With Sharks Nation on the verge of a collective panic attack, San Jose Sharks returned to Denver to face the familiar foe Colorado Avalanche. So did Joe Pavelski, who earned his new nickname The Big Pavelski in the series against them last spring. To the relief of many Fear the Fin readers, the long awaited win arrived, as the Sharks defeated the Avalanche 4-2.
The start of the game, however, had me wondering if what we have seen in the last three losses will continue to happen. As expected, Antero Niittimaki started in goal. One of his first touches of the puck turned out to be a disaster. Attempting to clear the puck from behind the net, Finnish goalie gave it away to one of the Avalanche players and moments later the puck ended in the net. We've seen this scene happen too many times during this losing streak. It is for the good of our mental health that Sharks have a shorter memory than the rest of us. They quickly put the sloppy goal behind them, and with time, overtook the possession of the game.
The turning point in the game came with less than a minute left in the first period. Jamal Mayers sped up in the offensive zone and delivered a precise pass to Scott Nichol who tied the game. Mayers continued to contribute effectively the rest of the game in what proved to be a great debut for a new Shark.
The tying goal helped the Sharks to carry the momentum into the second period, which saw the Avs take four penalties. With that many chances on the power play, including one 5-on-3, the Sharks punished the opponent with two goals from none other than their old tormentor Joe Pavelski, who scored both.
As the second period was coming to an end, Todd McLellan made the decision to go with the lines that worked in last year's playoffs. Dany Heatley got reunited with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, while Joe Pavelski was assigned to center Ryane Clowe and Devin Setoguchi. The shuffle did not result in additional even strength goals, but the team speed that the Sharks appeared to be lacking at the start of the season returned. If nothing else, perhaps in the future games Joe Thornton can get Dany Heatley going, who still has just one goal in five games.
With Avs scrambling to come back, the Sharks gave up one goal when they were short handed. During the last two minutes of the game, however, they once again dominated the puck possession. Logan Couture released the tension of that scramble with an empty net goal. Logan deserved to score - he was once again one of the more active players on the offense and led the team with five shots on goal.
We finally got what we've been waiting for so long - consistent defensive effort, confident goaltending, and a deserved victory.
Welcome back, San Jose Sharks.