In their third game following the Olympic break, the Sharks for the third time failed to score first, and for the third time went into the third period trailing. Just like against Montreal, the Sharks waited for Dany Heatley to do his magic against Columbus and score his 16th power play goal before the Sharks Nation could finally breathe a sign of relief - it was not going to be another two points that Steve Mason steals from the Sharks. Sharks beat the Blue Jackets with a final score of 2-1.
By the way, is that not why we traded for Dany Heatley?
We've seen Heatley do this trick so many times this season. We see the Sharks battle for the puck around the boards in the offensive zone, while Heatley is skating a few yards away from the goal. He raises his stick in the air to get the attention of his teammates (and he gets ours too, as we know he's about to get open). Next, he skates either to the side or behind the net, not standing in one place but always moving and the defensemen forget about him. A second or less later, we see Heatley standing all alone right in front of the crease, with the puck flying into the net from an easy tap in. How do the NHL defensemen forget about him? No one in this league does this better than Dany. NHL has players who own that spot in front of the net (Ryan Smyth and Tomas Holmstrom - to name a few), but no one can read the development of an attack and defensive mismatches better than Dany Heatley. Not only that - but when he scores, we don't tend to see too many sticks in front of him, or anyone trying to stop him - he just shows up in an open spot and scores what looks like an easy goal.
But before we arrived to the third period where the Sharks scored their two goals, the team played two very different periods of hockey. In the first period, the Sharks looked hungry. They were driving to the net, they were hitting the Blue Jackets all over the ice, Staubitz was ready to fight anyone who looked at him with an evil eye, and overall, the game looked just like what we expected it to look like when the no. 2 team in the conference is facing the no. 14 team at home. But yet again something happened to the Sharks during the first intermission, and that drive was gone in the 2nd period. All of a sudden, the Sharks were giving away the puck, they were not finishing their checks, and they allowed a goal without scoring any. When it happens once or twice, it's hockey. But when it happens three games in a row, this is starting to look like a pattern. Dany Heatley downplayed it in the post game interview to CSN, saying he thinks they're just running into hot goalies. The Sharks have shown their character in those games, getting very close to tying the game against the Devils, and actually winning the games against the Canadiens and the Blue Jackets, but we all can agree that this is not how we want to be playing 6-7 weeks from now.
But let's finish this game recap on a positive note. In the 3rd period, the Sharks continued what they started in the first, and eventually the pucks started going past Mason. Following Heatley's goals that tied the game, Joe Pavelski scored with 4:40 left in the game and the team went into shut down mode from this point on. A better team prevailed, and the Sharks earned another two points.
All is well that ends well.