Tonight saw a match-up of future Hockey Hall of Famers for the San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins. Joe Thornton is ranked twelfth with 1,028 assists on the all-time assists leaderboard for the NHL and seventeenth for all-time points (1,424) throughout his twenty-one seasons of play. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have three Stanley Cups and two of which are back-to-back (2016, 2017), and Crosby is the back-to-back Conn Smythe trophy winner. Among the stars on both rosters, these three shine the brightest and have proven themselves to be the key playmakers for both teams.
Tonight’s match up was not only a battle of the future hall of famers, it was also a face-off of back-up goaltenders for both teams. Aaron Dell was in net for the Sharks, as Martin Jones is currently listed day-to-day with an undisclosed “minor injury,” and Pittsburgh’s rookie Casey DeSmith earned his second start of the season.
The first period went off to a fast start, as Patric Hornqvist fired off a shot on Dell sixty seconds into the game. Joonas Donskoi retaliated with a shot on DeSmith less than a minute later. Despite the back-and-forth battle on the ice, Conor Sheary scored on a hard press in front of the Sharks net beating Dell five-hole for his twelfth of the season, giving the Penguins an early one goal lead.
Melker Karlsson was called for a cross-check penalty five minutes into the period, which put the Penguins on the man advantage. Pittsburgh’s league-leading power play went to work, swarming the Sharks net, pushing hard at the Sharks limited defense and giving Dell plenty of work early in the game. Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture were able to create a breakaway during the Penguins power play, and rushed up the ice, but were unable to capitalize. Despite the deadly efficiency of the Pittsburgh power play unit, they were held at bay while the Sharks killed the penalty.
With eight minutes left in the period, the Penguins were called for too many men on the ice. The Penguins have an effective road penalty kill, with an 83.3 percent success rate, which gave the Sharks a hard job to attempt a goal against the man advantage. Couture had a shot on DeSmith off a left-side pass from Brent Burns, but no dice.
The Penguins rushed the Sharks net with Hornqvist and Malkin firing powerful shots at Dell, who blocked them neatly. As the clock ticked down to the final three minutes of the period, the teams tilted back and forth up the ice with equal time spent in front of each net. Brent Burns pushed past the Penguins defense to get a shot to Joe Pavelski. The Sharks captain fired the puck off to Timo Meier, who banked a wrist shot past DeSmith to tie the game at one. That was Meier’s tenth goal of the season and six of those goals have tied the game or given the Sharks a lead.
Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby responded for the Penguins and Crosby’s shot bounced off of Dell’s mask, making for a dangerous, but effective save. Dell stood strong, keeping the game tied as the teams headed into the break.
Less than a minute into the second period, Meier rushed the net with another great shot on goal, carrying over momentum through to the second period.
The game quickly devolved into a special teams battle. Burns was called for tripping on Jean-Sebastien Dea at the red line, which placed Pittsburgh on the man advantage. Simon was called for slashing, giving the Sharks a power play. Then Hagelin drew a hooking penalty at end of the power play, which gave the teams just under thirty seconds of 4-on-4. Dell had a handful of incredible saves in the first ten of this period, making sixteen saves at the halfway point of the game.
Midway through the period, Kevin Labanc fired a shot at DeSmith that almost slipped through the pads, that took two camera angles to confirm where the puck had landed.
The final ten minutes of the second period were fast-paced, as both teams scrambled at the front of the net in multiple attempts to create goals. Conor Sheary took a puck to the left forearm with just under five minutes left in the second and he exited the ice for the dressing room, clearly in pain. Ryan Reaves laid out Dylan DeMelo in a clean check along the boards, despite the Sharks calling for a penalty on the play. At the end of the second, Sharks had outshot the Penguins 25-24, but the game remained tied.
Sheary returned for the third period and appeared no worse for the wear. Early on, Jamie Oleksiak was called for cross-checking, which gave the Sharks the man advantage. Hertl broke through the Penguins defense and fired home a wrister to give the Sharks thier first lead less than two minutes into the third period. This was Hertl’s thirteenth goal of the season and the only power play goal of the game.
After that, the Sharks chipped away at the clock, shutting down chances from Crosby and the top line. Labanc had a breakaway at eight minutes into the period, rushing the net and tried to score on the Penguins. DeSmith was able to stop the puck, which blocked LaBanc’s second great opportunity of the night. Through the first ten minutes of the third, the Penguins only had three shots on goal as the Sharks tightened their defense. Not to be outdone, the Penguins pushed at the Sharks lineup and disrupted their momentum time and again.
With four minutes left in the game, Malkin delivered a cross-check to Hertl after Hertl and Hornqvist had exchanged words and cross-checks of their own. Things escalated as the three started to fight and their linemates piled on them. The referees were able to separate them and hand out penalties — roughing for both Hertl and Malkin. Through two minutes of 4-on-4, both teams laid on the gas as they worked hard to change the score. The Penguins pulled DeSmith in favor of the extra man on the ice, making it 5-on-4, but to no avail with the extra man. The final horn sounded and the Sharks won the game 2-1.
- Aaron Dell is on a three game win streak at home and with tonight’s win is now at four games.
- Joe Thronton had a four goal game streak coming into tonight’s game (his first such streak since 2007).
- Brent Burns had twenty-eight points in the last twenty-five games and he leads the defensemen of the NHL.
- Crosby tops the list of most points through 750 career games from active players with 994 points. Malkin is third with 881 and Thornton is fifth with 751.