As the Canucks and Sharks got ready to drop the puck tonight in San Jose, Ryane Clowe's shadow from the press box hung over the ice. The currently goalless forward was a healthy scratch tonight for the Sharks as trade winds continue to blow. Despite the Sharks actually making a trade today, most of the focus was on where Clowe would be playing his next game, because it looks like his days in San Jose are numbered.
On the ice, it didn't seem to affect the team much at all. James Sheppard slid in to fill Clowe's spot on the third line and looked solid. Adam Burish, in turn, took Sheppard's spot on the fourth and had a surprisingly effective game as well.
The Sharks started the game on an absolute roll against the heavily banged up Canucks, who just lost Mason Raymond to injury before the game as well. The reunited line of Martin Havlat, Joe Thornton and Brent Burns obliterated Vancouver in the first period. One of the best chances of the period came when Havlat faked a cycle with Thornton, and instead drove to the net. Cory Schneider played like a brick wall in the period, however, and the Sharks were kept off the board. After one, the Sharks and Canucks were scoreless, but San Jose outshot Vancouver 14-6, and outchanced them 5-1 according to the Neutral on twitter.
The floodgates finally opened in the second period as the Sharks picked up where they left off. On a brilliant shift by the fourth line, Burish moved the puck out of the defensive zone and flipped it over to the centerman... who tried to move it back to Burish driving to the net. The pass from Scott Gomez (Don't forget his name) was blocked, and deflected back into the slot for the trailer, Andrew Desjardins. Desjardins shot around traffic and finally got the team up on the board. 1-0 Sharks - Desjardins from Gomez and Burish at 7:41 of the second.
Shortly thereafter, a body check from Brent Burns would knock a puck loose from Vancouver's defensive zone. After being tapped ahead by Matt Tennyson, Thornton took it into the zone, thought about passing, but instead took the shot. He'd go top shelf past Schneider to put the Sharks up by two. 2-0 Sharks - Thornton from Tennyson at 8:22 of the second. It was the first point of the NHL career of Tennyson, playing in his first game as a San Jose Shark.
On the next shift, Tommy Wingels drew a penalty while on a rush with Patrick Marleau. On the resulting power play, Joe Thornton would find Marleau down low for a pass. Marleau quickly fed it over for Couture who wound up for a shot right in front of the net. Although he didn't quite connect on the initial shot, the puck bounced off Couture's leg on the follow-through and trickled past Schneider. 3-0 Sharks - Couture from Marleau and Thornton at 9:54 of the second.
It would cap off a phenomenal run for the Sharks, who scored 3 goals in a span of 2 minutes and 26 seconds. Shots were 24-11 in the Sharks favor at the midway point of the game.
As you many expect from a team with a three goal lead, the Sharks started to sit back. Vancouver took advantage. After a bad turnover from Thornton high in the offensive zone, the Canucks had a great chance on a 3 on 1 rush. Although the Sharks avoided giving up a goal initially, a loose puck was found in the high slot by Chris Higgins and snapped through the fivehole of Antti Niemi. 3-1 Sharks - Higgins from Hansen and Bieksa at 17:26 of the second.
The Canucks kept up strong pressure for the remainder of the second and the start of the third. Higgins nearly had another goal about three minutes in after a beautiful spin pass from Alexandre Burrows. Although Niemi was up to the task here, Burrows would get a goal after making a similar move later in the period. After a shot from the point skipped to Niemi, it bounced off his glove and fell to the ice in the paint. Burrows made a powerful spin to shake off Brad Stuart in front and found just enough time to tap it home. 3-2 Sharks - Burrows from Higgins and Hansen at 10:20 of the third period.
The pace of the game had started to slow, but the goal reinvigorated both sides, who went all out in the final half of the third period. Tommy Wingels had a good chance on a rush, but was tripped up by the pad of Schneider as he crossed in front of the net. Other than that, though, Vancouver seemed to control much of the play. Credit the Sharks defense though, the Canucks didn't seem to get too many good chances despite holding the puck for so much time. Vancouver would pull Schneider with 1:15 left, but Brent Burns and T.J. Galiardi combined to kill a ton of time along the boards. San Jose would hold on for the win.
Final score: Sharks 3, Canucks 2.
- With Douglas Murray and Michal Handzus traded, and Ryane Clowe sitting in the box, the Sharks looked so much faster. I'm not saying they're a "fast team" now, but they certainly don't look like a slow one anymore. They may have enough to keep up with the rest of the NHL now.
- Although not a very good night defensively, the top line looked so much better offensively with Brent Burns back on it. Just having Burns out there seemed to open up a lot of ice for Havlat, who had a strong game.
- Vancouver is riddled with injuries, but honestly, only the Higgins - Burrows - Hansen line was worth a damn tonight. It seemed like any chance the Canucks had came with those three on the ice. It's no wonder they were out there in the final minute with the empty net.
- Matt Tennyson looked solid in his first game. He's a good puck mover and does remind me of Matt Irwin. Maybe without the howitzer shot. We'll have to see.
FTF 3 Stars
1st star: Logan Couture
2nd star: Joe Thornton
3rd star: Cory Schneider
It was kind of a weird night for the three stars. Dan Rusanowsky gave the official first star to Thornton, but I didn't think his offense made up for some bad defensive play throughout. I did like the efforts from Havlat, Desjardins, Niemi and Galiardi tonight.
The Sharks have now won five straight and will host the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday at 7:30. Go Sharks.