On the night before Halloween, Douglas Murray made sure that the Anaheim Ducks would have one extra monster to fear. Him.
Murray dished out huge hits all night (including what was arguably the season's biggest hit when he leveled Kyle Chipchura), and the Sharks offense jumped on the Ducks early en route to a 5-2 decision.
"I wouldn't want to play against him that's for sure," said Sharks' forward Logan Couture of Douglas Murray. Couture, who scored the Sharks' second goal of the game on the power play, was on the bench near the Murray-Chipchura collision. "It was huge. That's one of the biggest hits I've ever seen."
It wasn't just Murray who set the tone of the game. The offense, which had scored four or more goals in three of their last four games, continued their streak of hot play. Just 36 seconds into the game, Thornton tipped the puck off McElhinney to a wide-open Dany Heatley, who swept the rebound past the scrambling net minder. Not only was the goal quick, but it was scored even strength, an encouraging sign for a team which has relied on the power play lately. The Sharks would go on to score five unanswered goals in the first two periods.
Captain Joe Thornton was encouraged by the team's effort, and especially their ability to shake off their early season struggles. "We're going to the net, we're shaking out some rust. We know we're not going to score five every game, but it's working right now."
It is indeed working for Thornton, who tallied three assists in the victory. In fact, Thornton matched a San Jose Sharks record currently held by Kelly Kisio when he assisted on Heatley's second goal of the game. With the assist, Thornton was involved in the eighth straight goal scored by the team, a feat not performed since Kisio did the same in 1992. Thornton's streak was broken when another unlikely feat occured; Niclas Wallin deflected a puck off himself and past McElhinney for his first goal as a San Jose Shark.
Although the 5-2 score would usually imply a flashy affair, the game devolved into a slugfest in just the first few minutes. As you would expect in a game between two division rivals, there were instances when gloves were dropped. Few could have expected, though, that the game would see 12 fighting majors between the two teams. The most intense scrap of the game? That would undoubtedly be Douglas Murray's bout with Aaron Voros, which Murray won handily. Occasionally, Murray can go unnoticed by fans and the media because he doesn't score points. However, based upon the locker room chatter, Murray's physical play is something that's appreciated. "He's not unnoticed by his teammates," said Thornton. "We lean on him to play big minutes and he's a big part of this team."
The game wasn't all positive for the Sharks, as they took three minor penalties in the third and gave up power play goals on two of those opportunities. "Tonight, we did alot of really good things in two thirds of the game," said head coach Todd McLellan. "But we turned the puck over late in the second and early in the third, and I think our penalty killing can be better. Other than that, there were a lot of positives we have to take out of the game and build on it."
There are definitely positives (including Niittymaki, who kept the game from getting to close for comfort in the third). The even strength scoring looks to be coming back, and the Sharks are playing with an edge not seen earlier in the season.
If they continue to play as they did in the first two periods of tonight's game, the Sharks will scare any opponent, regardless of if it's Halloween or not.