The San Jose Sharks returned to the American Airlines Center for the first time since their quadruple overtime loss to the Dallas Stars on May 4.
That narrow 2-1 defeat had no correlation to the outcome tonight, as the Sharks steam-rolled the Stars 6-2, with three goals coming from Dan Boyle and Rob Blake alone. Starting goaltender Marty Turco was pulled in favor of Tobias Stephan at the end of the second period, after giving up 5 goals on just 19 shots (73.7%).
The Sharks have now won six straight games, bringing their record to 19-3-1, for 39 points - the best in the NHL. On the other end of the spectrum, Dallas' record is now 7-12-4. The Stars are last in points in the entire league, with just 18 after 23 games.
Evgeni Nabokov had his second straight start and second straight win since returning from a lower body injury. He made 25 saves on 27 shots tonight.
Perhaps it was the turkey from yesterday, but the Sharks seemed to take awhile to get moving once the puck dropped. The shots on goal were even at 2 to 2 after nearly 7 minutes of the game. It was at that point that the Stars' Mark Parrish fed a pass to Mike Modano, who hit the side of the net close to the post, while Evgeni Nabokov was out of position.
After that close call, San Jose remained even with Dallas at shots on goal, which were 4 to 4 after 11 minutes, despite the Sharks' formidable presence in Dallas' zone. It took Ryane Clowe to set up the Sharks' first goal - he just barely kept the puck in Dallas' end before firing it towards the net, where Joe Pavelski tipped it in for his eighth of the season, at 11:45.
About 90 seconds later, Dallas evened the score courtesy of Loui Eriksson and Brad Richards. Eriksson was set up from behind the net, and hit Nabokov with the puck, getting it past him while Rob Blake tried to block the shot. The goal was the eleventh of the season for Eriksson, at 13:16.
Seventy-one seconds later, the Stars found themselves in a position they no doubt wanted to avoid - a penalty kill against San Jose, the third best team in the league on the power play. Landon Wilson was called for high sticking after connecting with Dan Boyle's throat at 14:27. It took just 11 seconds after that for San Jose to once again take the lead, after Dan Boyle's slapshot found the back of the net. Patrick Marleau and Marc-Edouard Vlasic earned the assists, but much credit is due to Joe Thornton, who screened Marty Turco.
Shortly thereafter, Marcel Goc was called for hooking Mike Modano, at 16:06. The Stars desperately needed to convert on this power play, not only to tie the game, but to improve their measly 14.6 percent conversion rate, good for just 25th in the league. Sadly for the Stars, the San Jose Sharks, one of the top ten teams on the penalty kill, denied their arch-rival the opportunity to do just that. Nabokov made a key save with 23 seconds left, after James Neal was set up at the slot by the recently-reacquired Darryl Sydor. Also instrumental in the penalty kill was Tomas Plihal, who managed to send the puck across the ice twice, to finish off Dallas' power play.
The Sharks were now 1 for 1 on the power play, and 1 for 1 on the penalty kill. While Dallas led 10 to 6 on shots, San Jose led 2-1 on the scoreboard.
That lead would be expanded after San Jose's seventh shot on goal, at 18:45. Joe Thornton made a centering pass to Dan Boyle in the slot, who wristed the puck past Turco's stick side for his second goal of the evening - and the eventual game winner. The Sharks now led 3-1.
Despite landing two more shots at Nabokov, the Stars were down by 2 goals - and their once mighty goaltender had saved just 57.1% of the shots he faced.
Amongst the leaders in penalty minutes in the league, Dallas didn't take long to find themselves down a man once again. James Neal was called for hooking, and San Jose began their second power play of the night at 1:45 of the second period. It took slightly longer than their last man advantage, but the Sharks would convert yet again, with 31 seconds remaining. Milan Michalek was assisted by Ryane Clowe and Joe Pavelski, and hesitated to fool Turco on his glove side. Michalek's seventh goal of the year brought the Sharks to a commanding 4-1 lead, at 3:15.
Less than a minute later, at 4:13, the tables were turned when Dan Boyle was called for holding against Krys Barch, and the Stars went on the power play. About twenty seconds into the 5-on-4, MIlan Michalek and Mike Modano collided, sending Modano into the boards. He took a moment to get up off the ice - and let his anger get the best of him, as he elbowed Joe Pavelski at 4:39.
The Sharks were unable to convert on their 3rd power play once the 4-on-4 expired, but they were limiting the Stars to just 1 shot on goal for the period, while adding 5 of their own, to narrow the gap to 12-13, Dallas, after 28 minutes of play.
The Sharks got a lucky (if unfair) break when Devin Setoguchi's high stick to Brad Richards was not called. However, Jonathan Cheechoo was not so lucky, as his phantom-hook of Mike Modano sent him to the penalty box at 14:14. Modano was not obstructed in the slightest bit, but NHL rules being what they are, Cheechoo found himself on the wrong side of the law, with his stick parallel to Modano.
Dallas failed to covert on the power play yet again. San Jose, meanwhile, lost no time in adding to their lead after killing the penalty. Joe Thornton sent the puck to the blue line, where Rob Blake shot it in to make it 5-1, Sharks, at 16:59. Devin Setoguchi earned the extra assist. Despite not getting a point on the play, Ryane Clowe deserves credit for screening Turco, allowing Blake's slapshot to go in mostly unhindered.
The Sharks, not content to hold a 3-1 lead, added two goals on 12 shots in the period. The Stars, on the other hand, were without a goal for any of their meager 4 shots, and found themselves trailing 19 to 16 for shots on goal, to say nothing of the scoreboard.
Blake's goal, by the way, marked the 8th time this season that San Jose defensemen had scored 3 goals in a game - which ties the Sharks' franchise record, with plenty of games left in the season.
Apparently Marty Turco's lackluster performance had finally worn on Dallas coach Dave Tippett - backup netminder Tobias Stephan was in net at the start of the period. For what it's worth, it was also his first experience ever facing the San Jose Sharks.
Just 1:21 into the period, Tomas Plihal was called for hooking Mike Ribeiro, and the Stars found themselves on their fourth power play. Evgeni Nabokov almost allowed Dallas to convert for the first time of the evening when he went back into the trapezoid to play the puck - he dove back in front and blocked the ensuing shot with his stick, sending it to the netting above the glass.
Nabokov had another close call, but one that is worthy of praise, at 2:43. Darryl Sydor set up Sean Avery, who nearly got it past the netminder. Fortunately, Nabokov found the loose puck and covered it up, for his 19th save of the night.
Following the fourth successful San Jose penalty kill, it appeared that Dallas would have the man advantage again. Joe Thornton appeared to hit the puck out of the Sharks' zone into the stands, which would have earned him a delay of game penalty. After the referees conferred, it was determined that Mike Ribeiro was the last player to touch the puck - thus, no Sharks penalty.
There would be plenty more penalties to be had on both sides, however. Krys Barch was called at 5:26 for holding Marc-Edouard Vlasic's stick, but 28 seconds into the Sharks man advantage, Joe Pavelski was called for hooking, making it a 4-on-4.
In the words of Drew Remenda, "That is a terrible call."
San Jose went on the 4-on-3 when Dallas' Matt Niskanen was called for holding, at 6:13. All the penalties expired without damage done, and Dallas' Fabian Brunnstrom came roaring towards Nabokov, firing in two shots - one off his own rebound. Nabokov was phenomenal in making two great saves.
At 9:44, Tomas Plihal was set up by Ryane Clowe and Jeremy Roenick, and wristed a shot from the left circle that hit the far post to go in. The Sharks now led 6-1, and had bested Tobias Stephan for the first time, courtesy of the 3rd assist of the evening for Clowe.
Rob Blake was called for interference at 12:01, and the Stars went on the power play for the fifth time this evening. They were 0 for 4, managing just 10 shots total during the man advantage.
After two minutes, the Stars were 0 for 5, dropping their power play percentage even further.
The Stars scored their second and final goal of the night at 16:27. James Neal deserves credit for a masterful goal, which involved laterally back skating to fool Nabokov. His even-strength goal was also his 6th of the season; Mark Parrish and Mike Ribeiro assisted.
Unfortunately for Neal and the Stars, his goal with just over three and a half minutes left would not come close to closing the large goal differential, and the Sharks would finish the game winning 6-2, though not before Brad Richards ended his penalty-free streak of 36 games, with just 15 seconds left, when he was called for hooking.
- The Stars now have the dubious distinction of having more games with 5 or more goals against than any other team in the league, with 9 so far this season.
- Final shots on goal - 30 to 27, San Jose.
- San Jose's #1 line of Marleau-Thornton-Setoguchi extended their individual point streak to 7 games.
- Stephane Robidas led all players in ice time with 23:00. Marc-Edouard Vlasic led the Sharks with 21:58, followed by Dan Boyle with 21:43.
- Jody Shelley was a minus-2. He was the only Shark with a minus-rating (ouch).
- Mike Ribeiro was a plus-1. He was the only Star with a plus-rating (ouch).
- Blake, Marleau, Michalek and Pavelski led the Sharks with 4 shots on goal each. All except Marleau had a goal, though Patty did manage an assist.
- James Neal and (gasp) Sean Avery led the Stars with 4 shots on goal each.
- Sean Avery did not end up in the penalty box for his third straight game. He still leads the NHL in PIM, at 77.
The Sharks head to Phoenix to take on the Olli Jokinen-free Coyotes tomorrow. A win or overtime loss would bring their points past the 40-threshold.