It's hard to trust the universe on days when you're watching the Sharks game at a local pizzeria next to a guy with a mustache, ponytail, tie-dyed sweatshirt, and aviators on indoors. Throw in the fact that he's tossing back an entire bottle of red wine before noon, and something just doesn't feel right.
Thedropped what feels like their fifteenth straight game at the Bell Centre earlier this afternoon, falling to and the by a score of 3-1. had the lone Sharks goal, with , , and Michael Cammalleri adding tallies for the Habs.
The Bell Centre might be the best home arena in all of the sporting world considering the history and passion of the Montreal fanbase. And although the arena hasn't seen a Stanley Cup since the Canadiens changed venues from the great Montreal Forum in 1996, you wouldn't know it by the decibel levels in the building-- a whopping 21,273 individuals sold out the building once again tonight, carrying on chants for their home team as well as a few boos directed at.
With just a few bridges separating Ottawa and the province of Quebec, it's safe to say there is some kinship found between the two cities.
The Canadiens gave the Bell Centre a reason to cheer early, as Mathieu Darche collected a rebound off the lively backboards to put one past. The breakout was born of a San Jose dump-in that careened off the linesman's skate, springing the Canadiens up the ice on a rush that the Sharks seemingly had covered with four players back in the zone. But Darche was able to shake the backchecking and catch Niemi off his angle, putting the Habs up 1-0.
The Sharks got into a track meet with the Canadiens through the first half of the opening frame, an issue that resulted in some rather discombobulated play and broken offensive chances. San Jose was able to settle down however, dictating the play for the majority of the remaining ten minutes-- Montreal's size became an issue as the Sharks worked the cycle down low and beat Montreal to loose pucks in the defensive zone. A big part of that was their ability to step up at the blueline and force the undersized Canadiens forward group to chip the puck in behind them. But with the San Jose defenseman doing a good job of knocking pucks out of the air, and San Jose's forwards doing an equally impressive job of supporting their blueliners below the circles when Montreal did manage to get the puck deep, the pace dwindled down to a much more manageable rate.
The Sharks struck with seven minutes remaining, as Worcester call-up Benn Ferriero ripped an excellent wrist shot short side past Carey Price to even the score. Ferriero has played extremely well since being recalled from San Jose's minor league affiliate, and today's marker was his third goal in his current four game stint with the club. As we mentioned after Detroit's game he's making a good case to stick in San Jose, with sound skating and a knack for playmaking making him a bonafide addition to the middle six forward groups.
Carey Price had an excellent game tonight, stoning the Sharks on a couple of brilliant chances. Dany Heatley was robbed of a goal dead-center between the circles as Price calmly waffle-boarded the puck to the corner. In an ironic twist of fate, Heatley garnered the most boos on the night-- it seems as if the Bell Centre has warmed up to the goaltender they nearly ran out of town last season (as well as earlier this year), forgoing their sarcastic cheers after routine saves. And that has paid off dividends for the young netminder, with Price displaying a calm demeanor and quick post to post movement throughout the afternoon despite his below average puck playing ability that generated some notable scoring chances (including Ferriero's goals). Gone are the days of a mad rush across the crease that left the backdoor pass open-- Price had all of his angles covered, and has clearly rectified the positioning errors that plagued him over the last two seasons.
Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi looked off balance during the first period, going into his customary crouch whenever a second chance opportunity was presented via rebound. It was not a recipe for success going forward, but as the game progressed, Niemi did a much better job of not limiting himself to a strictly butterfly style by keeping his upper body square to the shooter and not leaving the top of the net open.
San Jose picked up where they left off in the first period, pouring shots onto Price. He was up to the task however, and his ability to keep the game tied lifted the spirits of the Canadiens. Montreal began to get back to their quick transition game with the long change in the second period, and with the Sharks unable to consistently get back to back shifts where the cycle could wear down their smaller opponent, San Jose went back on their heels.
Tomas Plekanec would capitalize midway through the second.was unable to clear a sitting puck at the top of the defensive zone, compounding that minute error with a larger one as he lost an edge on the boards in an attempt to neutralize the puck carrying Canadien. It was all the space Plekanec needed, as some nifty stickwork to the middle of the zone caught and flat footed in front of the net. The ensuing wrist shot beat Niemi short side and the Canadiens took a 2-1 lead.
It was one they would not give up.
The third period left off where the second began, as Montreal's transition game continued to bedevil San Jose. A trio of scoring chances early on were stopped by Niemi however, and the Sharks attempted to push the play the other way. It was a stock split without the doubling of shares however-- San Jose's offensive zone presence improved dramatically, with some excellent opportunities by the top line as well as the second, but the defensive presence was lacking.
A long shift by the top line that sawon the ice without a helmet for over a minute led to the third and final Canadiens goal. Thornton floated a pass to Justin Braun at the blueline, and when Braun's fleeting whacks at the puck could not punch it deep, Montreal broke up the ice. Niemi made a pair of saves off the initial threat, but as the puck lay in front of the Sharks crease, Michael Cammalleri snuck past Braun who failed to pick up the trailer.
[Notes]: According to Ray Ratto, it was not a punitive measure taken by the team... The Sharks head to The Joe on Monday. God save us all... San Jose's bottom two lines were a non-factor tonight...