The Sharks weren't about to go down quietly against Montreal. After giving up the first goal for the third consecutive tilt, it appeared as if San Jose was off to another disappointing match against an Eastern Conference opponent.
It didn't end that way.
The Sharks bounced back from a 1-0 and 2-1 deficits to win the game 3-2 behind strong play from Evgeni Nabokov in the final two periods. Surprisingly, against an opponent the Sharks only face once a year, the game became a brutal, physical affair. The chippy match saw a dirty hit by Maxim Lapierre to Scott Nichol go uncalled, but the hit will probably warrant action by the NHL. I'd be surprised if Lapierre doesn't earn a suspension.
Although Price did stand on his head for much of the first, I thought the Sharks offense looked good, especially after the hit on Nichol brought a fire out in the players. Marleau's shorthanded deflection (before Nichol's injury) in the second was a beaut, and Heatley (who was pissed from puck drop, it seemed) made a nice deflection on Dan Boyle's powerplay shot in the third. Malhotra scored the final goal period after having a solid all around performance.
All in all, the Sharks unloaded 40 shots on Price. 26 additional shots were blocked before they reached the Canadiens' netminder, and at least 3 posts were hit by the Sharks during the game. It could have been a 6-2 score the way the offense played.
That being said, I don't like the fact that it took a possible injury to Scott Nichol to get the majority of team motivated. I also don't like the listlessness defensively to start the game, and the high amount of turnovers that have plagued the team over the last five games or so. The Sharks need to stop making the extra pass, and start making the easy play.
Clowe, who still angers me in almost every way possible, saw time on the second, third, and fourth lines, as well as in the penalty box. He was a non factor again tonight. So was McGinn, who also saw changing line assignments and limited ice time.
What I did like tonight was the resurgence of Nabokov, who held off multiple attacks in the third. It was important for him to get a win tonight, if only to show that he is still capable of matching an opposing team's tender after a shoddy Olympics and a poor outing against New Jersey. Torrey Mitchell, who assisted on Malhotra's game winning goal, was involved in the game from the start and was a noticeable presence for the first time in months. In addition, after the shakeup, the top two lines generated chances, and Setoguchi got some opportunities on the top line. I think they'll get better as they approach the postseason.
As we look to Saturday's game against Columbus, I worry about Scott Nichol. His injury could go either way, but if there's any doubt about his health expect Logan Couture to be called up sometime soon.