It wasn't always pretty, as a gruesome-looking leg injury to Tommy Wingels early on weakened an already-thin bottom six and contributed to the team spending much of the second and third periods in their own end, but the Sharks were able to snap the Ducks' ten-game winning streak with a huge 3-1 win over division-leading Anaheim tonight at the Tank.
Logan Couture scored his first goal in twelve games (and notched his first point in eight) but the significance of that marker may have been overshadowed by the feel-good story of Bracken Kearns, in his first game since being recalled from Worcester, becoming the oldest player in franchise history to score his first career NHL goal. Those tallies, combined with a Brent Burns conversion less than a minute and a half into the first period, were all the Sharks would need to fend off the Ducks and move to within five points of them ahead of the rematch in Southern California on New Year's Eve.
Score effects kicked in after the Sharks took a 2-0 lead on Couture's goal midway through the opening frame. San Jose had recorded 11 five-on-five shot attempts to Anaheim's 4 at the time of the goal but the Ducks led 65-40 the rest of the way. Despite the Ducks' decided territorial edge for the final fifty minutes of this game, the Sharks did an admirable job defensively in keeping them to the outside and denying them second opportunities with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry in particular effectively stifled until Perry beat Brad Stuart to a puck behind the San Jose net to set up Patrick Maroon's third period goal.
The only real blemish on tonight's victory is the injury status of Wingels who went to the dressing room following an awkward collision into the end boards minutes in, then skated one additional shift before leaving the building for good. If Wingels is out long term, he would be the third top-nine forward the Sharks have lost to injury in a little over one week. Despite Kearns' goal, the bottom six looked overmatched for much of the game in Wingels' absence; it would obviously be tough for the Sharks to overcome that on a regular basis. But the takeaway is that they were still able to persevere for a win tonight and another one on Tuesday would put the Sharks right back in the race for the division crown.
- Unlike the last time these teams met, Todd McLellan didn't match the Couture line up against Getzlaf's, instead opting to use Joe Thornton in that role for much of the contest. It worked out great for the Sharks as Getzlaf and his linemates finished with the three worst shot differentials among Ducks forwards and were non-factors outside of the Maroon goal.
- Brent Burns now has 21 goals and 43 points in 49 regular season games as a forward since making the switch last season. That's a 35-goal, 72-point pace over a full campaign and the most impressive part is that all but three of his goals have come at even-strength. He's a huge part of this team as the Sharks' 19-5-2 record with Burns in the lineup this season attests.
- Daniel Winnik had his nose sliced open pretty good in the second period. I'm glad he seemed to be okay but the only thing "Winnik" and "nose" reminds me of is this all-timer of a tweet from the ex-Shark's official account.
- It's sort of ironic that Couture snapped his scoring drought in this game because it might have been his worst of the season. Despite not having to draw Getzlaf, Perry and company, the Marleau/Couture/Nieto line was demolished in possession as all three of them finished with Corsi percentages of 33.3 or less. Whether it's necessitated by the Wingels injury or not, I wouldn't be surprised to see that line broken up for Tuesday's game.
- Anaheim had the clear territorial edge at even-strength in this game, as you'd expect from a team trailing by multiple goals for fifty minutes. But an indicator of the extent to which the Sharks were able to keep them to the outside is the fact that San Jose blocked a whopping 42% of Anaheim's five-on-five shot attempts.
- I'd be remiss if I didn't close this recap with the traditional post-win-over-Anaheim GIF:
FTF Three Stars
1st Star: Brent Burns
2nd Star: Joe Thornton
3rd Star: Bracken Kearns