Sharks Win On A Big Stage- Logan Couture scored the only two goals of the game while Antti Niemi made them stand up with 22 saves as the San Jose Sharks shut and shut out the Canadians 2-0 at Montreal’s Bell Centre. Couture’s goals came on a power play in the second period off of a perfect feed pass from Joe Thornton, and from a weird bounce in the final period that worked out in Team Teal’s favor. The Canadians made the Sharks work for the win as they stayed with team teal for much of the game. However thanks to a very strong defensive effort by the Sharks, Montreal outside of one brief stretch in the second period never was able to sustain or control play in the San Jose zone for any a prolonged period of time. The Sharks meanwhile kept Montreal goalie Carey Price busy for most of the evening forcing him to make 30 saves. The Sharks with the win improve their season opening mark to 9-1-1 and showed no ill effects from the heart breaker in Boston just two nights earlier.
The Couture and Niemi Show- Couture was in beast mode on each one of his 25 shifts he took Saturday night as he blocked three Montreal shots towards the Sharks goal including what would have been a point-blank try and a possible goal from Tomas Plekanec with 7:40 remaining in the opening period. Couture would sacrifice his body getting in front of two more shots on goal. Not only was Couture blocking shots but also always seemed to be somewhere in the mix when the Sharks were pressing the issue on the Canadians defensive zone. His two goals were both situations where Couture was at the right place at the right time. During the Sharks third power play of the evening in the second period Patrick Marleau and Couture were able to wrest control of the puck from the Canadians defense near the right point in the Montreal defensive zone. As Marleau was then able to pass the puck over to Thornton, Couture had broken towards the Canadians’ net. Thornton immediately put a shot on goal that Couture was able to deflect past Price to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead with over six minutes gone in the middle period. On the second goal which came just over four minutes into the final period Price was fooled by a bad bounce as he was anticipating the puck behind the Canadians’ goal. Here Marleau was able to get to a loose puck and tried to slap it along the boards to set up Team Teal again in the Canadians zone. The puck carried along the boards before hitting a stanchion and bouncing back onto the ice in front of the Montreal net. Price who had gone behind the net anticipating the puck was not able to get back into the goal in time as Couture pounced on the free rubber biscuit and slapped it into the empty net giving Team Teal a two goal lead.
Niemi meanwhile played arguably his best game of the season as he was able to gobble up all the rubber that came his way. Niemi’s best save of the night came in the first period again denying Plekanec on a short-handed breakaway by grabbing a blistering shot before it could go into the net or rebound to Brian Gionta who was shadowing the play. Niemi also survived major Canadians’ offensive drive in the Sharks zone as they swarmed the net late in the second period preceding the Sharks only penalty of the evening. During this time Niemi got some help from Marc-Edouard Vlasic who made one of the biggest clutch plays of the season using his stick to block a stuff in attempt by David Desharnais that would have been a sure goal otherwise. Though Niemi got some help from his friends he was for the most part the best defender on the Sharks as he was able to smother the vast majority of pucks that came towards or around his net.
Defense Never Rests- The other storyline in this game was the Sharks playing stellar defense through the evening. Though the Canadians did get quality shots on the Sharks goal they had to earn their opportunities. The Sharks just did not give Montreal too many chances to set up shop or get really comfortable inside the teal zone. The Sharks knew coming into this game a lot would ride on their defensive game since goals have been at a premium on this road trip. Montreal which more often than not usually is very good at creating their own scoring chances really did not get too many of those opportunities Saturday night. Every single Sharks player who participated in this game had perhaps greater roles on the defensive side of the puck. The one power play the Canadians had on the evening really did not generate enough chances thanks to the defense. Montreal had the majority of their scoring chances in spots during the first period and a late charge in the second period. During the third period the Sharks just smothered any Montreal designs of getting back into the game. The Sharks at one point in the final period were outshooting the Canadians 9-2 in an area where Montreal needed to be the more desperate team. This is the spot of the game where Couture scored his second goal of the game. As the game wound down, the Sharks just continued to compete baffle and shut down Montreal’s hopes of a comeback as during the last three minutes of the game the Canadians hardly touched the puck at all. So dominant were the Sharks at the end of the game that the Canadians could not even pull Price out of the net for the extra attacker.
Game Notes- The three stars of the game were 3) Antti Niemi with his 22 saves and stellar performance in the net; 2) Patrick Marleau who had two assists and played a strong game throughout, and 1) Logan Couture who scored the only two goals of the game and made several key defensive plays along the way. The Canadians roster consists of three former Sharks, Josh Georges who was traded to Montreal in 2007. Georges has become quite a stalwart player with Montreal and has played in over 140 straight games. The other two are Travis Moen who did not have a good game and who’s evening ended when he took a puck to the face (hopefully he will be okay), and Douglas Murray who signed with Montreal during the offseason. Murray did not play tonight as he is recovering for injuries sustained earlier this season. Another player who was all over the ice for the Sharks tonight was Matt Nieto who lead both teams with seven shots on goal. The Sharks outshot the Canadians 15-6 in the third period. Dan Boyle made his first public appearance in the Sharks broadcasting booth during the second period of the game. Boyle appeared to be in very good spirits and displayed his rye sense of humor with Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda. There is no time-table for his return as of yet.
Twitter Quote- Logan Couture on Antti Niemi’s play in net Saturday Night: “Couture: “It helps when you have #Nemo between the pipes playing unbelievable like he has been.” … Tweet courtesy of @SanJoseSharks
Next Sharks Game- The Sharks have a very quick turn around and little time to enjoy their accomplishments in Montreal. After the game the team gets right on to a chartered bus and heads 125 miles west to the City of Ottawa (for those in Northern California it’s the same distance from San Jose to Sacramento, about a two-hour ride. It’s really no big deal). The Sharks will meet the Ottawa Senators for the second time this year. The Sharks beat the Senators 3-2 at the Shark Tank on October 12th. The Senators will be even tougher at the Canadian Tire Centre. Face-off is at 2pm PT (5pm ET in Ottawa). The game will be carried on Comcast Sports Net (TV) and the Sharks Radio Network.
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