Finally A Victory- Tim Kennedy’s goal with 6:58 remaining in the third period coupled with a solid 25 save night by Antti Niemi gave the Sharks a 2-1 win over the Blues in St Louis Tuesday Night. The win is the Sharks first in February, and their first in eight games in snapping a 0-4-3 skid. The Sharks who have been offensively challenged since the sixth game of this shortened season did not do much to change their goal scoring drought, however what the Sharks got in this game in the way of scoring was just enough. Rookie St Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen made 24 saves in an impressive showing of his own. Kennedy’s score came as the result of the Sharks forcing a pass up ice from Justin Braun to Tommy Wingles. The pass once hitting Wingles’ stick deflected over towards Kennedy who took the puck at the left face off circle in the Blues defensive zone. Kennedy at about an 80 degree sharp angle to the goal drilled a slap shot that hit Allen’s glove, bounced off of it and into the net to give the Sharks a long overdue win.
Sluggish Opening- The first period saw the Blues carry slightly more of the play with the Sharks getting at least some decent looks on the St Louis goal early. Allen showed he was more up to the task in keeping the Sharks off of the scoreboard and keeping team teal in what would be a 16th scoreless period out of the last 22. Niemi meanwhile was on his game doing what he could to keep the Sharks in the contest as he faced 12 Blues shots on his net. Niemi was successful in stopping 11 of the shots. However one that would get away would come from Patrik Berglund who would take a pass from behind the Sharks goal from Vladimir Sobotka and move around Joe Pavelski towards the Sharks goal. As soon as Berglund was able to get around Pavelski, he flicked a quick wrist shot that beat Niemi to give the Blues a 1-0 lead with 7:06 left in the opening period. The Sharks penalty kill despite team teal’s recent woes has been their one saving grace. The penalty kill units again came through with two important kills in the opening period, and three for the game. The Sharks power play meanwhile had two chances in the opening period and got a few decent chances but nothing else to show of it.
O Captain! My Captain!- With the Sharks looking for some sort of spark to get back into the game got their boost from a familiar source. Captain Joe Thornton just over three minutes into the second period gave the Sharks a much needed goal as he was able to sweep in a loose puck into the net past Allen. Thornton got the rebound of a wrist shot from Dan Boyle before stuffing it into the net. A hard slap shot from Patrick Marleau started the sequence. The remainder of the second period and much of the third period was about both teams trading opportunities in what was a fairly even contest, a far cry from last season when the Blues made a habit of running the Sharks off of the rink. The second period also featured an under card of Wingles and the Blues’ TJ Oshie getting into a skirmish after the two had a heated exchange. Both players got five minutes for fighting. Later in the second period the Sharks call-up Matt Pelech and the Blues’ Ryan Reeves got offsetting minor penalties for roughing.
Sharks Take Control in the Third Period- For the first time in the month of February the Sharks took control of the final period with solid defense in holding the Blues to only five shots on goal where Niemi only had to stave off a handful of St Louis scoring chances. The Sharks meanwhile brought more pressure on the Blues’ defensive zone and had a lot of good looks on the St Louis net as the result. Kennedy’s goal not only gave the Sharks their first lead of the night, but their first lead in any game since a home loss to Chicago back on February 5th (two weeks earlier). Kennedy, who is playing as if he would like to stay in San Jose drilled a sharp angle slap shot that Allen got a piece of but could never control. Allen however rebounded from Kennedy’s goal to make two strong saves on scoring attempts by Michal Handzus and Ryane Clowe. Late in the period the Blues would pull out all of the stops as they pulled Allen out of the net with 1:55 remaining. The Blues got two shots on Niemi that came close, but the Sharks net minder had both shots under control. The Blues however would negate their late six on five advantage when Alexander Steen took a tripping penalty which he really had no choice but to take. Steen did so to prevent Logan Couture from getting an empty net goal.
What A Relief It Is- With the much needed victory, the Sharks pick up their eighth win of the season and up their mark overall to 8-4-3 for 19 points. The Sharks trail the Anaheim Ducks by six points in the Pacific Division, and are in 5th place overall in the Western Conference. Even with the Sharks in a scoring drought, a win is a win and the Sharks will gladly take this one with no questions asked. The Sharks now have two days off before a return trip to Chicago to take on the Blackhawks Friday Night (2/22). After Friday Nights game the Sharks come right back Saturday Night to wrap up this six game road trip against their Pacific Division rival the Dallas Stars. The next two games for team teal will be a tall order as they will need to be very stingy on defense as they were Tuesday night. The Sharks can at least feel good about finally winning a game and in the process defeating a nemesis from last season who eliminated them from the post season.
Shark Bytes- Antti Niemi was named the games first star. The other two stars went to Jake Allen and Vladimir Sobotka of the Blues. This was the Sharks first regular season win against the Blues since March 19th, 2011 when the Sharks beat St Louis 5-3 during a driving rainstorm outside of the Shark Tank. The Sharks in two regular season games and one post season game at St Louis last season never scored a single goal. Sharks assist on the night came from Boyle, Marleau, Wingles and Braun. The Sharks power play remains in a horrific slump though Tuesday they actually seemed to be clicking a little better. Still, the Sharks Power Play is just 2 for their last 45 opportunities, a statistic that contributed largely to their seven game winless streak. Kennedy led the Sharks with five shots on goal.
Next Sharks Game- The Sharks return to “The Windy City” Friday night for their second meeting with the Blackhawks in a week and final meeting of the season. The Sharks played the Blackhawks twice during their seven game slide, losing at the Shark Tank 5-3 on February 5th, and 4-1 this past Friday night in Chicago. This game will be carried nationally on NBC Sports Network at 5:30pm PT/7:30pm in Chicago.
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