It wasn’t the prettiest win, but the Sharks will take any route necessary to get two much-needed points on the road. After dominating the second period against the Colorado Avalanche and jumping out to a 5-2 lead, the Sharks had to scramble to secure a 5-4 win in Denver last night.
Two minutes into the game, Joe Pavelski drew a hooking call on Tyson Barrie after generating a very dangerous chance that Marcus Sorensen was nearly able to put away on a rebound. The Sharks quickly got to work on the power play, and the first unit moved the puck around so well that they never left the ice before putting one past Philipp Grubauer. Logan Couture set up Pavelski for a one-timer on the left dot, and the Captain lasered home his 24th goal of the season.
As the game returned to even strength, the Avalanche quickly took control of the game at 5-on-5, pestering Martin Jones with shots until Nathan MacKinnon found Matt Calvert in the slot during a delayed penalty. Calvert beat Jones to the short side through some traffic, and the Sharks’ lead was gone. It was only a matter of time, as Colorado led San Jose in the Corsi For department 10-2 at the time of the tying goal.
After killing off a Colorado power play, the Sharks’ defense took a hit when Justin Braun left the ice with an apparent knee injury after a freak play along the boards in the San Jose zone. Colorado continued to dominate the game in the shot category, but took two quick penalties and found themselves down two men for over a minute and a half. Early in the two-man advantage, Erik Karlsson traded spots with Brent Burns at the point before setting him up for the Sharks’ second power play goal of the period. The goal was an All-Star trifecta, with all three San Jose ASG representatives notching a point on the play: Pavelski to Karlsson to Burns for his seventh of the year.
By scoring early, the Sharks gave themselves some additional power play time to finish the period, but could not convert. After being heavily outshot and outchanced at even strength, the Sharks were lucky to find themselves ahead of the Avalanche 2-1 at the end of the first period.
After a fairly even start to the second period, San Jose got an insurance goal from Evander Kane when Tyson Barrie failed to collect the puck deep in his own end after a dump-in by the Sharks. Kane wheeled around the net and shot a blistering puck past Grubauer and Barrie, who was screening his goalie after attempting to recover from the turnover.
Just two minutes later, San Jose put home another goal after Joonas Donskoi scored on a beautiful wrap-around try that would cause Avalanche coach Jared Bednar to pull Grubauer for Pavel Francouz, a 28-year-old Czech rookie with only one game of NHL experience.
San Jose had completely taken back the flow of the game, leading Colorado 16-6 in shot attempts during the first ten minutes of the second period. With an inexperienced goaltender in net, one can only assume that the game plan for the Sharks was to test the young goalie at every opportunity, firing pucks from anywhere and everywhere in the offensive zone.
Late in the second, San Jose found themselves on a 3-on-1, and put together a beautiful passing play that led to a whiffed shot by Joe Pavelski that missed the net. Fortunately for the Sharks, the puck bounced to the side of the cage and Lukas Radil was able to score his fifth goal of the season from the widest of angles to make it 5-1 Sharks. With the primary assist, Joe Pavelski picked up his fourth point of the game, giving him 37 on the year.
Colorado threatened to make a push at the end of the period when Tyson Jost scored to make it 5-2, followed by a somewhat dangerous power play to end the period. Colorado was able to draw another penalty to finish the frame, but it would be quite a hill to climb for the Avalanche, down three goals with only 20 minutes to play. Because of the absence of Justin Braun, Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson both had over 18 minutes of ice time after two periods, and both needed to stay strong through the final 20 minutes.
Due to a conservative defensive approach by the Sharks, which involved a little bit of chipping and chasing, the Avalanche had trouble generating high-quality chances to start the third period. With just over seven minutes left, Colorado was able to pull within two when defenseman Tyson Barrie ripped a shot off the post and into the net after a defensive breakdown by the Sharks. Two minutes later, Brenden Dillon took an interference penalty against Alex Kerfoot to give Colorado the chance to make it a one-goal game. After what was a fairly lackluster start to the power play, Samuel Girard sent in a shot from the point that was tipped in by Tyson Jost for his second goal of the night. The goal came with just three seconds left in the power play, and provided Colorado with a huge morale boost that pushed them to try to complete a miraculous comeback.
In what seemed like an eternity, Colorado pulled Francouz for the final two minutes of the game and put six shot attempts to the net, but San Jose was able to hang on for the 5-4 victory. Nathan MacKinnon had a point-blank chance as the clock expired, but Jones was able to make the save nonetheless.
San Jose finished the game leading 40-39 in Corsi, which is a good indicator of how close the game really was. Burns and Karlsson each ended up playing around 30 minutes, while the highest-scoring line in hockey, Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog, played just over 22 minutes each. Holding the best scoring line in the league to a combined one point is a huge win for the Sharks.
Apart from a poor start to the second period, Colorado played a solid game that they will build on to try to end their seven-game losing streak. San Jose will have their work cut out for them after a two day break, when they host the top team in the NHL on Saturday, the Tampa Bay Lightning.