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Quick Bites: Sharks win 3-2 against offensive Flames

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Sharks close in on the Vegas Golden Knights in the Pacific Division.

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The Sharks took on the Calgary Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary for the first game of their Western Canada road trip. Not only was this a homecoming for Aaron Dell, a native of Alberta, but it was also the first game back on the active roster for Joonas Donskoi since his injury against the Philadelphia Flyers on November 28th. The Sharks hoped to start off their road trip with a win, which would elevate them past Calgary in the Pacific Division standings, where both teams were tied with 35 points at the start of the game.

The first period was split down the middle in offensive display. The first ten minutes were all Calgary, as the Flames pressed hard down the middle, stealing the puck in the neutral zone, and keeping the Sharks from completing passes. While the bottom six for the Sharks worked hard to disrupt the Flames’ momentum, Tim Heed was in the wrong place at the wrong time; he opened up the defensive zone for a goal at 4:42 by Michael Frolik. The Flames winger capitalized on the chaos in front of Dell and powered a wrist shot through the five hole, earning his sixth goal of the season.

A flurry of tripping calls (one on Dougie Hamilton of the Flames, following by one on Kevin Labanc) led to one minute of 4-on-4 hockey that resulted in several shots for the Sharks, including a chance for Joonas Donskoi. Even through the power plays, the Sharks appeared to lack momentum, especially as the Flames continued to intercept passes by the top lines.

After the power plays ended, however, the Sharks’ tempo picked up dramatically, with the bottom-six lines centered by Chris Tierney and Marcus Sorensen producing several close shots in quick succession. Donskoi rectified Heed’s mistake by placing himself in the right spot by the net. His quick work with the puck, along with Tierney, ensured that Timo Meier fired off a powerful slap shot past Mike Smith at 16:07.

With the score even at 1-1, the Sharks continued to up the energy as they pressed hard around the net, with Couture and Ward creating multiple chances for their line mates. At the end of the first, the Sharks had been out-shot by a ratio of 2-1, yet they had been able to keep the goal line tied.

The second period started with a bang, as a penalty was called on Tomas Hertl less than two minutes into the period. By twenty minutes into the game, Dell had saved 14 of 15 shot, remaining a near-impenetrable wall despite the holes in the Sharks’ defensive lineup throughout the first power play of the period. Brenden Dillon was called for a high stick on Matthew Tkachuk 32 seconds into the Flames’ power play, creating 28 seconds of 4-on-4 hockey for a second time in the game. Logan Couture had a breakaway opportunity as he soared up the ice, but his shot was blocked by Mike Smith.

As the Sharks tried to break through the screen of defensemen around the Flames’ net, Joe Thornton was tripped by Mike Smith, which earned a power play where the Flames sent Michael Ferland to the box in Smith’s stead. The Sharks capitalized on the man advantage and Tierney scored at 10:00 with a shorthanded wrist shot through the dense screen of Calgary defensemen. This is now the fourth straight game in which the Sharks have scored on a power play.

The Sharks came out firing on all cylinders at the start of the third period, fueled by the 2-1 goal advantage. Calgary answered with momentum of their own, as they worked to equalize the score. The Sharks’ defense was much sharper at the start of the third than in the two previous periods as they tightened up in front of Dell. The first ten minutes of the third period showed a dramatic decrease of turnover in the neutral zone and an increase of time in front of the Flames’ net. If the first period seemed sluggish, the third period was charge with lightning, both teams scrapping along the boards and fighting for another goal.

Despite the change in tempo, the Sharks were unable to block Gaudreau’s wrist shot at 7:39. The Flames scored on a 2-on-1, tying the game at 2-2. While power plays had dominated the first two periods, the third was dominated by the Flames’ work to draw even with the Sharks and earn a win at home. The Sharks entered this game 10-0 when leading after the second period. After Gaudreau’s goal, the Sharks kept the line changes short and began to push for another goal on Smith, hoping to make the record 11-0 before the end of the night.

Although the period lacked in power plays, the final twenty minutes of the game hardly lacked fast-paced, emotional hockey. The Sharks’ relentless pace paid off at 17:12 when Donskoi scored off an assist by Thornton from behind the net, giving the Sharks the 3-2 lead.

With 1:30 left in the game, the Flames pulled Smith in favor of a sixth man on the ice. Despite the added man advantage, the Sharks were able to hold them off through a few close defensive challenges. The Sharks are now one point behind the Vegas Golden Knights in the Pacific Division and will play the Vancouver Canucks at 7 pm PST tomorrow.