Perhaps the best way to mitigate the disadvantage of playing your second game in as many nights against a rested opponent is to open up a significant lead early on and weather the storm from there on out. That's easier said than done unless, apparently, you're shooting on Canucks third-string goalie Jacob Markstrom who gave up goals to Chris Tierney, Melker Karlsson and Logan Couture on the first four shots he faced tonight in his Vancouver debut as the Sharks would go on to win 6-2 over their division rivals, their second four-goal victory against a Canadian team in 24 hours.
Matt Nieto scored twice, including one of the team's two empty netters late in the third period, Antti Niemi stopped 26 of 28 Canucks shots and the Sharks' penalty kill stood tall during an extended second period 5-on-3 as the Sharks held on for the win after Vancouver cut their initial 3-0 lead to a one-goal margin courtesy two Henrik Sedin tallies. Getting the two points while denying the Canucks even one was obviously the key tonight and the Sharks were able to successfully close their deficit on second-place Vancouver to three points, with a chance to make it one if they're able to beat the Canucks again at home on Saturday and Vancouver loses to Arizona in the interim.
- Second night running that Todd McLellan has used the newly united Irwin-Burns pair as an offensive specialty unit, starting them almost exclusively in the offensive zone and shielding them (as much as possible on the road) from top matchups. That's definitely the right way to use both players; they're both tremendously gifted from the offensive blueline in and considerably less so the further away play moves from that area.
- Granted, Burns still found himself partially culpable for Henrik Sedin's second goal that came shortly after the conclusion of a power play as Willie Desjardins was alert enough to sic the twins on a tired, mid-change group for the Sharks.
- Also the second night in a row Tomas Hertl made a Team Canada Olympic defenseman look silly, going inside-out on Dan Hamhuis in order to drive the net for a scoring chance tonight after dangling P.K. Subban to set up Tommy Wingels yesterday. It'd be nice timing if Hertl can put it together for an offensive tear down the stretch.
- The third line as a whole wasn't really able to match their outstanding performance from last night but the fourth line unexpectedly came through with several quality chance-generating shifts including the one that gave Tierney his second career goal. As long as one of those lines is going on a nightly basis the Sharks should be in decent shape the rest of the way.
- Jacob Markstrom makes no sense. He's been dominant at every other level of hockey but an absolute trainwreck in the NHL. That continued tonight in his first big-league start with the Canucks after being acquired from Florida in the Roberto Luongo trade a year ago, as he allowed three goals on the first four shots he faced. I tend to think he's still worth a gamble in a platoon role based on his AHL and Swedish League credentials alone but this game made it a bit harder to make that case.
FTF Three Stars
1st Star: Matt Nieto
2nd Star: Henrik Sedin
3rd Star: Antti Niemi