Spelling Relief- Alex Stalock stood tall in the saddle when the Sharks needed it the most. After giving up two goals on his first 17 shots faced, Stalock bounced back and made 27 successive saves plus five more in the shootout period as the San Jose Sharks rallied past the Dallas Stars in a 3-2 victory. The win was only the slumping Sharks third in their last 10 games but was a welcomed site on the heals of one of their worst performances of the season just two nights earlier. Sharks Captain Joe Thornton scored the game winning goal in the fifth round of the shootout while Stalock made the final save of the night against former Shark Ray Whitney. Stalock’s 44 overall saves were clutch as they came on a night where Sharks regular starting goalie Antti Niemi was given the night off as he needed a breather. The Sharks did all this after falling behind by two goals and getting squarely dominated throughout the first period and well into the second. With the win the Sharks keep pace in the Pacific Division with Los Angeles and Anaheim who also won their games on Saturday. Stalock also made a piece of Sharks team history as he became the first Team Teal starting goalie to win a game in which the opposition had over 40 shots on goal since Chris Terreri did it in a 6-4 win over Toronto in 1996.
Another Slow Start- The Sharks coming out of the gate were a little on the sluggish side and the Stars were able to take advantage. Just over four and a half minutes into the game Dallas pounced on a Sharks turnover in the neutral zone as Shawn Horcoff was able to get a feed pass over to Whitney. With the puck Whitney was able to skate around to a point where he had a clear look at the net and back-handed a wrister that beat Stalock to his left. The Stars would continue to be somewhat dominate in keeping the pressure in the Sharks zone for a good length of time in the opening period. The Sharks had some opportunities on Stars goalie Kari Lethonen but really didn’t come close to get anything past him despite 10 shots on goal. Patrick Marleau and John McCarthy had the best opportunities of the period but just could not find an open space around Lethonen. The Stars were able to put a total of 14 shots on Stalock who managed to save 13 of them despite the constant pressure in the Sharks defensive zone. The second period would almost follow the same script as the first as Dallas would score again at almost the same identical moment that they did in the opening period. Antoine Roussel got credit for a goal when a slap shot be teammate Alex Goligoski deflected off of his skate and past Stalock who honestly did not have a chance at it. The goal was reviewed but called good as it was ruled Roussel did not making a kicking motion with his skate. The Sharks were now down 2-0 and clearly had their work cut out for them. The Sharks after a furious scoring chance failed almost fell behind by three goals just moments later when a loose puck was tapped into the net by the Stars Colton Sceviour. However the Sharks were saved by the officials whistle as they had lost sight of the puck and by rule had to stop play. The Sharks thankful for the “governor’s reprieve” knew they had just dodged a major bullet that could have put the game out of reach at that point. Still being down two goals and being somewhat fortunate the Sharks knew the time to rally had come.
The Comeback- With Dallas losing out on what would have been a third goal you could see the momentum start to shift. If the Sharks got the next goal they were still in the game. If the Stars got the next goal and went up by three, this would possibly be another bad night at the rink. After exchanging scoring opportunities with the Stars, the Sharks were able to get a three on two break away led by Tyler Kennedy, Andrew Desjardins and Jason Demers. Taking a feed pass from Kennedy, Demers drilled a wrister that beat Lethonen to his right to get the Sharks back to within a goal. With a potential Dallas goal being negated just moments earlier, this was a huge two-goal swing that favored Team Teal. The Sharks continued to get more pressure in the Dallas zone but Lethonen stood tall and would handle a number of pucks that came his way up until the end of the middle period. Stalock meanwhile would go on to make 14 consecutive saves on the Stars after giving up the early score. Both goalies had well established their ground by the time the third period had rolled around. In the final period the Sharks came out with as much energy as they did against St Louis four days earlier. Whatever the coaches told the team in between the periods must have been taken to heart by Team Teal. The Sharks came out attacking the puck and getting after the Stars in their own defensive zone. The offensive push paid off as Joe Pavelski was able to drill a back-handed shot top shelf over Lethonen at the 4:24 mark of the third. Pavelski’s goal was made possible as Thornton was able to save a puck heading out of the Stars’ defensive zone after a hard shot from Mark-Edouard Vlasic sailed wide of the net and ricocheted off of the boards behind the goal. Thornton pushed the puck back up towards Pavelski who did the rest. The Sharks would continue to press the issue as it was now Lethonen who was under the gun and having to make a number of saves. Meanwhile for Stalock is was no rest for the weary as he stood tall for the Sharks with 10 more saves to help get the game to an overtime period and secure at least one point in the standings.
Overtime/Shootout/Aftermath- In the overtime each team had a good number of scoring chances and with that a chance to win the game in the five-minute sudden death period. Once again both goalies were the stars of the overtime period as well as Lethonen made six saves for Dallas while Stalock had five more for Team Teal. In the shootout period both net minders held serve for the first three frames forcing what would be two more rounds. In the fifth round Thornton was able to get a wrister past Lethonen. With four saves already made in the shootout period, Stalock had built up a good deal of confidence and used it to stone Whitney with the last Dallas hope of the evening. Stalock was congratulated by his team as the game had ended and was named the game’s first star in the post game three star selection. Stalock’s effort on the evening was certainly well deserving of the honor. Not only did he give Niemi a good days rest, Stalock also found the strength to focus mentally when he had to and this allowed for him to be strong in the net when Team Teal needed it the most.
Next Sharks Game- The Sharks will take on the Colorado Avalanche at the Shark Tank this Monday night (Dec. 23rd) in what will be their last game before the NHL’s annual three-day Christmas break. The Avs feature former Shark Jamie McGinn and have played some strong hockey this season as they currently sit in sixth place in the Western Conference just two points behind the Sharks. The puck drops at 7:30pm. The game will be carried on CSN in Northern California and the Sharks Radio Network.
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