“The Sharks are flying,” exclaimed San Jose Sharks play-by-play announcer Randy Hahn, during the first period of San Jose’s 3-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.
How often have we heard that during the Sharks’ 0-3-1 road trip?
Critically, San Jose wasn’t just flying offensively last night — they were literally flying defensively, too.
Most importantly, every Shark — from top-pairing defenseman Erik Karlsson to fourth-liner Barclay Goodrow — flew.
Let’s start with the superstar.
Karlsson (65) expertly jumped the Jonathan Drouin (92) breakout. San Jose, however, fumbled the puck. Drouin earned a measure of revenge, threading it past Karlsson and Evander Kane (9) to Max Domi (13). Domi and Andrew Shaw (65) had what appeared to be a clear 2-on-1.
That is, until Karlsson turned on the jets. But Karlsson didn’t just flash speed here, he showcased his defensive capabilities. At his best, he uses his skating and stick to take away offensive options.
As Karlsson gained on Domi with body, skating and stretched-out stick, the Montreal playmaker had no choice but to take a forehand wrister. It was still a quality chance, but Martin Jones also knew more or less what was coming because of his swashbucking defender.
Karlsson sent jaws dropping once again later in the second period.
It was another intelligent pinch by Karlsson that went awry. Karlsson dropped the puck back to a covering Joe Pavelski (8). Pavelski’s shot-pass was blocked, giving the Canadiens a 3-on-1.
That is, until Karlsson turned on the jets.
When Karlsson caught Phillip Danault (24), he mirrored Danault’s speed and used his reach to narrow Danault’s options. Karlsson basically cut off Tomas Tatar (90) from Danault, forcing the Montreal centerman to feed Brendan Gallagher (11). Karlsson covered Danault, leaving Gallagher to try to get creative with decreasing space.
Credit also to Brenden Dillon (4), who played the Gallagher and Tatar down-low 2-on-1 well, too.
In very Karlsson fashion, after one breathtaking display of skill and smarts, he didn’t stop, finessing a stretch pass off the boards, past the Montreal defense, a clean Logan Couture (39) handle away from an odd-man attack.
That was 200 feet of brilliance from Karlsson.
But we’ve come to expect that from him.
This is the dirty work that we expect from Goodrow (23):
Holding on to a two-goal lead early in the final frame, an energetic, alert Goodrow made little plays in all three zones.
Coming off the half-wall (00:10), Goodrow stayed with counterpart Jesperi Kotkaniemi (15). For a second, perhaps looking for the expected Canadiens point shot, Goodrow lost Kotkaniemi, but Goodrow re-located his man up high.
Goodrow resisted the Kotkaniemi toe-drag, clearing it.
Brett Kulak (17) recovered the puck (00:21). It’s Goodrow first on the forecheck, the F1 on a passive San Jose 1-2-2 forecheck protecting a lead. Kulak dumped in. Goodrow went low to support his defensemen. From the corner, Radim Simek (51) pried the puck loose to Lukas Radil (52) along the wall, but Jeff Petry (26) stepped up. Radil slid it past Petry, but not out.
That is, until Goodrow literally flew to push the puck out, bowling over Artturi Lehkonen (62) and San Jose’s four-game losing streak in the process.
In the morning, the players met with both Peter DeBoer and Doug Wilson. All eyes were evaluating the team’s response tonight. For one contest, the would-be Stanley Cup contenders passed with flying colors.