The San Jose Sharks capped off an impressive back-to-back road effort with a stunning 5-4 victory on a Joe Pavelski goal over the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre Tuesday night.
Joe Pavelski and the San Jose Sharks rightfully buried the dagger in this regular season version of West Side Story. The Captain was able to perfectly finish off a 2-on-1 break away in the dying seconds of regulation to secure a resounding win in Winnipeg.
After the Sharks fended off the aggressive offensive rush by the Jets in the third period, it looked like the game was heading to OT in dramatic fashion with high stakes on the line.
However in the final minute of play, veteran defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic poke-checked the puck away from an oncoming Jets skater, resulting in an odd-man rush the other way.
Timo Meier, the hottest Sharks forward with a five-game point streak, swiftly skated up the far side wall alongside Joe Pavelski with a dozen seconds to spare.
A sweet saucer pass over the stick of a Jets defenseman landed squarely into the white taping of the captain’s stick.
Joe Pavelski wasted no time, and sent the miracle shot top-shelf past the outstretched glove of Winnipeg’s goaltender Connor Hellebuyck for the game clincher.
With the captain’s team-leading 37th goal of the season, the Sharks rejoiced with 4.3 seconds left on the clock and all the fans at MTS Centre stood stunned in silence.
It was a high-scoring affair – 9 goals on the scoreboard – and it all started with the most unlikeliest of heroes.
After rookie defenseman Radim Simek suffered a lower-body injury near his knee/ankle. That meant the Sharks were going to be missing one of their top-four blueliners for the rest of the night. San Jose used this turn momentum in their favor.
Moments later, Vlasic followed his own shot and tucked home a wild rebound to break the ice in favor of Team Teal in the opening period of play.
Winnipeg did not go away quietly. The home team immediately responded with two quick strikes right after. Just 33 seconds apart, Jets forwards Andrew Copp and Bryan Little found the back of the net riding a wave of high energy that helped them take control with a lead 2-1.
The Sharks’ dynamic offensive depth has been its recent biggest strength, and it proved tonight with deadline-acquistion Gustav Nyquist soaring on the ice.
After some nifty stick-handling into enemy territory by sensational center Tomas Hertl, Nyquist sniped home his second goal as a Shark to knot the game at two before the end of the first period.
But the newest member of Team Teal was not done.
Jets regained the lead early into the second period. Through a trifecta of perfect passes, Kyle Connor earned his 27th goal of the year and 11th power play marker as part of the stacked top unit on the man-advantage.
Back-and-forth, both teams exchanged great-A scoring opportunities. But finally a successful turnover and with a little puck luck went the Sharks way and a Vlasic shot redirected off the tip of Nyquist’s blade toward the goal. With Hellabuyck out of position he had to scramble to make the stop, but the puck trickled narrowly over the goal line and the Sharks tied up the score. The game was tied at 3.
Third period saw a surge of momentum by head coach Peter DeBoer’s tired traveling squad, but that did not stop the hottest line from staying off the score sheet.
Like the living legend always does, Joe Thornton centered a crisp feed in front and Marcus Sorensen broke the deadlock 4-3 just two minutes into the third period.
With that tally, Thornton officially passed Stan Mikita on the NHL all-time point leaderboard and has sole possession of the 14th spot on a very impressive list. Furthermore, Sorensen also secured his fifth goal in his last six games, padding a fantastic career year for the speedy and sturdy Swedish winger.
Despite taking a couple of penalties late and losing captain Blake Wheeler for an extended period of time, the Jets would not let off the gas.
Even though San Jose outshot Winnipeg 11-4 in the final frame, a one-time bomb by defenseman Tyler Myers whistled at the feet of Mathieu Perrault, who tipped the puck straight through Aaron Dell five-hole to tie the game up with three minutes left in regulation.
Dell’s performance tonight was nothing short of excellence, making 21 saves in the back-to-back scenario and restoring some confidence in his crucial role as a much-needed backup.
The San Jose Sharks held their guard late and the boos bestowed on Brent Burns never stopped. When things looked to be heading towards extra hockey, the Sharks and captain Joe Pavelski had other ideas.
In the final moments Joe Pavelski capped off the night with a breakaway beauty earning the Sharks the well-deserved happy flight home.
After the game, Simek walked off on his own power without the use of crutches, which is a huge sign of relief.
If Simek was to sit out a substantial amount of time like team MVP candidates Erik Karlsson and Evander Kane, the Sharks would have to tread water from now until the end of the month.
There’s no rush for Erik Karlsson and Evander Kane to return right away. They will be ready when all systems go for the Stanley Cup playoffs. For now, rest is of utmost importance, and with the potential absence of Simek, Joakim Ryan may have to suit up alongside Burns
While the San Jose Sharks take the regular season series over the Jets with a gusty triumphant effort, expect this year’s West Side Story to not quite come to end just yet.
San Jose holds its lead in the Western Conference with 94 points, one point ahead of a always hot Calgary Flames squad in Pacific Division.
Heading back home with a six-game win streak and tons of confidence, the San Jose Sharks are a team not to mess with as the intense playoff push rolls on through March.