The story going into this game was the Douglas Murray trade. How would this team respond to losing a long-time member of the blue-line?
The answer: pretty freaking well.
With a new-look line up, the Sharks took it to the Ducks early on in Anaheim. One minute in, Joe Thornton found a stretch pass and dropped it to new line-mate Martin Havlat who took a shot that rebounded just past the stick of Brent Burns. It would be a sign of things to come.
At 5:46 of the first period, that line would get another quality chance. Thornton hustled to beat out an icing call and poked the puck around to Havlat. A quick pass to Burns at the face-off dot for a snapshot beat Viktor Fasth high, glove-side as the Sharks struck first. 1-0 Sharks; Burns from Havlat and Thornton.
About a minute and a half later, another new line would find itself on the scoreboard. Matt Irwin dumped a puck into the corner that was dug out by T.J. Galiardi. T.J. would turn it over to Perry, but a James Sheppard check knocked the puck loose in the slot. Joe Pavelski was there as he spun and fired it past Fasth. Great work by this third line for San Jose. 2-0 Sharks; Pavelski unassisted.
Whether its confirmation bias or not, the Sharks defense seemed to be very good at moving the puck out of the defensive zone early. It kept the Ducks contained for most of the first period and fed the Sharks offense well. Much better than the days with a Stuart and Murray pairing. San Jose controlled most of the play in the first and ended the period with a 2-0 lead, out-shooting Anaheim 10-8 in the period.
In the second, the Sharks would arguably top their first period performance. San Jose would strike quickly to take a commanding lead. After a faceoff, Irwin, who showed off his shot all night, blasted one to Fasth that created a huge rebound. Havlat was there in the slot and shot it into the cage just 34 seconds into the period. 3-0 Sharks; Havlat from Irwin and Burns.
The Ducks would finally answer with a goal of their own. With 11:44 remaining in the second period, Emerson Etem flashed his phenomenal speed and created an odd man rush. He'd fire a pass across the slot that ricocheted off Stuart past Niemi into the net. 3-1 Sharks; Etem from Lovejoy and Fowler. Don't think the Sharks were sitting on their hand in the period though. Anaheim did get some chances, but San Jose still out-shot them 21-9 in the second.
San Jose started the third shorthanded, and nearly gave up a goal off a weird bounce off the boards. That seemed to happen all night; Anaheim got a lot of bounces that kept them in this game. The Sharks killed the penalty, but the tired PK unit stayed out a bit too long. The Ducks kept the pressure up and found a wide open Francois Beauchemin who crept up to the slot after all the Sharks had collapse to the net. The wrister by Beauchemin beat Niemi 58 seconds into the third period. 3-2 Sharks; Beauchemin from Getzlaf and Perry. That's the fifth goal of the year for the Ducks defenseman, with four of them coming at the Sharks' expense.
It was the start of a good push by Anaheim, who nearly scored off a bad Brent Burns turnover. Ryan Getzlaf raced down the ice on the rush and threw it in front to a crashing Corey Perry. Perry ran over Niemi and took an admittedly borderline goaltender interference call. Perry goes to the box because... fuck Perry, that's why. Despite being 0/4 on the man advantage at that point, this Sharks power play was very impressive. Joe Pavelski took a nice slapper that was tipped off the shaft of Logan Couture. It beat Fasth, who had been standing to try to stop the initial shot. The play was reviewed in Toronto and deemed that there was not "conclusive evidence" to overturn the no-goal call. Brodie Brazil posted this picture on Facebook that clearly shows the puck hitting the shaft under the crossbar at the point of contact.
It appeared that Perry and the Ducks would go unpunished as they killed the penalty shortly thereafter. Well, until about a minute later, that is. Near the midway point of the period, Galiardi won another puck battle along the boards. He'd flip it back to Sheppard who took a quick shot with Havlat in front. This too was reviewed, but was held up as a good hockey goal. 4-2 Sharks; Sheppard unassisted. It would be Shep's first goal as a Shark. Finally my game preview goal prediction comes true!
The Ducks went on another push. With about 1:45 left, Fasth left the net for an extra attacker. On bad giveaway by Demers, the puck was fed to front where it trickles past Niemi short side along the post. Things getting a little too interesting. 4-3 Sharks; Perry from Ryan. The Ducks continued the pressure until Dan Boyle found a puck in his own zone off a faceoff. He'd whip it down the ice into the empty net to put the game on ice. 5-3 Sharks; Boyle from Pavelski. And that's how it would end.
Sharks win! 5-3 your final score from Anaheim.
- I'm not saying it's all because of the subtraction of Murray, but puck movement from the D looked fantastic tonight. Vlasic & Demers, Irwin & Boyle work really well at getting puck out of zone. Stuart Braun not as phenomenal, but still solid.
- Boy, the top line looks impressive when Havlat on his game. Havlat & Jumbo can cycle like the Sedins while Burns goes to dirty areas. It works as long as someone shoots the puck every once in a while.
- The third line created some very good chances while facing what I'm assuming was lower competition most of the night. It's an easy comparison, but I think Sheppard-Pavelski-Galiardi line could work almost as well as Mitchell-Pavelski-Wellwood did a few years back.
- Line two had some chances, but probably won't fair quite as well when the numbers come out tomorrow. Marleau and Couture looked okay, but Wingels seemed to be a bit over matched by my eye.
- This is the first Sharks win by 2+ goals since a 4-1 victory against Vancouver back on January 27th. They needed this.
FTF 3 Stars
1st star: Brent Burns
2nd star: Martin Havlat
3rd star: Matt Irwin
Back at it in San Jose on Wednesday for the rematch. Go Sharks.