Welcome back Martin Jones! After missing four games to injury before the All-Star break, it feels like it has been a long time since the Sharks’ regular starter was between the pipes.
The game started out well for the Sharks. The Ward-Goodrow-Sorensen line provided a solid shift early in the first, resulting in Marcus Sorensen getting a good chance following a Brenden Dillon point shot. In the absence of Joe Thornton, Chris Tierney was moved to the wing on Joe Pavelski’s line. This combo generated a very good scoring chance early in the first. The new lines were clicking, and Sharks were out-shooting the Pens 5-2 four minutes into the game.
The Penguins generated a few chances of their own, most notably a breakaway by Jake Guentzel, and a blast from Kris Letang that rung off the post. Near the midway point of the period, the game was scoreless and Melker Karlsson and Sidney Crosby took coincidental minors. Trading Karlsson for Crosby is a deal the Sharks would gladly made, and the ensuing 4-on-4 was fun to watch. That is until Brian Rust lost the Sharks’ defenders and slipped the puck underneath Martin Jones. 1-0 Pittsburgh.
The Sharks applied some pressure, especially the Hertl line, and nearly tied the game, but Matt Murray kept the Pens in the league.
With 4:11 to go, Brent Burns threw Patric Hornqvist into the net, and Pittsburgh went on the power play. Giving a man advantage to a team with Crosby, Malkin, Kessel, and Letang is never a good idea. Pittsburgh had some good looks, but the Sharks killed the penalty.
At the end of the first, the Sharks were out-shooting the Penguins 13-11, and ahead in shot attempts 20-17, but Pittsburgh was ahead 1-0 where it counts.
Less than a minute after the second period started, Ian Cole was called for tripping, and the Sharks went on a power play. It was not their best effort with the extra man, as the best scoring chance was a 2-on-1 featuring Crosby and Rust. Crosby’s pass bounced over Rust’s stick, and the score remained 1-0.
The Sharks best chance to tie the game came off a face off in Pittsburgh’s zone. Mikkel Boedker skated to his left and Murray went down, leaving a lot of net to shoot at. Unfortunately, Boedker tripped over an errant stick (no penalty) as he was shooting, and Murray made the save.
The Sharks got another power play with nine minutes gone in the period. This one looked much better than the first, with the Sharks holding the zone and getting multiple shots on Murray. Their good work was rewarded when Brent Burns blasted a shot from the point through traffic and into the net, tying the game at one.
Following the goal, the Sharks kept the pressure on Pittsburgh. In particular, the Hertl-Karlsson-Donskoi line had a fantastic shift that generated some first rate scoring chances. Matt Murray was equal to the challenge though, and the game remained tied. With just under six minutes left in the period, Barclay Goodrow was called for roughing, and Pittsburgh went back on the power play. Logan Couture had a shorthanded breakaway, but Letang knocked the puck off his stick before Couture could get a shot off.
Shortly thereafter, Phil Kessel was called for high sticking Justin Braun, and the Sharks got a golden opportunity to take the lead for the first time of the night. While on the power play, Letang crosschecked Meier, who was in an excellent scoring position, and the Sharks got 23 seconds of 5-on-3 time. Right after the penalty to Kessel expired, Couture found himself alone with the puck, which he deposited behind Murray. 2-1 Sharks.
Just when it looked like that Sharks were about to wrap up a hugely successful period, the Penguins tied the game. Burns had the puck behind his own net and went to reverse it to Goodrow. Goodrow had stopped skating and let Kessel retrieve the puck from the corner. Kessel passed to Malkin, who snapped the puck behind Jones. 2-2.
At the second intermission, the Sharks were ahead in shots 36-21, and in shot attempts 53-35.
The third period began as a messy, scrambling affair. The play was end-to-end and didn’t see a whistle for several minutes. I don’t think there was a stoppage until Murray glowed a shot almost five minutes into the third.
With six minutes played, Martin Jones came out of his net to play the puck. He managed to give it to Hornqvist, who slid it to Malkin. Malkin had an easy tap-in for his second of the night. 3-2 Pittsburgh.
The Sharks had opportunities to tie the game, but it was Pittsburgh who scored next. Brian Rust’s second of the game put Pittsburgh up 4-2.
Malkin would add an empty net goal to complete the easiest hat-trick I’ve ever witnessed.
The second and third Pittsburgh goals were really deflating, the first with its timing, and both by how they came about. This was a close game, but the Sharks had the upper hand. They could have, and likely would have, won this game, on the road against a good team, were it not for the mistakes that led to those two goals. The positive takeaways are that the Sharks out-shot the Pens 42-31, and out attempted them 68-53. Small consolation in a 5-2 loss, but this game was closer than the final score indicates.
- Both starting goalies were playing their first games back. Jones had missed the Sharks last four games, while Matt Murray had missed Pittsburgh’s last seven.
- Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the ice midway through the first period. He finished the period in the Sharks’ dressing room, but was on the ice to start the second.
- Timo Meier didn’t get a point on the play, but his screen on Murray was the key to Burns’ goal in the second.
- Couture’s goal was the 200th of his career. Congrats Logan!