For the first time this season, the Sharks were faced with protecting a one goal lead in the third, and succeeded to remain undefeated and stay on top of the Western Conference. And despite the game being billed as a battle of shoot-happy teams, the Sharks dominated the Senators on the shot clock 50-23.
Tomas Hertl opened the scoring 55 seconds into the game with his NHL-leading seventh goal of the season. Like all of his non-controversially-spectacular goals, Hertl collected the rebound and shot it past Ottawa backup Robin Lehner after Boyle shot it from the point.
The next two goals would belong to the Senators after Ottawa finally tilted the ice towards Niemi. On their fourth shot of the game, a shot from the high slot bounces off the boards behind the net, ping-pongs off of almost every player on the ice, and Zack Smith pots the rebound.
On a deserved high sticking call on Andrew Desjardins, every Sharks fan's favorite player Bobby Ryan receives a pretty, pretty pass from Senators captain and laugh enthusiast Jason Spezza to give the Senators the lead late in the first.
It should be noted that between Hertl's opening goal and the Senators' two there was a fight between tough guy Matt Pelech and Chris Neil. Some may say that the Senators gain momentum from that fight, which Neil edged out Pelech for the win. Others may point out that the Senators failed to get a shot on goal for the five minutes following the fight. You be the judge.
The second period begins with Ottawa continuing their strong play and pressure; while it may not have shown up on the shot clock, the ice was tilted towards Niemi, tiring out the defense. However, the long change seemed to trip the Senators up, and they kept giving up partial breakaway after partial breakaway to the Sharks (who failed to convert on every single one of them).
Finally, the Sharks managed to set up a cycle, and shortly afterwards drew a penalty. On the ensuing power play, a mob formed in front of Lehner as seven players converged on the crease. The puck squirted out to a point-playing Patrick Marleau, who backhanded the shot past Lehner to tie it up.
But the big story of the period was Tomas Hertl, and not in a good way. When trying to collect the puck in the high slot in front of Lehner, Hertl ran into Clarke MacArthur with his head down and immediately left the ice. He did not return to the game, though after the game McLellan said that Hertl was kept out for precautionary reasons.
The third period started with the Sharks trying to take the lead by brute force. With the help of a power play, the Sharks managed 6 shots in the first 2:06 of the period.
And the brute force tactic worked. Just seconds after the power play expired, Joe Thornton dished the puck from Gretzky's office to a screaming Brent Burns, who one-timed it as hard as possible just two feet in front of Lehner into the back of the net.
The rest of the period featured the Sharks similarly dominating the Senators on the shot clock, ending with a 25-2 differential in that period alone. The Sharks protected a one goal lead - including a penalty kill with three minutes left - and continued their five game winning streak to remain undefeated.
The Burns-Thornton-Hertl line is the best line in the NHL. Yes, that's a declarative statement, but I stand by it. No teams seem to have an answer for them, basically just hanging on as they pass and shoot as they please in the offensive zone.
With his assist on Brent Burns's game winner, Joe Thornton moved to just four points behind Joe Nieuwendyk and Mike Bossy on the all-time points list. We're watching a first ballot hall-of-fame, guys.
As a rookie, Hertl has a few things he needs to work on. One is to learn to keep his head up. The other is to stop dropping his gloves and stick on the ice whenever he needs to go to the dressing room.
Chris Neil and Erik Condra collided late in the third in the funniest moment of the night.
Matt Nieto quietly earned another assist, giving him four points in five games.
So happy Bobby Ryan is in the Eastern Conference.
Both Todd McLellan and Paul MacLean were Detroit assistant coaches for their 07-08 Cup win. No wonder both teams similarly preach puck possession and shooting.
Second game this season the Sharks have 50 shots or more.
Sharks average 42.4 shots per game. Second place Anaheim average 34.2.
47 saves for backup Robin Lehner. Yowza. Ottawa is pretty deep in goal.
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