With solid contributions up and down the lineup, and another dominant performance by the top line, the Sharks defeated the Florida Panthers 5-2 Thursday night at SAP Center. With the win, the Sharks stay above .500 with a 7-6 record on the year.
The Sharks made changes to the bottom six before the game, with Nikolay Goldobin and Micheal Haley checking in for the demoted Barclay Goodrow and the injured Mike Brown. They both made an impact, with Goldobin grabbing an assist and Haley fighting Shawn Thornton less than three minutes into the contest. The top two lines had strong shifts before the bout, but a lot of credit was given to Haley for getting the team energized.
The top line picked up right where it left off on Tuesday's game, with phenomenal puck movement and control to set up a scoring chance that Joe Thornton lifted just over the net. The puck would make its way up the boards to Brent Burns, however, who blasted it home to give the Sharks the lead. It was the first time the Sharks scored the opening goal in the game since October 24 against the Carolina Hurricanes.
On their next shift, the top line would extend that lead to two. As the Panthers tried leaving their defensive zone, a combined-effort steal by Joe Thornton and Joonas Donskoi led to a mad scramble in front of the net that Donskoi would bury for his second goal of the season. Joe Pavelski and Thornton had the assists to make it 2-0 midway through the first.
The Panthers would answer back, as Vincent Trocheck grabbed a puck off the faceoff and tucked it around an overaggressive, sprawled out Alex Stalock. The period ended 2-1 in the Sharks favor, with shots 11-11 and scoring chances 18-17 in Florida's favor.
Early in the second period, Patrick Marleau exploded ahead through the neutral zone and powered around Panther defender Alex Petrovic to cut to the net and deke past Al Montoya for the goal. It was vintage Marleau, showing off his speed, power and hands. If you missed it, we've got you covered.
Florida would respond again, this time on the powerplay when Brandon Pirri found an open look from the top of the circles that he one-timed behind Stalock to whittle the Sharks lead down to 3-2. The Sharks' top line appeared to answer with a goal just minutes later, but a review ruled the Sharks entered the zone offside. The play by Thornton to find an open Donskoi crashing to the net was brilliant, but Thornton's trailing skate was not on the ice when the Sharks entered the zone. It was a razor-thin call, but that is the rule: the skate cannot hoover in the neutral zone, it has to be planted to stay onside.
The Sharks were unfazed by the disallowed goal as Nikolay Goldobin fed Marc-Edouard Vlasic on a 2-on-1 for a goal. Good effort by the third line as Tommy Wingels was the one whose outlet pass from the defensive zone led to the rush. With one minute remaining in the second, the score went to 4-2 Sharks, for real this time. After two, the Sharks and Panthers both had 11 shots again, for a two period total off 22 a piece. Both also had 39 shot attempts.
In the third, San Jose hung on, despite a couple strong powerplays from Florida that resulted in a few too many shots wide off the net. Joe Thornton missed an empty netter, and then had a pass blocked on his second swing toward the empty net, but Chris Tierney stepped up and blasted the puck in from the neutral zone for his second goal of the season.
The Sharks take the game 5-2. In the third, the Panthers had 11 shots... again. San Jose only had 10 to ruin the symmetry the whole game would have had. Shot attempts did finish up 65-56 Florida. Marleau's game winning goal was the 89th of his career - tying him with Luc Robitaille for 18th in NHL history.
Sharks goals (assists): Brent Burns, Joonas Donskoi (Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton), Patrick Marleau (Joel Ward, Tomas Hertl), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (Nikolay Goldobin, Tommy Wingels), Chris Tierney (Joe Thornton, Brent Burns)
Fear the Fin's Three Stars
1) Joe Thornton
2) Joonas Donskoi
3) Joe Pavelski