The Sharks still can't seem to kick those first period demons, although they somehow have been able to overcome them.
For the fifteenth time in their twenty-two games this year, San Jose gave up the first goal of the game. Tonight's early lapse didn't fall into the same category as the other fourteen; the Sharks were outplayed in most of those games and deserved to take the first arrow as a result. Against the Canadiens, though, the Sharks played fast and strong early, controlling the play for stretches and winning the majority of face-offs and board battles. Still, Mike Cammalleri was the beneficiary of a well placed shot from the point, and directed it past Antti Niemi for the first score of the game.
In a familiar position, the Sharks needed a hero to save them from what looked like could be another first period let down. Enter Jamie McGinn, who just 40 seconds after Cammalleri's goal, took a glorious pass from Michael Handzus and slammed it past Carey Price for his third goal of the year. McGinn has been getting rewarded on the scoresheet as of late; he's been getting better and better and if he can continue to sprinkle offense into his high octane, physical game, he will quickly become an extremely valuable player at just 24 years old.
The second period would see the Sharks take another punch to the jaw; Joe Pavelski turned the puck over in the offensive zone and David Desharnais was off to the races. Niemi came out to challenge the shooter, but Desharnais placed the puck perfectly under the goalies arm. Desharnais, who earned the game's second star, was a real standout for Montreal, and shows that Doug Wilson isn't the only one who picks up talent under the radar. A two-time training camp invite, Desharnais looked fantastic tonight and I'd say he has a future ahead of him in the NHL.
Down 2-1, the Sharks' reunited second line of Ryane Clowe, Logan Couture and Martin Havlat went to work. None of the three had been producing while separated, and coach Todd McLellan was forced to bring the three back together in an effort to get it going. It worked, first paying off in the form of a beautiful pass from Clowe to Couture that beat Price clean just two minutes after the Canadiens took the lead back.
More of the same? Alright. Eric Cole would put the Canadiens up again in the third, and this time, it seemed like it was a deflating one. The Sharks wouldn't strike back as quickly as before, but that only helped to build up the drama that would unfold in the final minutes.
With Niemi pulled for the extra attacker, the second line entered the zone perfectly, and some great pressure foxed a rebound, which found Clowe's stick in the slot. Clowe didn't miss, and tied the game with just 1:30 left. Retribution. Redemption. It was Clowe's first goal in his last 10 games, and it couldn't have come at a better time for the team or the player.
The Sharks would play a solid overtime period before winning in the shootout to improve their record to 3-0 in the skills competition.
It's only one game, but it's great to see the Sharks get four goals after struggling to score in three straight. With the secondary scoring heating up, it's something the team can build on going forward. Also, Jason Demers looked to be getting some of his physical edge back, as he blew up Eric Cole in the biggest neutral zone hit of the year so far in San Jose's season.
Not everything was great, as the first line was a combined -9, and the Boyle-Murray combo had their share of issues as well. The team committed 22 turnovers, a result of their inability to complete passes... something that has plagued them all year. Still, the Sharks come out tonight with two points. As long as they're earning points, they can accept not playing a perfect game. Hopefully the pursuit of perfection outside of wins pushes them to new heights this season.