It was a fantastic night all around for the Sharks in Pittsburgh.
Milestones were reached, timely saves were made, and the Chewie came out to play.
Paul Martin's first trip back to the Consol Energy Center since he signed with the San Jose as a FA last offseason started with a warm welcome from Pittsburgh fans and ended with the defenseman tallying one goal, his first as a Shark, and one assist against his former team. Brent Burns continued his scoring ways, racking up two goals to lift his team past the Penguins. Martin Jones recorded 38-saves on the night and of course, Patrick Marleau earned his 1000th and 1001st career points with assists on each of Burns' goals.
The Sharks improved to 5-0 on the road trip with the win against Pittsburgh and have just one stop left, a standing appointment with Sergei Bobrovsky and the Blue Jackets this afternoon, before they head back to the South Bay. San Jose has gone 7-3-0 in their last 10 and are now tied for points with the Los Angeles Kings at 24.
A win in Columbus today would give the Sharks the chance to pull past the Kings in the Pacific Division standings, but that depends somewhat on how San Jose will handle the second half of the back-to-back after such an eventful night in Pittsburgh.
By eventful I mean exciting, but also particularly exerting, especially for the Sharks defense.
In addition to scoring all three of the Sharks goals, San Jose's blueliners put in some serious ice time against the Penguins.
The Sharks' top defense pairing, Justin Braun and Marc-Edouard Vlasic both played upward of 30 shifts. Vlasic's ice time totaled up to 28.03 minutes while Braun played a total of 28.92 minutes. Not far behind the defense-duo was Brent Burns who played 24 minutes. Burns and his wookiee stamina has a TOI/A of 26:24, but Vlasic (TOI/A: 23.31) and Braun (TOI/A: 21.29) far surpassed their usual ice time.
The Sharks owe a lot to their defense in this game, especially with the ways the Penguins were playing. Pittsburgh dominated puck possession for a healthy portion of the game (six power plays helped them out in that category) allowing them to outshoot San Jose 39-29, but they couldn't solve Martin Jones or the Sharks defense. In any game where the Sharks don't control the puck as much as the opposing team, the additional defense is certainly welcome -- even if it is at the expense of the next day's game. Well. We'll see...
Vlasic's defensive efforts also included a team-high five blocked shots. There are times when blocked shots seem like a trivial statistic, but in last night's the matchup, the Sharks' 22-8 advantage in the category did not go unnoticed by the Penguins. A handful of blocked shots also came at key times and key locations around the front of the Sharks net and helped to prevent the Penguins from burying second chances.
San Jose's defense has been consistent throughout this entire road trip and now they're down to one last game before heading home. After playing one heck of a game, all we can do is hope they hang in there for the finale.
While Vlasic and Braun were helping Jones to hold down the fort, Burns showcased his talent with two goals and seven shots. Burns is now second in the league in SOG with 90, trailing the Captials' Alexander Ovechkin who leads with 96 SOG.
That's what Burns does -- he makes plays when he has the puck and he generates chances. Sharks fans don't need numbers to tell them how much of an impact player Burns is for San Jose. Burns is and has been an integral part of the Sharks; against the Penguins, it just stood out that much more, even if he was helped out once by someone's skate and a less-than-fortunate bounce for Marc-Andre Fleury, but really that's just the tip of the iceberg.
If there was one thing I would have liked to see more of, it would be the Sharks power play making more a splash. The Sharks went 0/4 on the PP against Pittsburgh while they themselves were shorthanded six times. If San Jose is going to "give up" that many penalties, they should at least be trying harder to score on the man-advantage when they're given the chance. San Jose's PP is 29th in the league with a success rate of 13.1%
Pittsburgh was fun and it was a hard fought victory. The Penguins, and this is true of the Pens of the past year or two as well, are a very even match for the Sharks. The Penguins will have the chance to even the score in San Jose on Dec.1st.