Sharks fight their way to a 4-1 victory over the Stars

The Sharks battled through another slow start in the first period to win their second game in a row and move into a tie for first place in the Pacific Division.

Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Brad Winchester, and Jamie McGinn scored for San Jose, while Antti Niemi made 30 saves in the victory.

The first period mirrored Thursday's game against Detroit, as the Sharks spent a lot of time in their own end at even strength. The Stars outplayed the Sharks in the period, holding a 23-8 advantage in hits and a 14-10 advantage on the shot clock, but the Sharks would draw blood first on a power play goal at the 4:58 mark. Joe Thornton found Brent Burns flying into the weak side slot, threw a pass through the crease and onto the waiting stick of Burns who banged it home past the helpless Raycroft.

Niemi's ability to set the tone in that period proved to be the difference, as the Finnish netminder continues to improve from his early season struggles. Niemi has posted a remarkable .937 SV% since being pulled two minutes into a game against Pittsburgh on November 5th, and has not given up more than two goals in his last four games.

Buoyed by Niemi's effort, San Jose got down to business in the second. Logan Couture capitalized off a turnover deep in the zone where he roofed a loose puck that was lying in the paint, and Brad Winchester scored his second goal in as many games with a nasty snipe that beat Raycroft short-side.

The Sharks 18-7 shot advantage was a sign of their dominance in the frame, and the Stars frustration with what was then an eight period scoreless streak led to a pair of fights that pitted James Vandermeer against Krys Barch and Jamie McGinn against Eric Nystrom. The fact that both fights took place two seconds apart showcased the bad blood that can always be found between these two teams, and led to a third period that ratcheted up the intensity level.

San Jose got some insurance in the third when Jamie McGinn banged home a goal off an excellent feed from Michal Handzus, while the Stars finally got on the board when Mike Ribiero utilized some traffic in front of Niemi and rifled the puck into the back of the net.

Steve Ott was Steve Ott, Mike Ribiero was Mike Ribiero, and the two teams accounted for a combined 100 penalty minutes during the tilt. Three fights and four misconducts seems almost like a nice Sunday stroll at this point for these two teams.

San Jose's ability to keep a cool head and not take dumb penalties that would allow Dallas to creep back into the game was paramount to their success, along with key contributions from their role players. The bottom forward lines chipped in on the scoreboard for the second straight game; the fourth line looking especially strong in roughly 12:00 of ice time. A strong performance from Niemi helped keep things under wraps in the first, and while it's only a matter of time before these slow first periods begin to hurt the Sharks, their ability to respond in the second and take control of the game is something that is always a good thing to see.

San Jose heads to Colorado tomorrow night for a game against the Avalanche.

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