San Jose played very, very poorly in the second period against the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night. The Sharks had played a mostly even first period against Vancouver, but the Canucks jumped out to a 1-0 lead early in the second and badly out-possessed the Sharks while doing it.
So it was nice to see San Jose bounce back in the third period by scoring four goals and outshooting the Canucks by eight en route to a 4-1 win. After a couple poor games against the Colorado Avalanche and Buffalo Sabres, the Sharks seemed to find their groove against a Vancouver team that can generously be described as not very good at all.
They relied on their big guns to get the job done, as Tomas Hertl and Joe Pavelski scored the decisive goals and Patrick Marleau padded the lead. Justin Braun scored goal number four, but the game was already over by the time the defender recorded the empty-net tally. The Sharks finally managed to break down the Canucks in their first of five meetings this season, the second and third of which are coming up later this week.
The win moves the Sharks within six points of the Kings with a game in hand thanks to the Ducks' win over Los Angeles. With 21 games to go, and the trade deadline coming in just four hours, San Jose is certainly still in striking distance of Pacific Division title. The Sharks sit four points behind the Ducks, which at the very least gives San Jose a shot at home-ice advantage over Anaheim in the first round, should it come to that.
Vancouver drops 12 points behind San Jose, which should, mercifully, convince the Canucks they're a seller before the impending trade deadline. Better late than never, friends. San Jose has a chance to take advantage of the Canucks over their final four meetings; that will be crucial if the Sharks hope to make a dent in the Pacific title race. Part of that will depend on how well James Reimer, who will likely get his first start tomorrow, plays for San Jose; it also depends on just how well the other new pieces come together with the rest of the squad over the next couple of weeks.
While Nick Spaling and Roman Polak's adjustments (and play) will impact the Sharks' chances at hanging another division banner, at the end of the day it'll likely come down to the usual suspects to lift San Jose. Joe Thornton, Pavelski and Hertl all posted positive corsi numbers on Sunday night — the Sharks will need more of that, and more goals of course, to secure that desirable first round matchup.
San Jose has been inconsistent this season, but if now is the time the Sharks put everything together, well, better late than never.