The Sharks (18-11-1) gutted out a win over a Canadiens (19-6-4) team decimated by injuries, missing prominent names like Alex Galchenyuk, David Desharnais, and Andrew Shaw. The Habs made it interesting with a strong third period, but couldn’t make up a four goal deficit despite a great third period push.
Timo Meier made his much awaited NHL debut, and looked great, scoring his first NHL goal on his first NHL shot against the best goalie in the humongous big solar system. Drafted 9th overall in a particularly deep 2015 draft, Meier climbed the pre-draft rankings due to both his production on a line with Winnipeg’s Nikolai Ehlers and a steep drop in Lawson Crouse’s stock on draft day.
The Sharks started the first period slowly, but looked absolutely dominant by the end of it, taking advantage of a series of pretty soft calls early. Referee Tim Peel is always a warning sign that a game is about to be officiated, let’s say “irregularly,” and this one was no exception. The Sharks had four power play opportunities in the first period, scored on two of them, and at least three of them were pretty soft. The Sharks looked sloppy on their first opportunity, but they made up for it quickly.
During the second of said penalties, a borderline hooking call on Paul Byron, David Schlemko scored his first goal in teal (white, I guess) with a wrist shot from the point past Carey Price, who didn’t see a thing through the torso of Kevin Labanc, at 6:50 of the first period.
Patrick Marleau made it 2-0 at 9:00 during the Sharks’ third power play due to Torrey Mitchell’s second penalty of the period, springing on a Joe Thornton pass from his office behind the net. Alexei Emelin lost his game of chicken with Thornton and overcommitted to his coverage, opening Marleau up for a great far side snap shot past Price.
The Sharks weren’t done yet, as Timo Meier decided to conduct his own hype train at 13:18 of the first. Meier converted a rebound shot from Schlemko with a reaching back hand past an out of position Price. Credit to Joonas Donskoi for the effort behind the net, and the body positioning to allow Meier to cut in toward the net unmolested. The Sharks couldn’t convert on their last penalty of the period, a slashing call (weird way to spell “tripping,” Tim) on Shea Weber, but finished a dominant first period, outshooting Montreal 15-4.
Montreal started to push back as the second period starts, and a power play was stymied by a great Sharks penalty kill and some brilliant play by Martin Jones. The Sharks’ fourth line made their presence felt at 6:44, as Melker Karlsson batted it his own rebound from a Michael Haley pass at 6:44 of the second period, ending Price’s evening with a 4-0 lead. This is the first time Price has been pulled from a game since October 13, 2014.
The Canadiens took advantage of San Jose’s defensive posture for the rest of the second, winning the shot battle 15-3, but Jones was solid and the 4 goal lead held into the second intermission.
The Canadiens didn’t go out without a fight, however, as Brian Flynn put the Habs on the board at 10:28 of the third. Flynn tapped in a great pass from Zach Redmond on a two on one to make it 4-1.
The Habs seemed to wake up after Flynn’s goal, and their momentum paid off again, as Jeff Petry scored on a fortuitous bounce from the point. A wacky shot that fooled every cameraman in the building seemed to bounce off of Marc Edouard Vlasic’s glove and over Jones for Montreal’s second of the night at 13:48. The comeback ended there, however, as the Habs pulled Al Montoya for the extra attacker to no avail, and Jones made some huge saves late to hold the two goal lead, allowing the Sharks to skate to Chicago with the two points. The win over the bleu, blanc, et rouge, gives the Sharks a two point lead over the Anaheim Ducks for first in the Pacific division.
- Donskoi looked great tonight after being healthy (healthily?) scratched in Ottawa. Hopefully, tonight’s benching will have a similar effect on Joel Ward, who’s posted a disappointing 9 points in 30 games on the season.
- Kevin Labanc looks better every game, and is likely hurting Matt Nieto’s already low stock with the coaching staff. Pete Deboer has some difficult decisions to make.
- The Sharks penalty kill shut it down, the Habs really struggled to generate any consistent offense with the man advantage.
- I know it’s a contrarian opinion, but Michael Haley really works his ass off every shift. I wonder if Deboer keeps him in the lineup to send a message about how the coaching staff values hard work and a shift by shift mentality. Just a thought.
Fear the Fin Three Stars
- David Schlemko
- Joonas Donskoi
- Timo Meier