After shipping Douglas Murray and Ryane Clowe to Eastern outposts, there were questions circling about where the Sharks' toughness and tenacity would now come from. The answer, as was made clear tonight, is not Raffi Torres, Adam Burish or Andrew Desjardins. It's Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Following a lengthy fencing battle in front of his net, Vlasic ragdolled former Shark Dany Heatley as time expired on San Jose's 4-2 win over the Minnesota Wild. We hope Heatley's okay but his All-Star snipe from the outside that tied this game in the second period wasn't enough as the Sharks battled back to notch their sixth consecutive victory and leapfrog the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference standings.
In a game that involved four Wild players who are former members of the Sharks organization, three Sharks who used to play for the Wild and one dude who grew up in Minnesota before moving to the Bay Area and now patrols the San Jose blueline, two ex-Wild (honestly, what an awful team name) in Brent Burns and Martin Havlat combined for Havlat's fifth of the season one and a half minutes into the game on a one-timer from the slot that beat Niklas Backstrom five-hole. Dan Boyle extended the Sharks' lead to two goals on a beautiful 5-on-3 rush coast to coast hours after surviving the trade deadline without being traded from one coast to the other.
And then, as most teams are wont to do, the Sharks attempted to shut everything down and ended up yielding territory and a pair of grade-A scoring opportunities to Mikko Koivu (who, alongside Zach Parise, ate the Logan Couture line alive in this one) and Heatley. San Jose survived long enough to mount a counteroffensive late in the frame but were denied by Backstrom and the alert stick (phrasing) of Ryan Suter. A goal there might have saved the Shark Tank faithful some second period heartache as former San Jose first rounder Charlie Coyle snuck a puck past Niemi 25 seconds before the aforementioned Heatley blast knotted things at 2 apiece.
But just as things seemed bleak, the Sharks compiled their best forechecking shift of the game, cycling through two separate lines and generating four shot attempts before a fifth one (really intended to be a pass seeing as it came off Joe Thornton's stick after all) deflected off unfortunately-named Minnesota defenseman Clayton Stoner and into the net. It was largely smooth sailing for the Sharks from then until that late-game scrum. I mean, sure, Torrey Mitchell had a shorthanded breakaway but scoring a fifth goal of this shortened season would have overshot his quota.
FTF Three Stars
1st Star: Brent Burns
2nd Star: Joe Thornton
3rd Star: Zach Parise
Every game this team wins makes Doug Wilson's decision to sell off underperforming assets for draft picks look that much better. We still don't know how the Sharks' deadline day additions of Torres (*cringe*) and Scott Hannan will pan out but, after tonight's game, we do know this: if you play with brine, you're gonna get cooked.