Capitalizing Late- Antti Niemi in one of his better outings of the season made 35 saves as Patrick Marleau scored what turned out the be the game winning goal in the shootout period in the San Jose Sharks 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals. The win for the Sharks is a good opening for the first of a three game road trip starting in the nation’s capital before two more stops in the state of Florida. Tyler Kennedy scored his fourth goal of the season for the Sharks in the first period as the game was very tight and fairly competitive throughout. The Sharks with the win retake a three-point lead in the Pacific Division standings and remain alone in second place over the rival LA Kings. The Sharks also continued their surprising mastery of the Washington Capitals having beaten them now 17 times in their last 18 meetings. The win was also good for the team psyche after a tough loss Saturday night at the Shark Tank to Boston.
Surviving an Early Capitals Push- The Sharks took a while to get their land legs going at the The Verizon Center Tuesday night. The Capitals if nothing else kept Niemi busy throughout the game and certainly in the opening period as well. The Capitals got seven of the game’s first eight shots on goal and kept the pressure in the Sharks zone. Sensing that his team needed a spark to get things rolling on their end of the deal, Mike Brown took on the Capitals Aaron Volpatti in what turned out to be quite a show of hay makers with Brown getting the better of the exchange. Once order was restored the Sharks play started to pick up considerably as they would get 10 of the game’s next 13 shots on goal including the next nine in a row. With 6:30 remaining in the opening period Tyler Kennedy took a feed pass from Jason Demers and directed the puck directly past Washington goalie Philipp Grubauer. Meanwhile Niemi would finish the period with 10 saves.
A Battle Throughout- The tight and tough play would be a reoccurring theme throughout the evening as neither side would give an inch and both goalies would be tough to crack. The Capitals would outshoot the Sharks 11-9 in the second period and get the better of the scoring chances. Alex Ovetchkin would tie the game at a goal apiece with 7:16 remaining in the middle period after taking a feed pass from Karl Alzner and drilling the puck top shelf over Niemi’s right shoulder. In all fairness to Niemi there really wasn’t much he could have done. Ovetchkin no sooner got the puck on his stick that he had already launched it towards the net from a sharp angle to Niemi’s right. At the end of the period it appeared as if the Sharks had taken a one goal lead on a Brad Stuart tip in, however the goal was waved off as replays showed the puck crossed the goal line a good couple of seconds after time had run out. The third period was more of the same with Washington again getting the better scoring opportunities. During the final period Niemi made some of his best saves of the game including a point-blank save on Eric Fehr. Meanwhile Grubauer was having a good evening turning away the Sharks at every corner as well including some hard shots from Marleau, Kennedy and Matt Nieto. The Sharks would face a difficult challenge before the end of regulation as Marleau was called for a hooking penalty with 1:15 remaining forcing the Sharks to kill a two-minute penalty which extended into the 4 on 4 overtime period. The Sharks would get the penalty kill but would have to earn it as Niemi made two huge saves on hard shots on goal by Ovechkin. The game would ultimately go to the shootout where Marleau was able to get the game winner after Joe Pavelski’s try was saved by Grubauer. Niemi would face three Capitals shooters but was more than up to the task as he turned away Fehr, Ovechkin, and Niklas Backstrom.
Next Sharks Game- The Sharks now head the Florida where they will face the Florida Panthers on Thursday night before heading to Tampa on Saturday for a rematch with the Lightning. First up are the Panthers Thursday afternoon/evening in Sunrise (near Miami). The puck drops at 4:30pm PT (7:30pm ET). The game can be heard on the Sharks Radio Network or seen in Northern California on CSN.
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