After both teams started out slow - chances-wise, that is, as nobody can accuse either team of playing slow - the intensity ramped up as the Sharks slowly took over the game, eventually winning 2-0 on the back of two Logan Couture goals and an Antti Niemi shutout.
The first period started out slow offensively, with nary a chance for either team. The Sharks did manage to draw two penalties, though failed to set up a cycle on either power play. Really, the Canadiens had the best chances on both power plays. It wasn't until the end of the period that the Sharks started to settle in, with Jason Demers and Logan Couture in particular impressing.
However, that momentum was erased during intermission, and the Canadiens took the ice by storm at the beginning of the second. The fourth line of Andrew Desjardins, John McCarthy, and James Sheppard created the first chances for the Sharks that period. From that point on, the fourth line was the strongest for the Sharks for the rest of the game; rarely was there a shift by that line that did not end up with them swarming Carey Price's net.
The only forward who could really challenge the fourth line's dominance was rookie Matt Nieto, who was absolutely everywhere and ended the game with 6 shots, most for either team. Five minutes into the second, he drew a hooking penalty, giving the Sharks their third power play of the game.
The power play began like the others since the injuries of Dan Boyle and Brent Burns: disorganized and weak. After failing to set up in the zone initially, the Sharks attempted to enter again. It was a sloppy entry saved by short, quick passes between Marleau, Couture, and Thornton. After establishing themselves in the zone, Marleau passed across the ice to Joe Thornton, who passed it to Logan Couture who was standing right by the net. Couture deflected the puck past Carey Price, breaking the shutout.
The second period also featured the Canadiens' best shift of the game, hemming the Sharks in their own zone for a few scary minutes while Antti Niemi stood tall. As they did all game, the fourth line came on and shifted the play towards Price, drawing a penalty in the process. The Sharks - specifically Brad Stuart - should have been called for at least two penalties during that sequence, but somehow emerged unscathed.
Finally, after the Habs successfully killed the Sharks' third penalty, Stuart was called for a penalty. The power play was preceded by a long stretch with an extra skater for the Canadiens, but Niemi made some great saves and Marc-Edouard Vlasic batted away a sure goal.
The third period belonged to Matt Nieto. Though the Boston University product failed to register a point, he was effective on both ends of the rink. He blocked a shot that was about to go in, and threatened on a 2-on-1 with Tommy Wingels.
Logan Couture scored the Sharks' second goal on a lucky bounce off the lively Bell Centre boards. Patrick Marleau shot the puck in, which took a larger-than-expected bounce past Carey Price and right to Logan Couture, who shook off two defenders to shoot the puck into an empty net.
As Couture said about his goals after the game, "They were both pretty much gifts."
The Sharks ended the game as strong as a team can. They did not let the puck go past center ice, keeping the puck in the Habs zone for the final three minutes of the game and preventing Carey Price from leaving his net for an extra attacker. After years of seeing a team tend to let off the gas and go into prevent defense, it was incredibly impressive to see the Sharks absolutely dominate the finish while up two goals.
All in all, it was the Sharks' strongest game of the road trip, and saw the team slowly take over the game.
[Corsi Report] - [Canadiens Reaction]
[Event Summary] - [PBP Log] - [TOI Log] - [Faceoff Report]
- The Team America line of Joe Pavelski, Tommy Wingels, and Matt Nieto had one of their strongest games tonight, highlighted by Nieto's incredible all-around game.
- Dan Boyle, who joined Randy and Drew during the second period, talked at length how he thought Matt Nieto was going to be a very good NHLer when he builds up his confidence. Tonight was definitely a step towards that.
- While on the subject of Dan Boyle's comments, he also talked about how Logan Couture played like he had a chip on his shoulder, similar to Boyle. How does a former first round pick have a chip on his shoulder? Well, Couture has never been selected to represent Canada at any international tournaments. That could likely change this season.
- Both French Canadian defensemen Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Jason Demers had fantastic games tonight playing in front of friends and family.
- Funny Demers story on the broadcast tonight. Fifteen years ago, when Joe Thornton was a young guy in the league, a 10 year old Jason Demers asked Thornton for his autograph.
- Tyler Kennedy has a rather poor game tonight despite getting an assist on Couture's second goal. His third period especially seemed to be filled with giveaways.
- Tomas Hertl only had 10:19 of ice time tonight, third fewest on the team. He had a few chances, but has been looking tired compared to his explosive start.
- The Sharks only took one penalty tonight, though they probably should have been called for a lot more. Officials were definitely favoring the teal tonight.
- Screencap of the night.
- Finally, Logan Couture is 4th in the NHL in road goals since his rookie season. So good.
FTF Three Stars