What the hell did we just watch?
For the first time since since January 27th, the San Jose Sharks scored 4 goals in a game. Also, it was only the third time since that game that the Sharks won in regulation. And to top everything off, it was power forward Brent Burns who led the charge for the Sharks' offense. It wasn't the fact that Burns had a goal and an assist tonight, it was the way he got them. Burns absorbed hits, drove hard to the net, and was surprisingly effective on the fore-check tonight for the Sharks. Drew Remenda nailed it during the broadcast: Burns is having fun out there, and he was wreaking havoc on the Kings' defense.
The Sharks started the game with Couture, Thornton and Burns, but it took them a little time to gel. Neither team really got anything going for the first few minutes. The Kings actually took control first, and outshot the Sharks 5-0 through the first five minutes. The first good chance for the Sharks came about a minute later by the top line. Joe Thornton grabbed a puck down low and tried to center it. The pass was blocked, but Couture picked it up in the corner and threw it to a wide open Burns alone in the slot. His shot rang off the post, and Jonathan Quick was able to fall back on it and hold on.
The Kings wouldn't let that stop them and kept up the pressure, forcing Patrick Marleau to take a tripping call at 7:23. Los Angeles was kept mostly to the outside, but did get a good chance on a quick redirection in the slot - a play they'd go to all game long. Niemi was up to the task, and the Sharks killed it off. San Jose kept the momentum going with a strong shift shortly thereafter.
Justin Braun started the play from behind the net, played pitch and catch with it in the neutral zone and passed it across the slot for Burns, but it was blocked by Keaton Ellerby to the far corner. A shot from point was blocked, and knocked loose. Sharks had the numbers in front as the puck bounced to Brent Burns, who fired it over an outstretched Quick. Sharks took a 1-0 lead with 8:51 remaining in the period. Burns had apparently made a bet with Brodie Brazil before the game where he'd get Brodie's tie if he scored. Nice motivation, Brodie. Now make a bet with Ryane Clowe.
Despite the goal, the Sharks were thoroughly outplayed in that first period. The Kings out-shot the Sharks 16-5, and that was with a lot of San Jose blocks. That period was the universe balancing things out after the St. Louis game where the Sharks outplayed the Blues but had trouble scoring.
The Sharks had to start the second shorthanded, and were able to kill of the penalty, but still started a bit slow. It was actually the depth players who got things moving. Douglas Murray had a great shift deep in the offensive zone when he used his big body to hold on to the puck and drive to the net. Maybe Murray should try to play forward. He couldn't be worse than he is as a defenseman, right? Soon after, Andrew Desjardins delivered a huge hit behind the Kings' net as he collided head on with Colin Fraser. Jake Muzzin took offense and started to scrap with Desjardins, but Desi came up with a close win in the fight. It proved to be a turning point in the game, mostly because Muzzin took a double minor there for instigating and fighting with a visor on.
The Sharks powerplay took advantage. Matt Irwin would fire a shot past Quick from the top of the circles at 7:07 of the second. It was a snipe that went high blocker side. Quick had a pretty clean look, but couldn't get it. The first power play unit would then follow suit on the other penalty. Joe Thornton drove through the slot and dropped a pass blindly back to Logan Couture at the point for a one-timer with Patrick Marleau screening Quick. San Jose takes the 3-0 lead as Quick was pulled in favor of Jonathan Bernier with 11:25 left.
The Sharks found themselves shorthanded on a Braun penalty about a minute later. Adam Burish and Michal Handzus nearly combined for a shorthanded goal, but were then stuck behind the play as the Kings raced back down the ice. Anze Kopitar saucered a pass over to Dustin Brown, who scored on a nice wrister. Kings bring the deficit to 3-1 midway through the period. San Jose controlled the majority of play to close out the period, with Ryane Clowe getting some great chances. Clowe can't buy a goal right now. Sharks outshot the Kings 14-7 in the second in one of their better periods of the season.
San Jose kept the momentum going early in the third. Brent Burns poked a puck loose from Alec Martinez to set up a 2-on-0 with Couture. Burns would deke and pass, with Couture burying the shot behind Bernier for a 4-1 lead just 27 seconds into the period. The Sharks traded chances with the Kings in the next ten minutes or so before the Kings took control. Los Angeles took an outside shot that Niemi got a piece of before Dustin Brown scooped it up and sniped him top corner again. Sharks lead down to 4-2 with 7:12 left.
The Kings kept the puck in the zone for seemingly the remainder of the game. Dwight King found a rebound goal after a Rob Scuderi shot in the last 3:20. Sharks still had trouble clearing the zone, and LA had some strong chances once they pulled Bernier for the extra attacker. It wasn't enough though, and the Sharks held on. Final score: Sharks 4, Kings 3. With the victory, Todd McLellan gets his 207th win - most in Sharks history.
FTF 3 Stars
1st Star: Brent Burns
2nd Star: Logan Couture
3rd Star: Dustin Brown
Altogether, not a perfect game for the Sharks. They were heavily outplayed early and late, but Antti Niemi was good enough to keep the Kings off the board long enough for the Sharks' offense to get rolling. And once the offense did get going, things went very well. All four lines had some chances in the middle of the game. It's been a while since I can say I've looked forward to watching the Sharks' offense. Moving Burns to forward may have gotten the teams mind off of their scoring woes. They're having fun again. I can't wait to see the rematch on Saturday in Los Angeles.
I'll leave you with this thought: Brent Burns may be the Sharks' best power forward since Owen Nolan. Go Sharks.