A team that hadn't won back-to-back regulation games since the first two games of the season hosts a team who had lost their last seven road games. In the battle between an unstoppable force and an immovable object, the Sharks managed to be the ones to stop their less-than-impressive streak, squeaking out a 2-1 win against the struggling Philadelphia Flyers.
This was set up to be a classic Sharks loss. They had just won an emotional game against a hated rival, and were facing an opponent that they were expected to beat - an opponent on a long losing streak, at that. If this was the Buffalo Sabres, they would have lost (because if the city of Buffalo can't win any championships, they'll instead win every single game against the Sharks). However, it was the Flyers, and Long Beach native Matt Nieto ensured that the Sharks would walk away with the valuable regulation-quality two points.
The scoring began with a Sean Couturier power play goal, after James Sheppard was dinged for interference in an all-around poor first period for the Sharks. But Antti Niemi stood tall, and the Sharks were able to tie the game in the second period and win it with 11.5 seconds left on a Matt Nieto tally.
Matt Nieto, even before his game winning goal, was the star of the show. He had a 58% even strength Corsi-For despite only getting 30% of his zone starts in the offensive zone. Only James Sheppard had fewer o-zone starts, and not nearly the success. Nieto could have scored earlier than in the last 12 seconds of the game. He created his own breakaway in the second period and split the Philadelphia defense, but couldn't get a shot off. It's a common theme with him - he can't seem to hit the back of the net, but he does everything else great.
Going by the first period, it seemed like it was the Flyers' game to lose. However, the Sharks decided to actually fight back, and pulled out a victory.
- Nieto's game winner was the epitome of his level of effort. He intercepted a pass in the neutral zone but couldn't settle it with his stick, so he kicked it to Marleau. Marleau partially broke away from the defense, but was stopped by Mason, who gave up a huge rebound. Tommy Wingels drove the net, but whiffed on the rebound. Wingels was pushed into goalie Steve Mason by Luke Schenn, leaving a wide open net for Nieto. And even Nieto won't miss on that.
- Tye McGinn on the top line was a very curious decision by Todd McLellan, and there was nothing during the game to support it. He was finally replaced by Hertl late in the second period, and Thornton and Hertl ended the game with the best possession numbers.
- The duo of Tomas Hertl and Matt Nieto was the only thing going for the Sharks in the first half of the game.
- Vlasic's goal was one of those where all five skaters played a role. Justin Braun to Patrick Marleau to Logan Couture to Tommy Wingels to Marc-Edouard Vlasic and in with pin-point passes each time. Man, it was pretty.
- Speaking of Logan Couture, he left early in the third period after he accidentally ran into Michael Raffl. Couture's head collided with Raffl's shoulder, and the Sharks forward laid on the ice for some time before skating off on his own power. Couture had concussion issues in junior; let's hope that it was simply precautionary.
- Brent Burns is not very good at defense and should go back to forward.
Sharks were outshot 10-2 with Burns on the ice at even strength in that period.— Fear The Fin (@fearthefin) December 3, 2014