For just about the entirety of the second period, this looked like one of those games. The kind where the Sharks storm out of the gate dominant, an unfortunate series of circumstances leads to them ending up behind on the scoreboard and the subsequent deflation results in a lethargic effort the rest of the way.
And make no mistake, the Sharks were mighty impressive for much of the first twenty minutes tonight, even considering that their opponent was a Flames team with a depleted roster that dressed Anton Babchuk as one of their six defensemen only to play him for two whole minutes. With an active defense jumping up into the play and aggressively pinching in the offensive zone, the Sharks generated scoring chances galore including a three-way passing play that resulted in a Logan Couture one-timer from the slot off the rush, an Andrew Desjardins redirect fifteen feet in front of Miikka Kiprusoff and a T.J. Galiardi partial breakaway with the man-advantage. But a questionable hooking call on Logan Couture, one of just a handful of penalties the Sharks have been whistled for on this homestand, led to a Mikael Backlund goal for the Flames and eventually a second period in which Calgary played a suddenly underwhelming San Jose team frighteningly even.
Things could have really come off the rails for the Sharks in the third period but Dan Boyle, as he always seems to do, deftly eluded a Flames forechecker coming out of his own end, set up Logan Couture for an entry into the offensive zone then received a return pass in the slot that he ripped past Kiprusoff to tie the game. Just like that, the Sharks were rolling again, carrying the vast majority of the play for the remainder of the contest up until Joe Pavelski deposited a loose puck in the net after some tenacious work on the forecheck by Galiardi and Brent Burns. Two late saves by Antti Niemi were all the Sharks needed to notch their seventh consecutive victory.
FTF Three Stars
1st Star: Dan Boyle
2nd Star: Joe Pavelski
3rd Star: Miikka Kiprusoff
While the listless second period is a source of concern and the Flames are nowhere near playoff-caliber, most of tonight's win was more evidence that, while the results are identical, the process for the Sharks has been much improved over the course of this seven-game winning streak compared to the one that opened the season. They won't run the table the rest of the way but getting contributions from all four lines, advancing the puck with ease and dominating zone time for extended stretches of play were the hallmark of this franchise when it was among the class of the league and those elements are starting to emerge to the forefront once again. While both incarnations rattled off seven wins in a row, the Sharks of April are much more likely to still be playing in June than the Sharks of January.