It was one of those nights that make you question your sexuality.
Heavily outplayed from the outset of the game the San Jose Sharks kept up their comeback ways, roaring back in the third period to defeat the Nashville Predators. Joe Pavelski was the man of the hour, notching four points in the final frame to extend the winning streak to three.
With the game tied at four, Manny Malhotra made a great play to keep the puck deep, sealing off the boards as Nashville attempted to clear out of the zone. The puck bounced to Joe Pavelski at the bottom of the circle, and in a move that brought back lucid memories of his overtime goal against Dallas two years ago, Pavelski took the puck across the zone, waited out Dan Ellis, and rifled the puck gloveside high to put the Sharks up 5-4.
Following a JP Dumont tally that tied the score at five, Scott Nichol made a nice breakout pass to Pavelski, who entered the zone on the rush. Ryan Suter made a good play to pressure him above the circles, but one titillating spin move from the depths of hell later, Ellis was a five hole late and a few bucks short. That shot, a lock to be played on the HP Pavilion Jumbotron for years to come, proved to be the game winner.
Patrick Marleau also scored his fortieth goal in the season, the first time he has done so in his career. He joins Owen Nolan (44, 1999-2000) and Jonathan Cheechoo (56, 2005-2006) as the only San Jose Sharks to reach that milestone in franchise history.
Despite the fireworks to end the third however, make no mistake-- San Jose played a fairly porous game during the first forty minutes. In the middle of the broadcast, Randy and Drew talked about a new television series on HBO entitled The Pacific. It's from Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, the same braintrust that created the nothing short of amazing Band of Brothers which aired in 2001.
San Jose, meet Okinawa. Okinawa, San Jose.
The first period was probably the worst first opening twenty minutes the Sharks have played all season, with the speedy Nashville forward group getting to loose pucks and hemming the Sharks into their own zone. It was the story of the night (for the first forty at least), and the story of the season really-- as I mentioned before Columbus and TCY mentioned before tonight, the Sharks consistently struggle against teams who can consistently apply pressure to their defenseman by physically wearing them down over sixty minutes. Nashville won battles all night with an aggressive 3-2 forecheck, and unless the San Jose defenseman can improve making a first pass out of the zone, those struggles will continue.
The Predators moved the puck extremely well at the blueline, and were teeing off on Nabokov all night. It seemed as if a shift wouldn't go by when a Shark forward would pressure the defenseman and you would wait for him to send it deep to re-start the cycle-- instead, Nashville would send a crisp and quick pass across the zone to a waiting defenseman who would take advantage of the bodies in front of Nabokov and get a shot through traffic.
Ryane Clowe goes through stretches where he's just a non-factor. Well he's in the midst of one of those stretches right now, and will need to elevate his play in the coming weeks as San Jose makes their way towards April.
That being said, the Sharks have been wearing their Captain Comeback underpants religiously since the Olympic break. And my oh my did they have them on tonight.
Joe Thornton scored his 100th career power play goal, driving to the net from the sideboards and showing off some beautiful hands to pull a rebound to the backhand and elevate it above Ellis. Jay Leach also scored his first career goal, but it was an empty netter. We'll still give it to him.
Douglas Murray also left the game in the middle of the second period, with what appeared to be an injury from taking a slap shot off his leg.
It wasn't pretty, and it wasn't what the coaching staff had in mind. But at the end of the day it's another two points in the bag for San Jose, and yet another heart-attack inducing finish from a team who has made a habit of the big comeback.