Better Late Than Never- Tomas Hertl, Dan Boyle and Antti Niemi were all at the right place and the right time when it mattered the most. Dan Boyle’s game winning goal with 2:22 remaining in the overtime period gave the Sharks an improbable 2-1 win over the Canucks before a sold out house at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC. Boyle’s goal ironically was made possible by a shot on goal that he had fanned on moments earlier as time was winding down in the third period. Here the puck somehow found its way to Hertl who was able to backhand the rubber biscuit past an outstretched Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo. Niemi was probably the Sharks biggest hero of the evening. Just a week ago Niemi was chased by the Canucks at the Shark Tank. After a few days off Niemi was back in goal tonight and played like a well rested net minder. Niemi on the evening made 34 saves and was the main reason the Sharks were able to hang in this game long enough to have a chance at the end. With the victory the Sharks have captured their second straight win following a five game winless streak. The Sharks will look to extend this new streak in a short turnaround in Edmonton Friday night.
Niemi Gets Battle Tested- Most times when goalies such as Niemi and Luongo are matched up against one another there is a good chance you may see a good goalies duel. Thursday night was no exception. Both goalies were on their game as each one made eight saves apiece in the first period. The Sharks did have a good chance in the first period to get on the scoreboard after the Canucks Alexander Elder was called for interference sending the Sharks on their first power play of the evening. Just seconds into the power play a Joe Thornton shot towards the goal hit the top crossbar of the goal and bounced away. Team Teal had some decent looks during the power play sequence but could do nothing with the opportunity. In the second period the Canucks came out the more aggressive team and carried the play through much of the period. Throughout the second period Niemi was challenged with some hard shots on goal Kevin Bieksa, Ryan Kessler, and both Henrik & Daniel Sedin. Niemi had to be both good and lucky too as things turned out. During the middle period the Sharks were guilty of a number of turnovers which resulted in Vancouver scoring opportunities. With 7:11 remaining in the middle period the Canucks Alexandre Burrows was called for an interference penalty giving the Sharks their third power play of the evening. However Team Teal not only did not execute any significant scoring threat on this man advantage opportunity, Joe Pavelski’s tripping penalty negated the power play chance after just 25 seconds. After both teams could not manage much offense during the four on four session over the next 1:25, the Canucks would come out on the back-end of the sequence with a 35 second power play on their own. While the Canucks were busy creating a lot of traffic around Niemi and the Sharks goal, Bieksa taking a feed pass from Henrik Sedin was able to blast the puck on a 55 foot shot that beat Niemi giving Vancouver a 1-0 lead. Niemi never saw the puck coming as Daniel Sedin used Justin Braun to block the Sharks net minder’s view of the play. Despite giving up the goal Niemi seemingly never lost his composure and was able to handle a few more Canucks scoring opportunities before the second period came to a close. Meanwhile the Sharks were outshot 20-9 and put up really little to speak of offensively. Luongo’s nine saves for the middle period looked almost routine in nature.
Cracking The Code- The Sharks in the third period came out still finding themselves once again pinned back in their defensive zone as the Canucks continued to test Niemi. Within the first four minutes Niemi had already made saves on hard shots on goal from Dan Hamhuis, Chris Higgins and Alex Elder. Soon afterward the Sharks started to pick up their play and began to get some better scoring chances as the result. Luongo would soon find himself getting tested as he fended off a number of hard slap shots from Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture and James Sheppard. Couture came very close to putting a puck past Luongo as his tip in attempt off of a pass from Thornton went wide of the cage. A blast from James Sheppard with 7:42 remaining was snagged out of the air by Luongo as well. As the period progressed the Sharks continued to press the issue but were just not having any luck where it mattered this most. Meanwhile Niemi on the other side of the rink was doing all he could to keep the Sharks within striking distance. With 1:20 remaining in the contest Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan called his time out and pulled Niemi out of the goal for an extra attacker. Just 15 seconds into the next sequence from behind the Canucks net Thornton despite being knocked over was able to get the puck to Boyle. From above the point Boyle came in to drill the puck but fanned on the shot. The puck however landed on the stick of Hertl who turned around and placed the rubber biscuit into an open area of the net to tie the game at 1-1. It took 58:55 of the game but the Sharks finally cracked the code and drew even. Just seconds later the Sharks’ John McCarthy got a point-blank chance at a possible game winner however Luongo was able to smother the scoring chance.
Deuces Wild in the Overtime- The Sharks with the assurance of at least a point in the standing almost immediately took firm control of the overtime sequence. Just over two minutes into the extra period Team Teal would get the break of the game as Henrik Sedin hooked Jason Demers on his way to the net. The Sharks now had a golden opportunity with a key Sedin twin in the penalty box and a four-on-three man advantage. In the games’ final sequence with the Sharks looking for the right time to shoot Couture from the point would pass the puck over to Pavelski. Seeing Boyle wide open near the Canucks net Pavelski immediately got the puck to him with a good feed pass through traffic. Boyle immediately launched a wrist shot the beat Luongo and hit the back bar of the goal. The puck had bounced off the back bar and came back onto the ice. One of the officials on the ice actually had waved off the goal, but was overruled by another official on the ice. The goal was reviewed by the “War Room” in Toronto and was ruled to be a good score. The Sharks had a win that just over five minutes earlier seemed almost somewhat improbable. The game winner came with 2:22 remaining in the overtime, and was scored by #22.
What May Have Hurt Canucks- With just under five minutes to go in the third period for some reason Kevin Bieksa thought it would be a good idea to get into a fight with Andrew Desjardins. As things would turn out this may not have been a good idea for a few reasons. First off all Desjardins is one the strongest men on the Sharks and Bieksa soon realized he was over-matched. Both players got five-minute fighting majors and had to sit in the penalty box until the end of regulation play. Usually with the game on the line Vancouver counts on a player like Bieksa to be on the ice to help them close out games. Without the fight he probably would have been out there to help his team fend off the Sharks in the last moments of the contest. He was a key piece Vancouver could have used down the stretch. The Sharks meanwhile aren’t complaining.
Next Sharks Game- If turnabout is fair play that usually means you are on a road trip in the NHL. The Sharks will play their fourth game of the five game roadie in Edmonton against the slumping Oilers Friday Night. The Puck drops at 7pm PT (8pm MT in Edmonton). The Sharks want to keep this momentum going and know the Oilers are struggling. It will also be the first time the Sharks will face the Oilers as a divisional opponent.
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