The Olympics set up a pure narrative glass for every team as they return from three weeks off. If the team plays well, they were helped my all the time off; play poorly and the team is rusty. Olympic guys have success? Well they're just riding that hot streak! Olympic guys don't get a point? They're dog tired out there!
How about this for a narrative: The Sharks played some damn good hockey and got a little revenge on the team that handed San Jose their worst home loss of the season. Joe Pavelski scored the
first second hat trick of his career and set a new career-high for goals in a season (32). Logan Couture and Raffi Torres both scored two goals in their return from injury and Alex Stalock rebounded from a rough first period to get the Sharks on the right track.
The Flyers used Steve Mason, Ray Emery and then Steve Mason again as the Sharks brought wave after wave of pressure into the Philadelphia zone. While the Sharks are still without Tomas Hertl, it was great to see the closest thing to a full squad San Jose has had all year long. Torres is a huge difference maker and remains an underrated depth player.
San Jose has a great opportunity in their last 22 games to pick up a lot of points against weaker foes. They'll travel to Buffalo tomorrow night to avenge an embarrassing (and controversial) loss from earlier this season.
Two straight shifts turned the game upside down for the Sharks. After a strong seven minutes, including a goal from Raffi Torres, San Jose looked to be in control of the game. But soft goals on consecutive shifts put the Flyers out in front halfway through the first period.
Alex Stalock played the first far too aggressively, coming nearly 10 feet out of the net to try to make a play on the puck. The puck was shoveled behind Stalock in a scrum and Andrej Meszaros was able to make a play on it to tie the game at one.
On the next shift, Brayden Schenn chased a puck into the zone and while passing the net, flicked the puck behind him. It bounced off of Stalock’s skate and found its way to the back of the net as it became dislodged from its moorings. The goal was upheld after a brief video review and the Flyers held a 2-1 lead.
The Flyers outshot the Sharks badly the rest of the period, though things were nearly even in the shot attempt department. San Jose killed off an Adam Burish roughing penalty to start the second period, but were sent back shorthanded shortly after thanks to a hooking penalty by Dan Boyle.
With half a minute to go in the Flyers powerplay, Burish was tripped up, giving the Sharks their second chance at the powerplay of the evening. Philadelphia used a curious defensive structure on the kill, choosing to leave Joe Pavelski all alone in front of Steve Mason. Two-time gold medalist Patrick Marleau found Captain America and the Sharks tied the game at two.
Just 35 seconds later, Pavelski scored his 31st goal of the season when he redirected a shot from Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The Olympic connections kept working for the Sharks, who took a 3-2 lead.
Steve Mason’s nightmare evening concluded (sort of) as Logan Couture matched Torres’ feat and scored in his first game since going to the LTIR with a hand injury. After missing two months and the Olympics, it was great to see Couture light the lamp and chase Mason from the game.
Captain America picked up a second period hat trick, the second of his career, and made the Sharks lead 5-2.
Torres added a second goal late in the second period and Couture matched him five minutes into the third, with Logan's coming shorthanded. The rout was on and Couture nearly gave the Sharks two hat tricks on the same night when he slammed a puck into the pad of Ray Emery. After a lengthy review, the war room in Toronto concluded it was not a goal. It's the opinion of this FTF writer that they missed a pretty easy call, but in a game like tonight's... hard to be too upset about it.
FTF Three Stars
1st Star: Joe Pavelski
2nd Star: Logan Couture
3rd Star: Raffi Torres