The Sharks have had a rough go of things lately. Their Central Division road trip put them on a three-game losing streak where they earned only three points in four games.
Coming back home to San Jose tonight, with two new teammates in tow, was a chance to hit the reset button. The Sharks took a breather and Evander Kane and Eric Fehr were ready to prove themselves against the Edmonton Oilers in front of a home crowd.
They didn’t give much hope that things had turned around early on, though. Just 18 seconds into the game, the Sharks took a delay of game penalty, immediately putting them on the penalty kill. Luckily, they didn’t have to flex it for long, as Ryan Strome tripped Brent Burns, resulting in 4-on-4 followed by a 44-second Sharks power play.
The Sharks failed to make the most of the opportunity and the Oilers found the back of the net first. Just under five minutes into the game, an odd man rush with Andrej Sekera and Connor McDavid pounced on Jones and McJesus threaded the needle under the arm of Martin Jones to give the Oil an early lead.
About a minute later, Eric Fehr took a high stick from Adam Larsson that didn’t get called by the referees. While it was a fairly (fehrly) minor play, it certainly helped set the tone in what would be an intensely physical match between these two teams.
The Sharks struggled to find their footing, but still made opportunities for themselves. Halfway through the period, chaos in front of the Oilers’ net allowed Kane to tip the puck toward the net, but netminder Cam Talbot made the save. Not long afterward, the Oilers worked the puck to the other end of the ice and put Martin Jones to the test. Milan Lucic fired a shot that bounced off the back of Jones’ leg and Marc-Edouard Vlasic had to make a quick play to clear it out from behind Jones in the crease.
With under five minutes left in the period, Mikkel Boedker tied up forward Anton Slepyshev along the boards in a battle for the puck. While digging it out, Slepyshev hooked Boedker’s stick, sending the Sharks to the power play. Evander Kane slotted into the top power play unit, but Kevin Labanc had the most impressive showing on the man-advantage.
Moments after the penalty expired, Tomas Hertl was sent to the bad boy box for tripping, continuing the special teams showdown. Eric Fehr had a surprising shorthanded breakaway, but could get past Oscar Klefbom to convert. Though the Oilers made a hard push through the remainder of the period, the Sharks didn’t let them widen the gap.
Early in the second period, Kane laid into Matt Benning along the boards and came away from it with the puck. He fired toward the net and Joe Pavelski worked his magic to tip it in, tying it up for the Sharks and giving Kane his first assist in teal.
The Oilers weren’t happy about that hit on Benning, who got up but seemed to be hurt on the play, and they took it out on the Sharks physically. Joonas Donskoi found a nice breakaway opportunity five minutes in, but lost the puck on the deke. A few seconds later, powerhouse Leon Draisaitl crosschecked Kane, likely for the hit on Benning, and it landed Draisaitl in the penalty box.
Though the Sharks didn’t score on the power play, it helped them make a push that ended with a one-timer from Justin Braun making its way through traffic, off Milan Lucic’s stick, and past Cam Talbot, giving the Sharks their first lead of the night.
Unsatisfied, Matt Benning was matched up against Kane again and off the face off just after the halfway point of the game, he went after Kane. The referees intervened before Kane dropped his gloves and threw a few jabs toward Benning. They each got two minutes for roughing.
Not to be held down, the Sharks fought for time and space and Timo Meier got it in the form of a backhander that went in off the skate of Sekera to extend the Sharks’ lead to two.
Before the PA Announcer could finish the goal call, Logan Couture made a pass to Tomas Hertl that got tied up in the skates of defenseman Adam Larsson. Couture followed up on the play, found the puck between Larsson’s feet, and got it to the net for a fourth Sharks goal.
The three-goal lead going into the third was pretty comfortable, but the Sharks didn’t sit back on their heels. Darnell Nurse knocked down Labanc and quickly set up a tic-tac-toe play that allowed Jesse Puljujarvi to get one past Jones.
The Sharks responded with a nice shot on goal from Brenden Dillon, but after that the game quieted to a lull as the two teams ground each other down. With under two minutes to go, the Oilers pulled Talbot and in the final minute, Chris Tierney got that sweet insurance goal, wrapping this one up with a bow.
- Fehr’s assist on the empty net goal was the 100th assist in his career, first with the Sharks, and first point of the season.
- Tonight was Mikkel Boedker’s 600th NHL game.
- Kevin Labanc is really showing up as a power play force. The Sharks are still in the midst of a major power play drought (10 games, 0-23), but it’d be no surprise if he were the one to break it.
- Matching Kane with Pavelski feels like a stroke of genius. Kane is a high-volume shooter who has a problem converting those shots into goals. If that line can park Pavelski, the best tipper in the league, in front of the net and let Kane shoot at him for the whole shift, Pavs will find a way to make it go in.
- Adding Kane shifted players down the line up, resulting in a Kids Table Line of Meier - Tierney - Labanc that was as fun as it was effective.
- Pavelski had an incredible four-point night.
- Kane had two assists in his debut.
- Timo became the youngest player in Sharks history to record nine or more shots on goal in a single game.
- The Sharks honored Willie O’ree as part of Hockey is for Everyone tonight. Check out the video below: