If the Sharks hit rock bottom with yesterday's loss to the Buffalo Sabres and, let's be honest, suffering a regulation defeat on home ice to the worst team in hockey is as close as it gets, they reached the pinnacle of their young season tonight with a cathartic 4-1 victory over the division-leading Anaheim Ducks. The Sharks snapped their own four-game losing streak, they snapped the Ducks' seven-game winning streak and, as an added bonus, half the Anaheim roster flat-out snapped as well.
After a Brent Burns wrister from the point and a Joe Pavelski power play tip-in staked the Sharks to a 2-0 lead, the Ducks just about lost their collective minds and threw a series of temper tantrums. If you knew nothing about what happened in this game, the third period penalty summary alone could have likely tipped you off to the fact that the Ducks lost big and they dealt with it as poorly as they usually do:
Yep, it was one of those games. Shockingly (shockingly!), designated facepunchers John Scott and Tim Jackman dropping the gloves two minutes into the first period did absolutely nothing to deter an onslaught of Duck-on-Shark violence. Led by brave warriors Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, the big, tough Anaheim Ducks picked on rookie defenseman Mirco Mueller, Tommy Wingels with a jersey pulled over his head and two guys who came into the game with two combined career fights in Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Joe Pavelski. Here's Getzlaf trying to fight a 19-year-old:
Ultimately, though, none of that should overshadow what the Sharks accomplished in Southern California this evening. On the second half of a back-to-back on the road against a rested team that had reeled off seven consecutive victories they not only emerged victorious but dictated play territorially to a degree they simply hadn't done this season. The Sharks registered the first seven shots of the game en route to a 24-18 edge on the shot clock and a control of 62% of the even-strength shot attempts through the first two periods. They outchanced the Ducks 14-9 at evens, convincingly earning the 4-1 victory and two valuable points against a division rival. More of this, please.
- Joe Thornton hobbled off the ice and into the dressing room after blocking a shot in the first period, only to return two shifts later and immediately set up Pavelski's power play goal. He's a terrible leader though.
- In case you thought this game couldn't get any better, John Scott could potentially be facing supplemental discipline after being penalized for leaving the bench in order to fight. (In reality it looked an awful lot like Scott was coming out on a line change but hopefully the league office doesn't notice. The officiating was a bit of a shitshow throughout, as it usually tends to be when Tim Peel is involved).
- The official Anaheim Ducks twitter account, which is terrible even by the low standard set by most official NHL team twitter accounts, somehow characterized the Mueller-Getzlaf non-fight as the Sharks' 19-year-old stringbean of a defenseman chickening out of a bout with the Ducks' enormous captain. In reality, new fighting regulations require linesmen to break up fights before they occur if there's enough distance between the would-be combatants to safely do so.
- Even as an avowed charter member of the "Brent Burns should be a forward" club, I loved how much havoc the big guy was wreaking from the point with his release. Including his goal, scored from essentially the same spot as his goal against the Sabres yesterday, Burns registered eight shot attempts and really seems to be getting comfortable catalyzing the Sharks' in-zone offensive attack from the blueline.
- At one point, there were more team personnel on the Ducks' bench than actual players:
- Thought Chris Tierney had a great game centering Matt Nieto and James Sheppard (at least until the slew of penalties threw every line combination into the blender). He set up Marleau with a perfect breakaway pass 4-on-4 and did all sorts of work on the cycle in creating chances for Nieto. Hopefully he'll get a chance to cement himself in that third-line center role.
- Not sure what's going on with Tomas Hertl. He looks several steps slower than everyone else, routinely failing to win races to loose pucks, compensate for mistakes or get to the scoring areas he was finding with ease last season. With zero shots in nearly fifteen minutes of ice time tonight, Hertl now has just ten in nine games. I'm convinced there has to be some sort of injury here we aren't privy to but, at the same time, if it's affecting his performance this much I'm not sure why he's playing. Todd McLellan's decision to swap him and Marleau on the team's top two lines seems like the latest attempt to try and get Hertl going. They need him without a doubt.
- Tim Jackman's zero points and 21 penalty minutes in 6:31 of ice time somehow warranted the 2nd star of the game at Honda Center.
FTF Three Stars
1st Star: Tim Jackman
2nd Star: Tim Jackman
3rd Star: Tim Jackman