A Crazy Night in BC- Shootout goals from Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski coupled with key saves by Antti Niemi plus uncommon valor from Brad Stuart, all combined to lead the San Jose Sharks to a 3-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday night. The Sharks win came as the end result of a crazy evening that was probably one of the more tension filled 65 minutes of the season (not to mention the four round shootout that came right after that). Niemi made 36 saves with most being under a great deal of pressure applied by the Canucks offensive attack. Meanwhile Vancouver goalie Cory Schneider was more than formidable and turned away many Sharks shots on goal with some rather impressive saves of his own. Two of the newest members of the Sharks also found the back of the net Tuesday night. Seasoned veterans Scott Gomez and Adam Burish each scored their first goals of the season.
The game would have several moments of tension and suspense particularly in the final period where it came very close to being the last man standing type of hockey game. Each team had segments of the game which they controlled and each had golden scoring chances stymied by great goal tending from both Niemi and Schneider. With the win the Sharks remain in 5th place in the Western Conference while in a three way tie with the Los Angeles Kings and Detroit Red Wings who have 26 points each. The Sharks with this win can briefly rejoice before getting ready to face the Flames in Calgary Wednesday Night.
A Tale of Two Periods- The Sharks took to the ice in Vancouver’s Rogers Arena with knowing they were skating into one of the more tougher environments in the league. Niemi would get his first major test of the evening just five minutes into the contest as Dan Hamhuis got the jump on the Sharks defense in the neutral zone and only had Niemi standing between him and a certain goal. Niemi however was able to make the pad save as Hamhuis was unsuccessful in trying to jam the puck underneath the team teal net minder. Later in the period with the Sharks pressuring in the Canucks zone, Marc-Edoward Vlasic’s slapshot would rebound past the net to Stuart, who intern got a pass to Gomez who was in the flat. Gomez drilled a 20 foot slapshot which beat Schneider to give the Sharks a one goal lead just short of eight minutes into the contest. The Sharks at this point were outshooting Vancouver 5-2 however the momentum would soon drastically change. From this point until the end of the period the Canucks would apply a ton of pressure in the Sharks zone and even outshoot the Sharks 15-2 in this span. Niemi though saw everything coming his way pretty well and made the necessary saves to maintain the Sharks one goal lead by period’s end.
In the second period the Sharks got an early power play chance when the Canucks David Booth was called for slashing. The Sharks power play, which had slumped horribly though the month of February got good looks and quality shots on goal despite not being able to covert this opportunity. Moments later Vancouver would get their first power play opportunity of the game when Michal Handzus was called for holding. However soon into the man advantage the Canucks would commit the cardinal sin for a team on a power play when they allowed the Sharks an opportunity that would ultimately make the difference in the game. Just 20 seconds into the man advantage, the Canucks got just a little careless with the puck in the Sharks defensive zone. Stuart would gain control of the rubber biscuit in front of Niemi and send a clearing pass out to Burish who was on break away. Once past the blue line Burish launched a 25 foot shot that beat Schnieder who had come out ahead of the net to play the puck. Burish’s short handed goal gave the Sharks a 2-0 lead in what was a costly goal for the Canucks to give up. Short handed goals as the Sharks learned over a week ago change games. This was the Sharks first short handed goal this season.
The Sharks penalty kill would go on to kill this penalty and two more before the period was done. However the Canucks would soon gain life on a bit of a weird bounce when Daniel Sedin would flip the puck from near the far faceoff circle over the where his twin brother Henrik was standing. The puck bounced in front of the Sharks goal where it was just out of Niemi’s reach. H Sedin was able to corral the puck and slide past Niemi to his left to cut the Sharks lead to 2-1. The Canucks picked up a good deal of momentum from this goal and carried it through the remainder of the period. With just seconds remaining in the period, the Sharks found themselves trapped in their defensive zone and unable to clear the puck. Taking advantage of a Sharks turn over, Mason Raymond drop passed the puck to Jannik Hansen who in turn drilled a slap shot that beat Niemi five hole. Niemi was screened out and never saw the puck coming. The Canucks had tied the game with 25 seconds left in the period. To make matters worse, Stuart would get whistled for a questionable interference penalty just seconds before the period ended.
Suspense Which Lit Up The Ice- The Sharks had to kill 1:55 of Stuart’s penalty time to start the period and were able to do so without too much difficulty as they stayed on top of the puck and the Canucks power play units. Once Stuart’s penalty had expired, both teams slugged it out for a good portion of the final period. Vancouver kept the pressure on the early part of the period with the Sharks picking up their pace as the period wore on. After outshooting the Sharks 24-14 through the first two periods, the Canucks would manage only one more goal than the Sharks (9-8). The Sharks got some pressure on Schnieder but did not sustain it for good stretches of the period. With just under seven minutes remaining the Sharks penalty kill units would get tested one more time as James Sheppard was called for tripping. Team teal’s penalty kill unit would hold up and just a moment later the Sharks would get their own power play opportunity when Alexander Elder was called for holding Patrick Marleau as the Sharks leading goal scorer was breaking towards the net. Despite getting several good looks at the net, Schneider kept the rubber biscuit out. Close to the end of the power play Ryane Clowe had seeming a shot at an open net only to see the shot blocked. Earlier in the period Couture was denied a goal thanks to a highlight reel save by Schneider.
Overtime Challenge- The Sharks would get a huge test in the overtime period. A two minute penalty to Gomez for goalie interference would challenge the Sharks and their penalty kill in a high pressured test of their teal will. Vancouver launched four shots on goal at Niemi who made the needed saves despite the pressure. Stuart earned his paycheck and a trip to the dentist when he was hit with a stick in the mouth area. Stuart lost a tooth in the process but stayed on the ice and blocked another shot. The Sharks would successfully kill off the four on three man disadvantage and manage to get eight shots on goal. The final shot on goal by Vancouver was as the horn sounded after the Canucks won a faceoff and got a hard shot on Niemi as time expired.
Shootout #8- With the game tied after 65 minutes, the Sharks found themselves in their 8th shootout of the season. This was however just a little different because it was the first one on the road this season. Chris Higgins got the first shootout goal as he flipped the puck past Niemi. The Sharks would miss their first two chances from Handzus and Dan Boyle as Schneider turned away both of their efforts. After Vancouver was denied on their next two tries from Elder and Hannik, Couture stood as the Sharks last hope. Couture who seemingly lives for pressure situations would take the puck down ice and hammer it past Schnieder to tie the shootout after three rounds. In the fourth round, Niemi would stone Alex Burrows attempt. Pavelski was up next and calmly took the puck up ice and drilled a hard slap shot that beat Schnieder for the win.
Shark Bytes- The three stars of the game were 3) Jannik Hansen (VAN); 2) Brad Stuart (SJS); 1) Dan Hamhuis (VAN). The win was Head Coach Todd McLellan’s 206th career as Sharks head man, trying Ron Wilson as the winningest Sharks Head Coach. The Sharks are now 4-3 in shootouts this season. The win gives the Sharks an overall mark of 11-6-4, including a 3-5-1 mark on the road. The Sharks recalled Bracken Kearns from Worcester. Kearns was wearing a protective helmet and shield because of getting several teeth knocked in a game last week. Brad Stuart lost a tooth in the third period during the Sharks penalty kill when he took a stick to the mouth. Stuart stayed out on the ice for the penalty kill. Because of winter conditions throughout the western half of Canada, the Sharks will travel to Calgary Wednesday morning and stay in Vancouver overnight.
Next Game- Sharks vs. Calgary Flames at the Saddledome Wednesday Night with a 6pm PT (7pm MT) puck drop.
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