When David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News asked Coach Todd McLellan to relate tonight's 3-2 overtime win to the 2-1 overtime win in Nashville on February 15th, McLellan was succinct.
"Eerily similar," said the coach.
Some of the similarities were good, some bad. As far as positives go, Patrick Marleau was again able to earn his club two points with a late goal in the extra frame. This time, Marleau chose to go high on Pekka Rinne's glove side; the previous winner was scored five-hole.
"It was a semi two on one, I was just able to get in, get body position and put one in the back of the net," explained Marleau, who now has 27 goals to lead the San Jose Sharks.
Coach McLellan was quick to point out Marleau's speed, proclaiming that Marleau turned on a gear that McLellan hadn't seen before.
"If there weren't any endboards, he might still be going," quipped McLellan.
Aside from Marleau's goal, there were a few other bright spots for a team coming off a somewhat disheartening loss against the rival Dallas Stars on Saturday night. The power play, which had gone one for its last twelve, contributed a goal in the second off a booming shot by Justin Braun.
Braun cranked a slap shot past Rinne after a nice feed from Dany Heatley. It was Braun's second goal of his NHL career, and it came off a shot from the point that made it through all the way to the net. Braun has been lauded for his ability to get shots through traffic, and that talent was rewarded tonight with an important goal.
Ryane Clowe also added a goal for San Jose, albeit in an uncommon fashion. A shot from Jason Demers deflected off Dany Heatley's stick and then Clowe's skate laces past Rinne for the Sharks' first score of the night. The goal would be reviewed, but stood up after a short break.
There were negatives to the game, as well, primarily the Sharks' lack of intensity to start the game. McLellan again highlighted the similarities between this game and the game in February, stating that both nights saw his squad struggle to reach full speed. Although the Sharks have blown a good amount of third period leads over the course of the year, McLellan seems more often concerned with the way his team starts a game; tonight was no exception.
In addition, the penalty kill was borderline atrocious tonight; Nashville's two goals both came on the man advantage. To make matters worse, both goals scored for Nashville on the power play were equalizers, effectively killing any momentum that the Sharks had gained after their go ahead goals. Granted, the Sharks are missing not only Dan Boyle, but also Scott Nichol and Kent Huskins; these three players are important pieces to San Jose's shorthanded unit.
Credit should be given where credit is due, though. Kudos to the Sharks for not only finding a way to win, but also a way to beat the stellar Pekka Rinne three times. Earlier today, McLellan claimed this game would be a race to three goals; the Sharks were able to cross the finish line first. Rinne played a stellar game, but was again denied the win by a Antti Niemi and the Sharks.
With the win, the Sharks sit at third in the Conference and first in the Pacific Division with 84 points. It's a five point lead for now, but Dallas and Phoenix remain hot on San Jose's heels.
Just fifteen games remain, so grab a hold of something. It's going to be a crazy ride.