The win in the San Jose Sharks home stand finale leaves them in first place in the Pacific Division. Can they carry that on their visit with the Los Angeles Kings?
The success of the longest San Jose Sharks home stand was on the line Tuesday, Nov. 29. Believe it or not, so was the 2016-17 NHL season series against the Arizona Coyotes.
The Coyotes have owned the series so far. They have a point in all three games (2-0-1) after taking the Sharks (1-1-1) to overtime Tuesday.
Arizona came in needing a regulation win to clinch the best head-to-head record. The teams play two more games—one in each rink—over their remaining 60-or-so games this 2016-17 NHL season. San Jose would have been five points behind with only four still in play with a loss.
Part of this is certainly the dominance of Mike Smith against the Sharks. He had another brilliant performance but allowed more than the career 1.66 goals-against average (GAA) he came in with per Brody Brazil during the post-game show.
Still, they earned the two points (and all-important regulation/overtime win) they needed to claim the Pacific Division lead. They climb to a modest 13-9-1 but are 8-3-0 at the SAP Center.
The Coyotes fell to 8-10-3. Only the New York Islanders and Calgary Flames have a worse point percentage so far this 2016-17 NHL season.
San Jose controlled the play in the first period and throughout most of the game. However, Arizona got the breaks and led first much like the rest of the season series.
The Sharks appeared to get on the scoreboard a minute in. Patrick Marleau scored on a great backhand after a cross-ice pass from Chris Tierney, but the Coyotes challenged it for offsides.
It looked as if Joe Thornton had reached the blue line with the puck before Brenden Dillon was fully in the offensive zone. However, officials somehow felt the replay conclusively showed an offsides and overruled the goal.
San Jose ended the period with a 13-5 shot edge at intermission and registered the first five shots of the second. However, the seventh shot for Arizona went in: Radim Vrbata slid a great pass across the slot that Max Domi buried.
The Sharks were getting cute and overpassing up to that point. However, the fourth line put together consecutive strong shifts playing a simpler game. Tierney finally beat Smith the second time (on the 27th shot), 4:31 before the final intermission.
The goalie battle continued into overtime. San Jose started on the power play, and captain Joe Pavelski fed Brent Burns in back of the left circle for the one-timed winner fewer than 20 seconds into the extra session.
The difference turned out to be that power play. It could easily have gone the other way, as Dillon was called for interference late in the third. He was not happy about the call, and I asked him how nervous he was feeling in the box with 7:29 left in a 1-1 game:
"You never want to be in the box like that. You know the ref (had another call) I wasn’t happy with. I think it’s a big game where you don’t want to let everything go but it’s two physical teams and it was a little pressure with the call, but we got the big kill."
Burns is clearly not burdened by the new contract he signed before scoring in the opening win of the longest San Jose Sharks home stand of the 2016-17 NHL season. He is picking up right where he left off in winning the NHL’s third star of the week.
Martin Jones carried the team through some bad moments. A look at the event summary shows a third consecutive game with San Jose committing at least 20 giveaways. (Faceoffs: 27-19, giveaways: 20-13, takeaways: 13-2, hits: 26-28, shots: 42-19, attempts: 64-44 but still 14-9 blocks.)
I asked Peter DeBoer if that giveaway trend was a concern. He questioned the validity of the stat:
"One I don’t know that stat. Two the guys who take that stat, I would question that. So I don’t put a lot of stock in that."
The Sharks have a short turnaround, playing Wednesday night at the Los Angeles Kings. Their Pacific Division rivals come into the game on three days rest with a five-game winning streak.