After playing a game they would rather forget on New Year’s Eve, the Sharks started off the new year by getting a bounce-back win against a floundering Montreal Canadiens squad.
The first period started off a bit bumpy for the Sharks, who took consecutive minor penalties right out of the gate. Fortunately, the league’s second-best penalty kill unit kept the game scoreless, thanks to some great play from the Sharks’ most important penalty killer: Aaron Dell.
After killing off both penalties and getting back to even strength, the Sharks were finally able to sustain some pressure in the Montreal zone. Justin Braun wired a shot through traffic that ended up nailing Joe Thornton in the pants, who was standing to the side of the net. Thornton, who was completely behind the goal line, was able to put the bouncing puck behind Carey Price, who couldn’t get back in time from the top of his crease. The game’s opening goal was Thornton’s eighth of the season, surpassing his 2016-17 goal total (seven) in just his 37th game of the year.
The Montreal crowd was already growing restless in the first period, as the Canadiens were handed numerous power plays, but couldn’t manage to put together too many dangerous chances. The Sharks earned two power play opportunities of their own to close out the first period, but Price stood tall and kept the score 1-0 going into the first break.
Halfway through the second, Mikkel Boedker came speeding down the wing and put a hard shot to Price’s blocker side. The Montreal netminder stopped it, but the puck fell to Quebec’s own Marc-Édouard Vlasic, who put the juicy rebound away to give the Sharks a 2-0 lead.
Later in the second, during a Sharks penalty kill, Brent Burns shot the puck over the glass in his own zone, leaving Sharks down by two men for just over a minute. Le Tricolore immediately put together a nice passing play and Andrew Shaw got a lucky bounce to go in off his skate, cutting San Jose lead to one. The Canadiens scored the goal so quickly that they had an extra minute and a half of leftover 5-on-4 power play time to try to tie the game, but the Sharks were able to kill off the final penalty and keep the lead.
In the final minutes of the second, the Canadiens took a high sticking call that gave the Sharks their fourth power play opportunity of the game. It took the Sharks the rest of the period, but Timo Meier tapped home a beautiful back door pass from Kevin Labanc that gave the Sharks a two-goal lead once again, with just ten seconds to go in the period. It was Meier’s first power play goal of the year, as well as Labanc’s 16th assist of the season. Labanc is now third on the team in helpers, behind only Joe Thornton and Brent Burns.
Scoring on the best goaltender in the world may have done something for Timo Meier’s confidence, because just over a minute into the third period, Meier put another one past Carey Price, making the score 4-1. Meier carried the puck into the Montreal zone and after a slight hesitation, put a rocket top shelf past Price for his eighth of the year and second of the game.
By then, the air had been taken completely out of the Bell Centre, a traditionally loud arena, as a lifeless crowd watched their broken team lose their fifth game in a row.
- Aaron Dell continued his spectacular play in net, stopping 30 of 31 Montreal shots, including all 25 he faced at even strength.
- Marc-Édouard Vlasic picked up two points (one goal and one assist) in his return to his hometown of Montreal. This was the first time he’s scored a goal against Montreal, in either a home or away game.
- The Sharks (21-12-4, 46 points) sit comfortably in third place in the Pacific Division. San Jose will continue their road trip against Patrick Marleau and the Maple Leafs on Thursday in Toronto.