The Sharks generated all necessary offense in the first period as San Jose skated to a 2-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. It was San Jose's fifth win in six games and their second win in a row after defeating the Lightning on Thursday.
The first two periods were all Sharks. They allowed New Jersey just three shots in the first period and a total of 10 through the first two frames. While the third period was a little all over the place, the Sharks team that showed up to start the game is the one that generated that impressive win streak to start the season: Namely, one with Brent Burns on it. It's no surprise that getting back a first-line winger makes the hockey team better, but seeing this hockey team play with him is a whole lot more fun than without him.
Jaromir Jagr and Tomas Hertl's common country of origin was the story heading into the game and while neither made an impact on the scoresheet both were impressive in terms of puck possession. Hertl had several great chances, as one often does when they skate with Joe Thornton, and Jagr is the kind of player that creates chances early and often.
Martin Brodeur had a scare late in the third period as a Brent Burns shot clipped the veteran goalie in the back of the neck as he dove to make a save. Brodeur stayed immobile on the ice for nearly a minute before being helped up to his feet. He was able to remain in the game but exited to the bench to give the Devils the extra attacker just moments later.
Speaking of goaltending, Antti Niemi was excellent tonight. He only faced 19 shots, but was up to the task for all but 18 of them and the lone goal came on a powerplay.
Scott Hannan opened the scoring with a snipe in the bottom right corner of the goal less than five minutes into the game. A chance in front of Brodeur was scooped behind the Devils' net where it was picked up by Thornton and fired to Hannan who was standing near the left faceoff circle. The veteran defenseman picked his spot and threw a bullet on net to give the Sharks an early lead and earn him his third goal of the season.
After leading in shots for most of the first period, the Sharks cashed in a second time. A no-look pass from Martin Havlat to Tyler Kennedy at the right faceoff dot made it 2-0 with just over five minutes to go in the first. Despite having some trouble with turnovers in the neutral zone, San Jose had dominated when getting into the Devils' third of the ice.
Niemi was not tested much early, but that other Czech guy that is pretty good at hockey nearly got the Devils on the board early in the second. Jagr delayed and took a shot on net which was deflected by Zubris, forcing Niemi to make just his fourth save of the game four minutes into the second period.
New Jersey's other resident-old-dude made an incredible save on Logan Couture to keep the game 2-0. Couture was fed a pass into the offensive zone and found himself one on one right in front of the hall of fame goaltender. He quickly flipped the puck to Brodeur's glove-side but the Canadian robbed his fellow countryman with a beautiful flash of leather to keep the game close.
Despite generally dominating the play, the Sharks were hemmed in their own zone for extended periods multiple times throughout the game. Halfway through the second period the Jagr line kept Marleau line on the ice for nearly two full minutes and generated a few shots on net. The Devils seemed to struggle with zone entry but once they trap a team in the offensive end, they [particularly the top line, of course] are great at keeping ‘em there.
After a woeful powerplay from the Sharks, the Devils got a chance of their own and made their first powerplay of the game count. Patrik Elias took advantage of a screen in front of Niemi and a wrister made it a close hockey game with 11 minutes to go.
The ice opened up after the Devils' goal as the Sharks weren't able to sit back through the final half of the period but weren't keen to take any chances, either. What ensued were a lot of dump-ins and a lot of safe passes up along the boards. The Devils had their chances but the Sharks were able to limit the amount of time spent in the Sharks' defensive zone. New Jersey pulled Brodeur with
- Tommy Wingels had a great chance on net but instead went full Joe Thornton with a partially open net in front of him.
- Hannan's career-high in goals scored is six. He's already halfway there.
- The Sharks' second powerplay looked incredible as they were stayed in the offensive zone for the final minute of the man-advantage and then carried that zone time for another minute or so after the penalty expired. Hertl, Wingels and Havlat all had great chances on goal but none were able to get it past Brodeur.
- Beating the Devils at home is what the Sharks were supposed to do -- but knowing that New Jersey was on a three game win-streak that included LA, Anaheim and Pittsburgh amongst its victims makes it a bit sweeter.
- San Jose gets some time off before they begin another tough portion of their schedule. They have the Kings, Blues and Ducks all coming up at home.
- The Blues and Kings are two of just four teams with a better Corsi-for percentage than San Jose. Fun.
- I hope Brodeur is okay; it's scary to see any player in that state, let alone a first-ballot hall of famer.