SAN JOSE, CA - DECEMBER 28: Ryan Kesler #17 of the Vancouver Canucks collides with Torrey Mitchell #17 of the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion at San Jose on December 28, 2011 in San Jose, California. The Canucks won the game in overtime 3-2. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
8 of the last 11 meetings between these two games have been one goal affairs. Tonight was no exception as it followed the standard theme-- Sharks and Canucks come out, do battle, fight down to the wire, trade a few shots following the whistle.
But once again San Jose found themselves in the loss column, this time falling victim to an Andrew Ebbett overtime goal.
It almost makes the tribulation of Sisyphus pale in comparison.
"For the most part it's one goal nights [between these two teams]. The unfortunate thing is we're short that one goal more often than not," Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan said. "Once again tonight I thought we matched their opportunities and the chances."
"We have to have the understanding that 3 is a very important number for us. 3 is the be-all and end-all. It's either hurting us when we give up 3, or helping us when we score 3. Every shift is important."
It was a tight game in the neutral zone for both teams tonight, as both the Canucks and Sharks managed to shut down the opposing team's transition game in the early going. San Jose in particular did a good job of limiting Vancouver's entries into the zone-- outside of Ryan Kesler, who created three excellent scoring chances for himself by skating through the Sharks and hitting the zone with speed, Vancouver was having difficulty breaking into the zone for any sustained attack.
That changed at the 8:49 mark as Brent Burns got his stick tangled up in the legs of Manny Malhotra, earning himself a two minute trip to the sin bin. San Jose would go on to kill the penalty and limit the League's best power play (by a country mile) to a pair of shots on net, but the Canucks would strike soon afterwards.
Daniel Sedin kicked the puck out to his brother Henrik from behind the net. After Henrik quickly gave it back to him with some snappy give and go passing, Daniel headed to the front of the net unmolested and managed to slip one past Niemi with a backhanded wraparound attempt. It was one Niemi would undoubtedly like to have back, and the Canucks marched out to a 1-0 lead.
San Jose would come alive shortly afterwards with roughly 8 minutes left in the frame. Dan Boyle sprung Joe Pavelski with a stellar breakout pass that put the Sharks leading scorer all alone with Luongo, but the Canucks netminder would flash the leather like an S&M aficionado and make the save.
San Jose would go on to generate chances in succession following that chance, but would come up empty heading into the first intermission.
The second would begin with an offensive zone holding penalty committed by Brent Burns, his second of the night, and put the Canucks top shelf power play back to work. This time San Jose wouldn't fare as well as they did in the first period, as Vancouver would control the puck for nearly the entire man-advantage run. Spreading three high and wide above the circles in the typical umbrella formation, Vancouver would cycle the puck around the offensive zone looking for an opportunity to strike.
They would get it when Alexander Edler got the puck on his stick. After taking a stride to set up a shooting angle and wait for Ryan Kesler to set his screen on Niemi, Edler would unleash a low howitzer that Niemi got a piece of. The cursory rebound would lie in wait in the crease however, and a good strong stick from Kesler would knock the puck into the net and give the Canucks a 2-0 lead.
As was customary tonight, the Sharks would respond well to the goal against. After some good opportunities, San Jose would cut the lead in half at the 11:01 mark of the second.
Logan Couture would take the puck away in the defensive end of the ice and head up the ice with Patrick Marleau on the wing. Marleau would make an excellent play at the blueline by waiting Kevin Bieksa out and chipping a nice little feed to Couture to break him into the zone. Couture made like a teenager hopped up on taffy and pop at Laser Quest Mountain View, firing a laser that beat Luongo short-side and cut the deficit in half.
"Coming up the ice Patty made a great play to find me," Couture said. "I was just able to beat Luongo high."
San Jose would get their first power play of the night shortly afterword following an Andrew Ebbett slash that broke Boyle's stick. It didn't take San Jose long to capitalize, six seconds in fact, as Marleau would once again make an excellent play to set up the score.
After Vancouver won the draw Marleau would body up on the puck carrying Edler, muscling him off the puck and taking him out of the play. Thornton would swoop in and collect the puck, circling towards the net before sending a wrister glove side past Luongo to knot the game at two.
The two teams would trade power plays at the beginning of the third, with the Canucks opportunity carrying over from the tail end of the second period. San Jose would carry the play for the most part throughout the first ten minutes, with Luongo getting tested early and often after his team's man advantage opportunity.
Things would continue to heat up as the game wore along, with the final ten minutes seeing an increase in shot volume from the Sharks. San Jose would outshoot Vancouver 16-4 in the final frame, but as always seems to be the case between these two teams, the Nucks would bend without breaking. Vancouver survived a pair of late San Jose power plays before inching the game into overtime.
It was there Vancouver put in the final dagger, as Andrew Ebbett deflected a shot from the point past Antti Niemi to give Vancouver their ninth win in eleven tries against the Sharks dating back to last season.
I thought the Sharks second line was their best all night-- we'll have to look at the scoring chances posted by The Neutral following the game, but it looked like they were doing an excellent job getting pucks to the net from good scoring areas. Thornton's line was decent, putting up some good shifts to go along with some poor ones, but Thornton and Ferriero having issues clicking when they were together. Thornton's two penalties and 5 giveaways tonight also contributed to what was a below par game from the Sharks Captain. The fourth line played very well in their limited minutes, grinding the puck down low and wreaking havoc in and around the Canucks crease.
On the backend Dan Boyle was a standout player tonight. Comparing his play during the start of the year to where he is at now is like night and day. He was fluid with his skating tonight, generated numerous opportunities for his team with that skating ability, and all-around was the best San Jose blueliner on the night.
The Sharks will get another crack at the Canucks next Monday when they head to Vancouver for a rematch between these two teams.
Another one-goal game? Nearly a given at this point.
"I thought it was a heckuva game. It had a lot of emotion in it," McLellan said. "Playoff style, playoff atmosphere. Don't expect anything different from the two teams."
Expect the same next Monday.
San Jose's just looking for any way to come out on top.
Scoring chances for tonight's game can be found here courtesy of FTF writer The Neutral.