The San Jose Sharks beat the Chicago Blackhawks tonight in overtime, 3-2, for their NHL-best 13th straight victory over the Original Six team. The pre-Thanksgiving game found Teal Town fans giving thanks for the return of star goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who had been out since November 6.
San Jose is still without a regulation home loss in the regular season since February 14, 2008, when the Sharks lost to the Edmonton Oilers.
[Editor's Note]: The Grier hit on Aaron Johnson has already sparked some discussion in the comments section- let us know how you feel about it.
Devin Setoguchi got the Sharks' first shot on goal, just 20 seconds into the game, to start the peppering that would be the Sharks' first period. Not long after, San Jose fans began a refrain that would be heard all night - the booing of former Sharks defenseman Brian Campbell every time he touched the puck. Such booing is usually reserved for Chris Pronger (Anaheim), but has been extended in recent seasons to another former Sharks defenseman, Scott Hannan (Colorado).
San Jose's #1 line of Marleau-Thornton-Setoguchi had several key chances early on, but Nikolai Khabibulin kept the Chicago Blackhawks afloat. After four and a half minutes, San Jose led 5-1 in shots on goal - this would be extended to 8-1 after eight minutes, and 12 to 2 after fourteen and a half minutes. While the s.o.g. margin was broad, the hits margin was even at 5 to 5, until Douglas Murray landed a big hit on Brent Sopel. San Jose would finish the period with a whopping 18 hits, while Chicago would add just one more, for 6.
The final five minutes of the period saw some tense drama. First, Ryane Clowe landed a big hit on Brian Campbell at Chicago's boards, drawing cheers from the Sharks faithful. Next, to foreshadow what would come later in the game, Aaron Johnson hit Mike Grier at the red line - interference. San Jose went on the power play at 18:12.
The Sharks had some agonizing chances, before Devin Setoguchi was nailed in the face by the high stick of Brent Seabrook. At 19:33, San Jose was on the 5-on-3. It took just ten seconds for Rob Blake to blast a slapshot from the blue line through the heavily screened Khabibulin's net. The shot was so hard, it propelled 'Bulin's water bottle off the top of the net. Fortunately, San Jose converted on the first power play, meaning the Sharks would still be on the 5-on-4.
The Sharks outshot the Blackhawks 17 to... 2. Things would change dramatically in the second period.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville must be a powerful lecturer, because his players got the message in the second period.
To begin with, however, the Brent Seabrook penalty had to be killed. Understandably, the Blackhawks were unable to put shots to San Jose's net during this time, while the Sharks added a couple of their own. Furthermore, former Blackhawk Jeremy Roenick had a ripe opportunity on a virtually empty net, but was unable to get the puck through. Shortly thereafter, Christian Ehrhoff charged into the 'Hawks' zone, but got ahead of the puck, allowing a turnover. Eager to correct his mistake, Ehrhoff rushed back to the Sharks' end, where he slammed into Nabokov's net, knocking it off its foundation. Clumsy, but effective at stopping a scoring opportunity.
Shortly after the five minute mark, Chicago began to get it together, and lingered an uncomfortably long time in the San Jose end. During this outing, Brian Campbell received a potentially game-tying pass, but broke his stick.
The Sharks tried to regain control at about 10:50. Both Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton made great shots, which were subsequently stopped by the impressive *Bulin Wall*. Despite being outshot 23 to 8 in the game, the shots on goal for the period were now even between the teams.
Then came Marcel Goc. He managed to bring the puck into the Chicago end and behind the goal line, where it was forced out, resulting in a turnover. Jonathan Toews and Troy Brouwer were up against Douglas Murray and Christian Ehrhoff - and beat them and Nabokov. Jonathan Toews' even-strength goal was his third of the season, at 12:43. San Jose was stuck at 23 shots with just 1 goal to show for it, while Chicago had put through 1 of their 9 to tie the game.
And then things got ugly - really ugly. Mike Grier evidently remembered Aaron Johnson's interference, and laid the defenseman out with a dirty hit between his jersey numbers, up against the Chicago boards. Grier, normally a stand-up guy, earned a five minute major penalty for boarding and a game misconduct. Johnson had to be helped up off the ice due to an arm injury - Sharks fans applauded Johnson, but then booed the (correct) call against Grier. With Jody Shelley serving the Grier penalty, the Blackhawks could now score at will for a full five minutes.
Thank goodness for Dan Boyle, who saved the game when he slid into Nabokov's net feet first. His slide was perfectly timed to a shot from the Blackhawks - the puck appeared to hit Boyle's stick (which became anchored in the net), but Boyle himself pointed to his head to indicate where the puck struck. The puck came very close to crossing the goal line, but after video review, the correct call was upheld - no goal for Chicago. All of this took place at 17:26.
Just seven seconds later, Jonathan Toews took a hooking penalty, making it a 4-on-4 for two minutes before the Sharks would once again be down a man. During this time, Patrick Marleau and Rob Blake missed a scoring chance on Khabibulin - but more importantly, the Chicago netminder managed to become injured, through no apparent fault of the San Jose players. The speculation is that Khabibulin hurt his back, or in some way hurt his lower body. Evgeni Nabokov gave a tap to his counterpart as the latter left the ice - and the game. Cristobal Huet took over from there for Chicago. The first shot that Huet faced managed to trickle through his 5-hole, though it was swept out before it could cross the goal line.
With one second left in the period, Dan Boyle was called for hooking. The Blackhawks outshot the Sharks 15 to 9 during the period, bringing the 40-minute totals to 26-17, San Jose. The game was still tied, however, at 1.
As Sharks assistant coach Trent Yawney said before the final 20 minutes, "[San Jose is] playing a team that is very skilled." Jonathan Toews would prove Yawney right by converting on the power play, just 23 seconds into the period, for his second goal of the night. Cam Barker and Patrick Kane earned the assists. Chicago now led 2-1.
San Jose managed to make Huet work - the number one line quickly put up three shots against the French goaltender, who stopped all of them. The Sharks would eventually tie the game at 8:16. Joe Thornton ran over Ben Eager, and managed to get the puck to his linemates - namely Patrick Marleau, who wraped it around to score his 11th of the season. Devin Setoguchi earned the second assist.
From there on out, there were some missed opportunities on both sides, as the clock ticked down to zero. The Sharks outshot the Blackhawks 39 to 26 in regulation, and had a power play conversion percentage of 50% (1 for 2).
Forty-five seconds is all it took for the Sharks to bag the extra point. Joe Thornton was set up by Ryane Clowe from the circle, and beat Huet for the game winner. Thornton's 6th goal of the year came on the Sharks' 40th shot. For what it's worth, the Sharks broke their own NHL-record for most 40-s.o.g. games in the season (now at 10).
- Chicago's Duncan Keith led all players in ice time, with 25:47. San Jose's Marc-Edouard Vlasic had 25:24.
- Patrick Marleau had 8 shots on goal, while Milan Michalek had 7.
- Brian Campbell was held without a shot on goal.
- Milan Michalek and Marcel Goc were the only Sharks with a minus rating (minus-1). Joe Thornton was a plus-2.
- San Jose won 32 faceoffs, to Chicago's 21.
- San Jose's fifth straight victory brings their record to 18-3-1, for 37 points.
- The Detroit Red Wings lost in regulation to the visiting Montreal Canadiens tonight - coupled with their overtime loss in Vancouver, the Red Wings are no longer in a position to immediately catch up with San Jose, despite having a game in hand (whew...).
PERSONAL NOTE TO CHICAGO FANS
I hope I speak for all San Jose fans when I say I hope both Khabibulin and especially Aaron Johnson get well soon. Mike Grier's actions tonight, though quite irregular for him, were completely uncalled for, and are not condoned by this writer. This is San Jose, not Anaheim - we don't get our kicks through violent plays. If a suspension is forthcoming to Grier, I for one do not disagree.
With that said, GO SHARKS.