Over the course of this season the Sharks have acquired a well-earned reputation for turning out some of their worst performances against their weakest opponents. They've lost twice to the Buffalo Sabres, twice to the Edmonton Oilers, twice to the Columbus Blue Jackets, twice to the Florida Panthers and were en route to their second loss of the year to Arizona before Alternate Captain America himself took matters into his own hands.
Joe Pavelski reached the 30-goal milestone in style tonight, beating Mike Smith top shelf on a power play to tie the game shortly after banking the puck off Oliver Ekman-Larsson and in to pull the Sharks to within a goal. He scored his 31st on an empty netter, sealing a rare victory against inferior competition that allows San Jose to stay ahead of Vancouver in the Pacific Division standings.
Barclay Goodrow scored the Sharks' other goal, which held up as the game-winner, six minutes into the third period on a 2-on-1 after Todd McLellan shook up his bottom six, swapping Tomas Hertl with Chris Tierney. The win finally gives McLellan the 300th of his coaching career after he was forced to sit on 299 throughout the Sharks' three-game losing streak. Perhaps a victory against a depleted, demoralized Coyotes club shouldn't feel this satisfying but given how many points the Sharks have ceded to terrible teams this season, this is a significant win.
- Only Rick Nash and Alexander Ovechkin now have more goals than Joe Pavelski this season, and no one in the NHL has scored more on the power play. I certainly didn't see Pavs coming close to matching last season's goal total but he's currently on pace to top it with 43.
- Also with his assist on the Goodrow goal Antti Niemi moves back into a tie with John Scott for points this season.
- I feel bad ripping the guy because it's clear he shouldn't be in the NHL yet and the fact that he is obviously doesn't fall on him but Mirco Mueller has been a train wreck since returning to the lineup, with tonight's game possibly being his worst yet. An egregious neutral zone turnover led to Mark Arcobello's game-opening goal and was characteristic of Mueller's play with the puck all night. He's a great skater and has flashes of brilliance defensively but his total lack of offensive ability makes Mueller a huge liability in top-four minutes.
- Matt Irwin had a pretty lousy game in general and a nightmare second period shift in particular during which the puck bounced off his stick and onto that of a Coyote off routine passes on two separate occasions. But I'd rather focus on the positives: he appears to be physically neutralizing opposing forwards at the blueline more frequently and that's a welcome addition to his game, and an effective way to compensate for his lack of mobility that causes him to get beat wide fairly often.
FTF Three Stars
1st Star: Joe Pavelski
2nd Star: Joe Thornton
3rd Star: Antti Niemi