San Jose wanted to come home with six out of a possible eight points on their East Coast road trip, but Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals had other plans, handing the Sharks a 4-1 loss tonight.
The Sharks looked great right out of the gate, leading the Capitals 7-1 in the shot category halfway through the first frame. However, the Capitals quickly found their footing and starting pelting Martin Jones with shots. Washington’s first line consisting of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson (weird, I know) had some great shifts early on, combining for four shots in the latter part of the first and keeping the Sharks pinned deep in their own end.
But it was Washington’s fourth line who drew first blood, when John Carlson sent a shot from the point toward Devante Smith-Pelly in front, who tipped the puck in while screening Jones at the same time. Smith-Pelly, the former Anaheim Duck, deflected it past Jones for his fourth goal of the year, while John Carlson picked up his 19th(!) assist of the season, tying him with Kris Letang for second in assists by NHL defensemen.
The first period ended with the Capitals ahead of the Sharks 10-7 in the shot category, leaving the Sharks with quite a bit of ground to cover in the second period.
The second period started just like the first, with the Sharks sustaining more pressure in the offensive zone and leading the Capitals 9-3 in shot attempts. But a failed odd-man rush opportunity for Tomas Hertl and Kevin Labanc quickly led to a bad turnover and a breakaway for the last guy you want to see in alone on your goaltender: Alex Ovechkin. Though Brenden Dillon nearly got back in time to save the day, Ovechkin made a nice move and put a backhand shot past the blocker of Jones for his 20th goal of the season. Ovechkin has been as red-hot as of late; the goal was Ovechkin’s seventh in six games, and put him at the top of the NHL goal-scoring race for the time being.
Just over halfway through the second, the Sharks were finally able to get on the board when Timo Meier, who has just been aching for a goal, put a loose puck past Philipp Grubauer for his third of the season, only his second goal in his last 21 games. You could see the relief on the face of Meier after finally putting one in; it has been a frustrating season for Meier, who has been getting opportunities, but only had a 3.6% shooting percentage going into Monday’s tilt.
After the Capitals were able to kill off the Sharks’ first power play of the game, Brenden Dillon took a high-sticking call with exactly two minutes left in the second. San Jose’s penalty killing unit, the second-best in the league, gave up a rare power play goal as Ovechkin made a great move and found Brett Connolly in front, who made no mistake as he put one above Martin Jones’ blocker, pinging off the inside of the post and back in front of the crease. Though the puck went in, the officials did not see it right away and play continued. Eventually, the refs blew the play dead and rightfully awarded the Capitals the goal, but Pete DeBoer then decided to challenge the play, believing the Capitals had gone offside prior to the goal. After review, the goal on the ice was confirmed, and the Sharks were assessed a minor penalty for failing to win an offside review.
After the Sharks were able to kill off the rest of the delay of game penalty in the third, the game turned very physical in a matter of seconds. Tom Wilson challenged Joe Thornton to a fight at center ice, as retribution for a dangerous hit Thornton made made in the second that sent TJ Oshie to the locker room.
The Thornton hit on Oshie. pic.twitter.com/RtVV6W2dWG— StopThrowingHats (@stopthehats) December 5, 2017
The big center was happy to oblige the young agitator. About a minute later, Timo Meier and Brooks Orpik got into a scrap in front of Grubauer, sending the San Jose bench into an uproar. Pete DeBoer and his staff felt that Orpik should have received an instigator penalty for starting the fight with the young Swiss forward, but both were given matching minors and the teams proceeded to play four-on-four.
Later in the period, Barclay Goodrow caught John Carlson in the face with his stick, resulting in a fight between Alex Chiasson and Goodrow. Both received a fighting major, but Goodrow also received a minor for the high stick, sending the Capitals to the power play once more. The Sharks were nearly able to kill the penalty, but with two seconds left in the minor to Goodrow, the Capitals were able to score after a scramble in front of the net left Jones out of position. Jakub Vrana found himself with the puck in front of a mostly empty net and scored his eighth goal of the year to make the score 4-1 and essentially put the game away for the Capitals.
In the dying seconds of the game, Brenden Dillon was assessed a five minute major and a game misconduct for slashing. That, and the Thornton hit, may have consequences coming from the Department of Player Safety soon.
- The Sharks' penalty kill gave up two power play goals to the Caps, after only giving up ten all season prior to Monday night.
- Both teams combined for 61 total penalty minutes, including 55 handed out in the chippy third period.
- These teams meet again at SAP Center on March 10th for what should be a fantastic grudge match.
- The Sharks (14-10-2, 30 points) return home on Thursday night, where they'll face the Carolina Hurricanes (11-9-5, 27 points).