even had trouble in the neutral zone as the Ducks had success in flooding the passing lanes here and throughout much of the game. Despite the Ducks efforts it would be the Sharks who would be the first to cash in. Joe Pavelski scored with 10:16 remaining of the period to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead. Pavelski on a Sharks odd man rush took a feed pass from team Captain Joe Thornton and drilled a slap shot past Hiller to his left. Patrick Marleau also picked up an assist on Pavelksi’s goal. The Sharks had only a couple of good scoring chances the rest of the period as the Ducks continued to press and keep team teal at bay.
Meanwhile Niemi was busy on the other side of the rink earning his paycheck as the Ducks had several scoring chances. Niemi was nails as he met the Anaheim challenge head on and came though on the test of the first period as he handled everything the Ducks would throw at him.
A Couple of Bad Breaks- The Ducks continued to push the pace of the game in the second period as the Sharks continued to have a hard time moving the puck anywhere on the ice. The Ducks had much success continuing to flood passing lanes and keeping the Sharks back in their own zone. The Sharks would get more rubber on Hiller, however the opportunities were still few and far between. The game turned to Anaheim’s favor in a 59 second span thanks to an unlucky break and a bad turnover that would lead to two quick Duck’s goals. With 11:20 remaining in the period, Francois Beauchemin’s attempt to pass the puck towards Perry hit Douglas Murray’s skate, allowing the rubber biscuit to deflect to the left of Niemi and into the net. Even more stress for Niemi lied ahead when Mack Edoward-Vlasic tried to pass the puck up the ice from near the Sharks goal. Vlasic’s pass however would be intercepted by the Duck’s Matt Beleskey. Just a split second later Beleskey drilled a slap which beat Niemi over his right shoulder giving Anaheim the 2-1 lead. The Sharks did have one surge late in the second period where Matt Irwin and Vlasic launched consecutive shots on Hiller who made three saves total in this sequence.
The Sharks would run to more trouble towards the end of the second period when Marleau was called for the second of two questionable penalties against him. Earlier in the period Marleau was called for tripping. The television replay showed the Ducks’ Perry had may have dived. On this second penalty, Marleau was called for goalie interference as he was playing the puck. Again, the television replay showed that if anything Marleau was pushed into Hiller while playing the puck. None the less for Marleau it meant two more minutes in the penalty box and the Sharks needing to kill off 1:55 of power play time to start the third period.
Sharks Bend But Don’t Break- Entering the third period the Sharks just as against Vancouver Sunday Night were called upon again to start this period on a penalty kill. Once again, team teal’s penalty kill was solid and managed to keep the Ducks off of the scoreboard with more help from Niemi. Just seconds after Marleau was released from the penalty box, he was tripped while again trying to position himself in front of Hiller. This time however it would be Anaheim’s Luca Sbisa who would draw a two minute minor giving the Sharks only their second power play of the contest. However the Ducks penalty kill on the evening proved to be every bit as good as the Sharks and turned away team teal with just one shot on net. As the third period went on, the Ducks continued to force Sharks into turnovers in or around neutral zone, and continued to make passing lanes very difficult for team teal.
Meanwhile Niemi remained sharp recovering from the second period team mistakes and made key saves all throughout the period. As the game started to draw late with Anaheim still ahead by one goal, team teal led by Ryane Clowe charged up ice with the puck with under three minutes to play. Clowe’s pass across the neutral zone was picked up by Scott Gomez who then took the puck into the Ducks’ zone. Gomez then drop passed the puck to Couture who was trailing the play. Couture drilled a slap shot that got the rubber biscuit in between Hiller’s pads and squirted underneath him on into the net to tie the game at 2-2 with 2:45 left in regulation. The Sharks and Ducks exchanged scoring chances for the remainder of the period. However the game as it may have been meant to would go into overtime to settle the outcome.
In the overtime period both teams from the frantic late third period started to show signs of being almost gassed. Both Marleau and Thornton narrowly missed potential game winning goals with shots which went wide of the net. Niemi also had his share of traffic to deal with but made the saves he needed to make to keep the Sharks tied as the game would head to a shootout period. In the shootout period the Sharks would send out Handzus, Pavelski and Clowe to take on Hiller. Handzus was able to get a wrist shot past Hiller to give the Sharks a goal advantage. This was a goal Sharks would need as both Clowe and Pavelski were turned away by Hiller. Meanwhile Niemi had his work cut out for him against Ryan, Perry and Selanne. Niemi succeeded in stopping both Ryan and Perry, leaving it up to one of the ultimate Sharks’ nemises’ in Selanne. The veteran scored beared down on the goal and launched a wrister over Niemi, but the puck hit the top crossbar and fell back harmlessly to the ice. The Sharks had the shootout victory to extend their season opening win streak to six games. The Ducks with the shootout loss left the tank still with an impressive 3-1-1 mark through their first five games.
Shark Bytes- The 3 Stars of the game were 3) Ducks-Hiller 2) Sharks-Couture, and 1) Sharks-Niemi who for the second time and three games received the games top star as he kept team teal in the game throughout the evening. This was the Sharks first game to go to overtime and a shootout this season. The Sharks and Ducks will see each other again soon enough as team teal travels to Anaheim for a game at the Honda Center next Monday night. This was the first game this season in which Marleau was held without a goal though he still had an assist on Pavelski’s first period tally. You have to give credit to the Anaheim Ducks who have played some solid road games this year as this was their first road loss of the season. The Ducks though still get a point in the standing for the game going into an overtime situation.
Next Game- The Sharks return to action Thursday Night, January 31st when they take on the Edmonton Oilers for the second time this season, this time at the Shark Tank. The Oilers will be looking for some payback after the Sharks took care of Edmonton on their home ice last week 6-3, scoring all six goals in the first period and chasing Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk. The Oilers bring a team full of young guns who’s best days are certainly ahead of them. Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Justin Schultz lead an Oilers team that will be loaded for bear and seeing what they can do to prevent the Sharks opening season streak from reaching seven straight games.
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