First, it’s worth a quick note that Marc-Édouard Vlasic was playing in game number 900, all with the Sharks. He is the first Sharks defenseman to do so and is ranked fourth overall in NHL history in wins for defensemen in 900 games, just above Nicklas Lidstrom, who led the Detroit Red Wings to three Stanley Cups before his 900th game.
Some pretty good company for Pickles, eh? pic.twitter.com/DFHFBM9hte— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) October 19, 2018
Although the result saw the Sharks win by four over the Sabres, the game didn’t start on the right foot for them. After a long road trip through the Eastern time zone, the Sharks showed some rust to start the game. In the first period, the Sabres were in control of the puck to start the game with a 55 percent Corsi for (CF%) in all situations.
Despite the Sabres possession of the puck, they were unable to do much with it. As a result, the Sharks were able to capitalize on their opportunities. Entering the game, their power-play sat at 9.5 percent, but that didn’t stop the Sharks from scoring two power play goals on an early double minor on Kyle Okposo for high sticking.
So stealth nobody even noticed Donskoi was waiting in front of the net. pic.twitter.com/p0qJlo2WWn— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) October 19, 2018
There was much discussion, debate, and worrying over the Sharks power play over the last two weeks, but against the Sabres, they laid some of these concerns to rest — at least for the time being. More importantly, it gives a glimpse into what their power play can become when consistent.
Even though the Sharks were up early with a 2-0 lead, they were giving the Sabres opportunities to come back into the game with three penalties in the first period. The penalty kill was able to get them out of these predicaments and denied the Sabres any chance to convert on the man-advantage.
Game flow shows that the Sharks were in control of the puck throughout the second period, maintaining a 63 percent CF% in all situations while generating 13 scoring chances for, but Carter Hutton stood tall and denied two 2-on-1 scoring chances. Though the Sharks limited the Sabres to only six scoring chances, Jake McCabe was able to get one past Martin Jones to cut the deficit to one.
The end score may suggest that the game wasn’t close, but heading into the third period, the score was still within reach for the Sabres to mount a comeback. But the Sharks took hold of the game in the third possessing a 67 CF% in all situations and generating 18 scoring chances for — this time converting on their opportunities.
Unlike the previous game against the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils, the Sharks didn’t allow for a lead to get away from them in the third period. Against the Sabres, the Sharks made sure not to let them back into the game by taking ill-advised penalties and playing shotty defense.
Logan Couture began an onslaught of offensive pressure and goals in the third by scoring his second goal of the game off a pass from Evander Kane, helping the Sharks regain their two-goal cushion. The Sharks’ third — yes, third — power play goal came courtesy of Joe Pavelski who was near the crease and helped put away a rebound to make it 4-1.
In all of the talk surrounding the power play, it should be noted that Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson were finally split up, having been played together on the top unit for much of their man-advantages early in the season.
Finally, the fifth goal came via a Couture empty-netter to cap off his third career hat trick. This was the first Sharks hat trick at the SAP Center since Joel Ward recorded one in October 2015, so the Shark Tank had been waiting for a while to throw some hats on the ice.
That wasn’t the end of the action, unfortunately. As the time rolled down to zero, Brenden Dillon was engaged with Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe. When Zach Bogosian tried to get into the mix, Joakim Ryan attempted to pull him off and wound up fighting Bogosian himself.
Bogosian and Ryan were both given fighting majors, with Bogosian taking an extra roughing penalty, which meant nothing, anyway, since the clock had run down. Ryan was second on the Sharks in CF% for the night with 71.43 percent, behind only Evander Kane (73.91).
All the numbers before yesterday had suggested that the Sharks were doing everything right, generating shots and scoring chances, but the puck couldn’t find the back of the net, especially on the power play. However, last night’s victory over the Sabres saw the Sharks firing on all cylinders, and in the spirit of Halloween, this kind of form could be the beginning of something scary for the rest of the league.