Tonight wasn’t exactly a must-win, but at this point in the season, it’s expected that teams turn the pressure up. For the Sharks, a win tonight would quiet the worries caused by their first four-game skid this season and help their confidence going into playoffs. The Colorado Avalanche are just barely clinging to the second wildcard spot, with their final game coming against the next-in-line St. Louis Blues. The Sharks wanted a win, but the Avs needed it tonight.
They certainly didn’t come out looking hungry, though.
The Sharks took control of the game from the start. Three minutes into the first, Justin Braun took a shot from the point that went over the stick-side shoulder of Jonathan Bernier. His shot was redirect off the body of Gabriel Bourque, who was attempting to block the shot and instead helped it find its way to the back of the net.
Keeping it up, the Sharks saw loads of scoring chances in the first five minutes. In particular, Joonas Donskoi was driving play on his shift following the Braun goal, setting himself up for one heck of a night.
The Avs started pulling themselves together in the second half of the first period, finally seeing some time in the Sharks’ zone. With four minutes left in the period, Dylan DeMelo took a shot to the leg in his own zone, finished his shift, and limped off while Logan Couture took the puck toward the net, but the Avalanche broke it up before he could fire off a shot.
The Sharks nearly extended their lead to two when once again, Donskoi made a great play to Timo Meier for a one-timer from the slot. Bernier got lucky with the puck sliding under his pads and stopping before it could cross the goal line, about a minute before the period ended.
With no need to hit the panic button, Pete Deboer still tapped the low setting on his line blender. Jannik Hansen was demoted to the fourth line with rookie Dylan Gambrell and Joel Ward, while Marcus Sorensen got bumped up to Chris Tierney’s third line with Kevin Labanc.
Less than a minute into the period, Meier and Donskoi found themselves in another 2-on-1, with the pass broken up by forward Tyson Jost. Unfortunately, the Avs seemed to remember that they had something important on the line, and halfway through the period, Martin Jones had kept plenty busy in his crease.
Blake Comeau tripped Sorensen, putting the Sharks on their first power play of the night. While they didn’t capitalize, the youth looking good on the man-advantage, with several shots coming from Labanc, Meier, and Tierney. Things started evening out again at the period went on and with ten seconds left, Justin Braun went in alone on a partial a breakaway that went wide. No dice, but the Sharks carried a 1-0 lead into the final frame.
Jared Bednar must’ve given one hell of a speech during intermission, or maybe they were going with the Dallas Stars method of only playing a single period of hockey. Either way, the Avs started fighting back a little and that led to mistakes from the men in teal. Joe Pavelski took an absolutely stupid penalty when he took the blade of his stick to the back of Tyson Barrie’s head in an unquestionably deliberate and pointless play. It’s the kind of cheap shot that generally goes unnoticed behind the play, but this time the refs called him for the high stick.
None other than Mikko Rantanen cashed in on the resulting power play. A shot from Nathan MacKinnon was initially saved by Jones, and the rebound found its way to Rantanen, who fired it from the side where Marc-Edouard Vlasic had taken away Jones’ eyes. A bad penalty led to a bad goal, and just like that, the game was tied and the Avalanche showed no signs of going quietly.
The Sharks didn’t have to wait long to fire back. Comeau took a high stick to Labanc’s nose, giving the Sharks their second power play of the night. While they had done everything but score on their first chance, the second man-advantage came in hot. After sustained pressure in front of Bernier putting traffic in front of the net, Logan Couture worked his way over the the circle and was able to get the puck to the net before Bernier could counter.
The Sharks kept it dialed up to a ten. Labanc and Sorensen found a chance at a 2-on-1, but Bernier held down his crease. That play led to extended time in the Colorado zone and at 10:14 the hard work Donskoi had been putting in all night paid off. Brenden Dillon passed the puck to DeMelo, who fired it at the net, where Bernier made a pad save. Donskoi dug it out of Bernier’s pads and slid it around his leg and to the back of the net.
Persistence pays off for Joonas Donskoi pic.twitter.com/rppu1GL3KO— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) April 6, 2018
A few minutes later, Blake Comeau — getting real sick of this guy — tipped in a shot that would’ve otherwise gone wide of the net, bringing the Avs back within one.
With a minute and a half remain, the Avs threw everything and the kitchen sink, pulling Bernier for the extra skater. As the clock wound down to the final few second, Captain America put in some work, blocking a shot with his big ol body — a play that allowed Tomas Hertl to get the puck to the other end of the ice where he score an empty netter with one second left.
- Logan Couture leads the entire league with 16 go-ahead goals. We don’t call him Clutchure for nothing, folks.
- Bernier bailed out the Avalanche big time with his 32 saves. If not for some big saves, as well as some lucky saves, the game would’ve been a lot more lopsided.
- Dylan Gambrell only took three shifts in the third period. It seems like once the Avs turned things up near the end of the game, Deboer tightened his lines and gave Tierney more ice time, where he took eight shifts. Dylan DeMelo also only took four shifts to his partner Brenden Dillon’s six shifts, which sounds like Peter either has a grudge against Dylans, or DeMelo is possibly injured from that blocked shot in the first period.
- All of Justin Braun’s 33 points this season have come at even strength, the most by any NHL defenseman since 1987-88.
- Brent Burns was held off the score sheet tonight. He’s still one point behind the Washington Capital’s John Carlson (66) and tied with John Klingberg (65) of the Dallas Stars. He’ll need to turn it on against his former team, the Minnesota Wild, if he wants to beat out these Johns.