The San Jose Sharks defense made up for a couple early mistakes by leading a comeback against the Florida Panthers…
The San Jose Sharks defense has been smothering for much of the 2016-17 NHL season. The Florida Panthers found few opportunities in the final 43-plus minutes to prevent a comeback Thursday, Nov. 10.
Things did not start out so well for the San Jose blue line. Well, at least not its current members.
Former Shark Jason Demers scored twice early—just over a minute before and after the first television timeout. The first came when Martin Jones came too far out of the net reacting to a Joe Pavelski giveaway and then committed one himself. The second came after the ageless Jaromir Jagr wove through the defense and got the puck to an exposed weak side.
Florida’s first seven shot attempts all made it on net and accounted for both goals. The home team had registered 10 shots and 12 attempts when its first miss came with 3:51 left in the first period.
Early Turning Point
The Sharks had been on their heels for the better part of three-plus minutes leading up to the play. The Panthers had registered the game’s last five attempts and three shots on goal when the puck bounced wide of Jones.
That is when it bounced to noted shooter Jussi Jokinen with an open cage mouth in front of him. However, his backhand rung off the far post and San Jose stayed alive.
Florida cycled it back to the point, but then Brent Burns took over like someone’s big brother in childhood pond hockey. Blocking a pass, he skated up the boards and gathered the puck. He then used his massive frame to wall off Demers before pushing a forehand past another former Shark, James Reimer.
That shot at an open net was the game’s turning point. Bag it and probably put away a team struggling offensively so far this 2016-17 NHL season. Instead, the Panthers let the dangerous Sharks back in the contest.
From that point on, the San Jose Sharks defense was in control. It allowed just 14 shots in the final 43:56, and the team found some scoring.
Captain Joe Pavelski tied the game in the first two minutes of the second period. He caught Reimer leaning too much to the near post and sniped a wristshot to the far corner.
The score held up until near the midpoint of the third period. That’s when Tommy Wingels used great stick control to gain control of the puck off a faceoff.
He beat the defense to the inside, skated wide of Reimer and backhanded the game-winning goal home. Logan Couture capped off the scoring with an empty-net goal just inside the final minute.
SportingCharts quantifies that San Jose’s five empty-net goals represent a whopping 14.7 percent of its scoring. Only the New York Rangers have as many such goals and the Ottawa Senators have the second-highest rate at exactly one in 10.
The Sharks had only one assist on each of the last three goals: Joel Ward, Chris Tierney and Justin Braun, respectively. The Burns goal was unassisted. It was only the third time they scored four even with an empty-net goal, and they raised their record on the 2016-17 NHL season to 8-6-0.
The officials swallowed their whistles in this game, with no penalties in the first and third periods. The Panthers did not score on their only power play. They also did not allow a goal on either penalty despite the 34 seconds they overlapped.
San Jose enjoyed the attack advantage for most of the game. The event summary suggests a textbook defensive road win: 33-25 faceoffs, 10-6 giveaways, 6-4 takeaways, 19-25 hits, 29-24 shots, 49-45 attempts and 12-11 blocks. A couple key mistakes and an empty net turned an otherwise defensive game into one with ample scoring.
The Sharks are now 2-0-0 to start their longest road trip of the 2016-17 NHL season, winning the opener Tuesday. They reach the midpoint of the trip Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.