Any team that faces the Edmonton Oilers knows that the key to beating that team is to shut down their cornerstone player: Connor McDavid. If you can do that, your chances against a very top-heavy Edmonton team are excellent. Unfortunately, shutting down Connor McDavid is much easier said than done.
The Sharks got off to a hot start, when less than a minute into the game, Joe Pavelski was able to win the Sharks’ first offensive zone faceoff of the game back to Brent Burns at the right point. Burns, an expert at getting shots through traffic, fired it at the net and earned a juicy rebound that Joonas Donskoi was able to put away with a backhand shot above the shoulder of Mikko Koskinen.
The lead didn’t last long, however. The Oilers spent a majority of the first 10 minutes in the Sharks zone, and it finally paid off when Leon Draisaitl found the back-to-back Art Ross Trophy winner Connor McDavid for an easy backdoor tap-in. After a great start, the Sharks suddenly found themselves on their heels, losing their early lead and trailing Edmonton 9 to 5 in the Corsi for category.
Though the Oilers have the best player in the world in McDavid, they also lack offensive depth, something the Sharks have in spades. Minutes later, it was the Sharks’ third line that was able to break through. Joe Thornton found Marcus Sorensen from behind the net, and Sorensen was able to roof one over Koskinen’s glove to regain the lead for San Jose. San Jose finished the first period at a solid pace, drawing two penalties in the offensive zone, outshooting Edmonton 7-6, and exiting the frame tied with Edmonton 14-14 in Corsi for.
Right after the Sharks’ second power play opportunity expired, Kyle Brodziak made a nice saucer pass to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on an odd-man rush, and Nugent-Hopkins was able to beat Martin Jones stick side to even the game. After a back-and-forth second period, Logan Couture was able to break the tie with a beautiful solo effort, undoing Adam Larsson with a ridiculous toe drag and beating Koskinen top shelf.
Though San Jose only led the Corsi for category by a total of 27-25 at the second break, they also led Edmonton 18-11 in shots on goal, 13-10 in 5-on-5 scoring chances, and had won 60 percent of faceoffs at that point. The Sharks’ third line of Thornton, Sorensen and Kevin Labanc had been absolutely dominating the Oilers’ bottom six throughout the contest, with all three players above 58 percent Corsi for (CF%) at the end of two periods, including Labanc at a whopping 76 CF%.
The Sharks’ momentum was stifled again at the start of the third period, when Connor McDavid made a gorgeous pass onto the backhand of Drake Caggiula, who tipped it home behind Jones to tie the game at 3. Stopping Edmonton’s bottom three lines hadn’t been any trouble for the Sharks all night, but stopping Connor McDavid was proving to be a tough task. New Edmonton Head Coach Ken Hitchcock knew McDavid would have to be the difference maker, and began to double shift him early in the third period to keep the pressure on San Jose.
This strategy by Hitchcock to play McDavid and his linemates for nearly half of the third period proved to be a good one, as the Oilers regained the lead in CF% and outshot the Sharks in the third by a total of 11-7. Fortunately for the Sharks, Martin Jones stood tall in net, and the Sharks were able to guarantee themselves a point by forcing overtime.
The presence of a world-class player like McDavid is only magnified when the game shifts to 3-on-3, and his impact was felt immediately. A pass from McDavid across the crease bounced off Jones’ stick, got through Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s legs, and glanced off Leon Draisaitl’s skate into the open net to seal the game for Edmonton.
Each member of Edmonton’s first line (McDavid, Draisaitl and Caggiula) finished the game with more than 20 minutes of ice time. The line that was supposed to shut down Edmonton’s top scorers (Timo Meier, Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl) finished the game with less than 34 CF% each. Ouch.
The Sharks have a three-day Thanksgiving break coming up, plenty of time to think about that poor third period effort before they take on the Canucks at SAP Center on Friday.