San Jose would rebound from an early first period goal and control the majority of the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, eventually prevailing 2-1 in front of a sellout crowd at HP Pavilion.
Joe Thornton and Ryane Clowe would score goals for the Sharks as Jason Demers potted assists on both goals. Curtis Sanford earned well deserved second star honors for his 37 save performance, with Thomas Greiss holding the fort in a frantic final two minutes to earn a win in his first start since December 3rd.
According to the wonderful @SharksStats, it was San Jose's 700th win in franchise history.
The first ten minutes of the game were a wide open affair, with both teams coasting through the neutral zone unmolested. The Sharks were on their heels coming out of the gate as the Blue Jackets generated a handful of odd-man rushes up the ice that put pressure on Thomas Greiss. Greiss managed to hold the fort on these chances with a little help from Marc-Edouard Vlasic who is one of the best defenseman in the NHL at shutting down 2 on 1's according to us. A source you can trust talking about a defenseman you can trust--Honest Abe Lincoln would be proud.
The Jackets would capitalize on their early momentum and get on the board early, as Mark Letestu found Vinny Prospal from behind the net for the score just over two minutes into the game. Brent Burns, who has been caught leaving his man free in front of the net a fair amount this season, could have done a better job of tying up Prospal's stick on the play. You'd also like to see Thomas Greiss tighten up a bit in that situation, but passes from behind the net are difficult-- with the goaltender forced to look behind him and read the play it's easy to lose track of players in front of the net. The onus should be on the defenseman to restrict that opportunity, with Greiss putting his paddle down and taking away any cursory holes a secondary need on the play.
San Jose would continue to putter around until the 9:48 mark, when rookie Ryan Johansen would get rung up for a high stick double minor that drew blood. San Jose's power play, which was 1 for it's last 19 heading into tonight's action, got their first opportunity of the game to make an impact.
It took them awhile to get going, receiving some scattered boos from the crowd after some difficulties in the early going, but with 45 seconds left in the man advantage Ryane Clowe showed up in a big way.
Jason Demers from the point and Michal Handzus from the crease would get back to back shots on net that Curtis Sanford managed to save, but the third time would be the charm for San Jose. Clowe would get his stick on the rebound and chip it past Sanford to knot the game at one.
From then on, it was pretty much all San Jose.
San Jose would outshoot the Jackets 15-6 in the second period, taking it to Columbus in just about every way imaginable. Sanford had some heroic saves to keep his team in it throughout the frame but the momentum continued to build and build for the Sharks as the scoring chances began to pile up.
After a strong shift from the top line wore down the Jackets in their own zone, the Sharks would manage to break Sanford at the 4:44 mark of the second. A shot off the stick of Patrick Marleau from the point, who was covering for Jason Demers after he hopped into the play, found Sanford's pads and hopped up into the air. Thornton showed off his batting skills as he knocked the puck out of the air into the net and gave San Jose a 2-1 lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Expects Giants GM Brian Sabean to be giving Thornton a call this offseason as he attempts to beef up the middle of his batting lineup.
Thomas Greiss would make some solid saves in a third period that saw him receive some more action, and despite some hairy moments with loose pucks lying around the net, would handle his job impeccably. He came up big when he needed to, especially in the final two minutes of the game when he saw a flurry of action.
Overall tonight was an excellent effort from a San Jose team following the first 10 minutes of the game, as San Jose managed to overcome some early adversity and pick up where they left off last night against Anaheim. The top line of Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, and Joe Thornton had a standout game that saw them generate numerous opportunities on both the power play and at even strength, putting up a combined 8 shots between them. Jason Demers and Brent Burns were also quite active in the offensive end of the ice, with Burns logging a gaudy 6 shots on net and Demers leading the team with two assists.
In the defensive end of the ice Marc-Edouard Vlasic continued to impress. Paired with Dan Boyle during the course of the night, the duo held Columbus' All-Star duo of Rick Nash and Jeff Carter to a mere two shots on net apiece. We're beginning to sound like a broken record when it comes to the excellence of San Jose's best defensive defenseman, but it's undeniable just how excellent his season has been.
After a rough December San Jose is now 7-1-1 in their last nine games and continue to take advantage of their games in hand.
A matchup with the Washington Capitals lies in wait on Saturday night.