The good road vibes continue as the Sharks (8-6-0) fought back from an early hole to come out on top of the Florida Panthers (6-7-1). Former Shark Jason Demers did his best to show Doug Wilson he’s not mad about that trade, honest, but it wasn’t enough, as the Sharks chipped away at his two goals over the course of a dominant second period, and skate up to Tampa with two points.
The 2016-17 Florida Panthers are fueled by hope and sunshine. Also talent. Lots of talent. Riding on a wave of youth, speed, and skill, the Cats received their first playoff invitation in four years in 2016, and promptly lost to a less talented New York Islanders club in the first round, when former Shark Thomas Greiss turned into Dominik Hasek for two games, facing 48 shots in game five, and 42 in game six, allowing one goal in each. The sunshine continues this season, but the hope flags, as early season injuries to first rounders Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad leave them with a 6-6-1 record coming into Thursday’s action, tying them for 6th in the Atlantic.
Hope, as they say, springs eternal in Sunrise, however, as undrafted 5 foot 9 inch Jonathan Marchessault came on the scene as a free agent, and turned Huberdeau’s minutes into a point per game pace through 13. Marchessault seems to be the latest in the NHL’s trend of small, fast, skilled players taking over the speed game, something we Sharks fans should be pretty familiar with, seeing as my eye still twitches every time I hear the name Connor Sheary.
The Cats wasted no time in this one as, on a seemingly harmless dump in, Martin Jones cleared the puck straight to Jared McCann, who threw it cross crease to a wide open Jason Demers. He put it right on net and, thanks to an unfortunate deflection from Tommy Wingels, it eluded Jones’ right shoulder at 5:09 of the first. 1-0 Panthers.
A little more than two minutes later, a gorgeous play by the geriatric genius Jaromir Jagr led to Jason Demers’ second goal of the night. Jagr cruised into the zone on the right side and curled inward, drawing Paul Martin and Joel Ward toward him before taking a shot on net. Jones kicked the puck right out to Demers in the slot, and he lifted it up over Jones’ outstretched right pad and in for his second of the night at 7:26 of the first. 2-0 Panthers.
It looked to be a two-goal lead heading into the first intermission, but Brent Burns was having none of it. He corralled a blocked shot from Mark Pysyk at the Sharks blue line and was gone. It will never cease to amaze me how a man that large can move that fast. He cut inside at the Panthers faceoff dot, overpowering Jason Demers and shoving the puck past Reimer at 16:18 of the first. Sharks and Cats sat even in shots at 11 at the end of 20.
The second period got going in a hurry, as Joe Pavelski scored at 1:53 to make it 2-2. A smooth cycle from Joel Ward in the corner opened up a pass to a streaking Pavelski, who quickly shifted his weight outside to open up his forehand, and placed a beautiful wrist shot into the far top corner. Check out the footwork on this one:
The Sharks controlled play for large parts of the second, outshooting the Panthers 8-6, for a two period total of 19-17, but wouldn’t be able to create a lead in this game as of yet, due in large part to some excellent team penalty killing by the Panthers during a lengthy 5 on 3.
The Sharks and Panthers traded chances through an exciting third period, until Tommy Wingels broke the tie at 8:53. Wingels cut inside off of an offensive zone faceoff win by Joel Ward, and left both Michael Matheson and Aaron Ekblad wondering who that masked man in 57 could have been as he reached forward and around to James Reimer’s right, and into the net.
Logan Couture would seal the deal at 19:03 of the third with an empty net goal. A great outlet pass from Justin Braun found Couture at the red line, and he cruised into the Panthers’ zone and iced one into the empty twine.
- While I’m not a huge fan of the way the Sharks started this game, it’s heartening to see them tighten up and break the Panthers’ momentum after two quick early goals.
- The Sharks penalty kill is now at 88.2%, having killed the last 13 straight shorthanded situations. I’m not sure if anyone loves Chris Tierney as much as I do, but you should.
- Martin Jones’ lateral movement and hip mobility always impresses me. He doesn’t get many chances to do it, since his positional play is pretty sound, but when he needs to push off of nothing to move quickly, he rarely slips.
- Jaromir Jagr is still a force in this league, but I wonder if his dip in production so far this season and the “cramps” that forced him out of the Panthers’ previous two games have more to do with age-related decline than head coach Gerard Gallant is letting on.
- Jason Demers was everywhere tonight. This guy really seems to get up for his old team. Does that mean he misses us? I think that means he misses us.
Fear The Fin Three Stars
- Jason Demers
- Brent Burns
- Logan Couture