A Good Way To Start March- The San Jose Sharks came into Saturday Nights’ game against the Nashville Predators knowing they could not have another month as they did in February if the wish to contend in the post season. Power play goals from Dan Boyle and Joe Pavelski complemented team teal’s more aggressive play and Antti Niemi’s 18 saves in a 2-1 victory over the visiting Nashville Predators. The game was played before another sold out house at the Shark Tank. The Sharks with the win because of the tight race in the Western Conference Standings catapult from 10th place all the way to 5th. The win was the Sharks 10th of the year versus six losses and four overtime/shootout defeats. A win for the Sharks was also important for team teal in starting out the month of March on the right foot. More than anything else, the Sharks want to just put a bad February behind them and focus on winning enough games to get into the post season tournament.
Dominant For Openers- Team teal came out of the gates with a good head of steam as they were all over the lose pucks and dominated much of the early part of the game. Just five minutes into the game the Sharks had seven of the game’s first eight shots on goal. Pekka Renne, who shut out the Sharks the last time he faced them in Nashville was very good early for the Predators as he made a number of critical saves early. The shower of pucks Renne would see would continue throughout the opening period. The Sharks had two power play opportunities in the period. The first man advantage came along when former Shark Scott Hannan was called for interference. This chance however almost went disastrously wrong for team teal as Niemi was forced to make a key save on a Predators short handed opportunity. The Sharks at the conclusion of the failed power play chance were now 3 for their last 63 chances, leaving the teal faithful to wonder if this trend would ever change. They would not have to wait to long to find out.
Later in the period Nashville’s Kevin Klein would draw a slashing penalty. The Sharks would surprise themselves and the sold out house as Boyle’s slap shot from 50 feet beat Renne to his right. Team teal had scored a power play goal needing only 20 seconds of the two minute opportunity to do so. Logan Couture and Joe Thornton would get the assist on the goal. Late in the opening period James Sheppard would draw what turned out to be the Sharks only penalty of the night when he was whistled for boarding. The Sharks penalty kill unit was effective in killing off the two minute time, 28 seconds of which was at the opening stages of the second period.
Continuing to Push the Preds- After out shooting Nashville 16-6 in the first period, the Sharks continued to poor the pressure on the Predators and again kept their opponent on their heels. The Sharks would again prove to be more dominant in the middle period and carry the majority of the play. Renne again was solid in the net as he did his best to keep the Predators in the game. The Sharks despite getting more good scoring opportunities could still not cash any of them in because of either not being able to maintain control of the puck where it counted the most or just being in the wrong place for a rebound. Still team teal kept pucks active around the Predators net. The Sharks would get another power play opportunity when Nashville’s Ryan Ellis was whistled for tripping Justin Braun at the 8:56 mark. Once again the Sharks wasted little time as Pavelski was able to take a loose puck from behind the Predators goal and manage to bring it around to the front before knocking it past Renne. This score gave the Sharks something they have not seen since February 5th, a two goal lead. This also gave the Sharks two power play goals, something team teal hasn’t done seemingly in ages. One of the assist on the goal went to Thornton who also netted his 1,100th point of his career. Thornton tied the only two other active players with 1,100 career points, Teemu Selanne (Anaheim) and Jaromir Jagr (Dallas). Couture also got his second assist of the evening too. The Sharks would see more chances as the period went on but were not able to get any more rubber past Renne.
Getting Conservative- In the third period the Sharks dialed things back and seemed to focus more on playing good defense. This was a plan which would require the Sharks to be able to control their zone and be able to effectively clear it. This would also require the Sharks to force the Predators into a game of dump and chase. The plan would ultimately work for the Sharks who defensively would hold the Preds to six shots on goal. The Sharks themselves would get nine shots on Renne however were not able to cash anything in. Things got dicey for the Sharks late as they would get another power play opportunity and a chance to go up by three goals. Their final power play of the evening after a penalty to Paul Gaustad for slashing gave team teal a man advantage with 6:52 remaining. The Sharks had little success in this opportunity and towards the end would see it completely backfire when a puck which cleared out to almost center ice was captured by Gabriel Bourque. After getting to the pick first, Bourque would undress Niemi at the net as his slid a puck past the Sharks net minder in what was almost reminiscent of an easy layup in basketball. The Preds were within a goal but the short handed tally would be as close as they would get. Though this put the Sharks in a bad spot, they still managed to hang on over the final five and a half minutes to get the badly needed win.
Shark Bytes- The three stars of the game were all Sharks tonight. Third was Dan Boyle, Second was Logan Couture. The first star of the game was Joe Thornton, who had two assist tonight including his 1,100th career NHL point. The Sharks on the evening would out shoot the Predators 39-19. The Sharks power play was two for four on the evening. The short handed goal scored by the Predators was the second one the Sharks have given up this season. This one ended up not costing them as the first one against Chicago eight days earlier did. Patrick Marleau and Tim Kennedy each had five shots on goal while Couture and Pavelski had four each.
Next Sharks Game- Tuesday Night the Sharks hit the road versus the Vancouver Canucks at the Rogers Center in British Columbia. The Sharks beat the Canucks in their first meeting of the season 4-1 at the Shark Tank on January 27th. The Canucks with their 5-2 win of the Los Angeles Kings Saturday Night at home sit in 3rd place in the Western Conference. This will be the first of two games the Sharks play on a brief two game road trip in Western Canada, with the Sharks traveling to Calgary to take on the Flames this coming Wednesday Night.
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