Going into tonight, both of these teams were hungry. For the Rangers, they’d yet to win a game on their California road-trip, losing to both the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks. For the Sharks, tonight was bigger than one game — with top line center Joe Thornton out indefinitely, this entire team had something to prove
Despite their recent struggles, Rangers made the most of the early part of the game. Kevin Hayes banked his 11th goal of the year just six minutes into the period to land them on the board with a lead.
The Sharks didn’t take their foot off the gas, though. Exactly one minute later, an unlikely hero in Barclay Goodrow smacked in his own rebound to tie the game with his fourth goal of the season.
Logan Couture stepped up to the plate to give the Sharks their first lead of the game. Playing alongside Kevin Labanc and Tomas Hertl, the second line was a powerhouse tonight and it paid off early.
It seemed as though the Sharks might head into the intermission feeling pretty good, with a single goal edge over the Rangers, but Jesper Fast beat out Aaron Dell in the final minutes of the period to bring the game to a tie. Even with that, the Sharks had a lot to feel good about going into the break. The offense seemed to have found itself, so the battle left coming back for the second frame would be tightening up the defense.
So much for that.
Logan Couture was the first to find the back of the net in the second, putting in another feed from Kevin Labanc for his 20th goal of the season.
The Sharks continued a strong offensive effort, but the grab-n-go style of the Rangers left the Sharks’ defense in the dust. Captain Ryan McDonagh scored his first goal of the year (yes, you read that correctly) after a screen that looked more like a vaguely Justin Braun shaped brick wall left Dell without eyes in the crease.
McDonagh — yes, the guy who hadn’t scored a single goal all season yet — once again followed up with a goal on the power play a minute later while Timo Meier sat in the box for tripping.
With less than four minutes left in the period, the Sharks saw their first power play of the game. Brendan Smith took two for tripping and the Sharks’ power play sans Joe Thornton took the ice. Labanc filled in for Thornton on the power play and while the kid had been hot with Couture, his special teams performance left something to be desired, especially after he helped Brady Skjei scored his third goal of the season while shorthanded.
Coming back into the third period with the Rangers up by two, the game turned into a snoozefest for a solid ten minutes. The Rangers abandoned their grab-n-go hockey for something a little more defensively sound. Without the Rangers taking quick bursts of possession, the game slowed tremendously. After sustained pressure, known sniper Marc Edouard Vlasic cut the lead down to one.
In the final two minutes, J.T. Miller widened the gap once again. The Sharks pulled Aaron Dell for an extra skater, allowing Tomas Hertl to pull them within one with under a minute left. Following the face off, Dell rushed the bench again, but the Sharks couldn’t keep it in the zone and couldn’t find the back of the net before the buzzer.
- The Rangers have a very particular style of slow hockey divided up by short offensive bursts off opportunities. A bad turnover becomes a goal before you can blink. It made Brent Burns’ defensive liabilities all the more obvious.
- Kevin Labanc had three assists, two coming on Couture’s goals. The Banc of Coutertl line? I don’t hate it.
- The defense wasn’t great at defense, but they racked up some points tonight, with one goal and five assists from the San Jose blueline.
- With two assists on the night, Brent Burns is now on a six-game point streak, earning eight points in those games.
- Though the total shots were similar (28 for San Jose, 29 for New York), the Rangers out-shot the Sharks through the first two periods. The Sharks’ desperation showed as they doubled up on New York’s shots in the third period. Rangers goaltender Ondrej Pavelec made some big saves to bail them out.
- Though Dell allowed six goals, he also made big saves at the right time tonight. Both goalies tonight seemed to feel the effects of an irresponsible defense.