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Flames 1, Sharks 3: Top forwards take over

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Shorthanded goals are more fun with the Sharks score them.

NHL: Calgary Flames at San Jose Sharks Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Marleau’s return party to San Jose was nearly perfect. The Sharks performed better than they had up to this point and for the entire game.

The Sharks’ top line got on the board in the first five minutes to set the tone for the rest of the game. Altogether, the top-six forwards had eight of the Sharks’ 20 shots on goal.

The Timo Meier-Logan Couture-Patrick Marleau trio contributed four points, including a shorthanded goal. Couture had two assists to bring his season total to five.

Tomas Hertl recorded the shorthanded goal late in the second period after Couture made a smart stick block at the blue line.

The bottom-six forwards had an impact in the form of Kevin Labanc, who led the team with three shots on goal and scored the game-winning goal midway through the first period.

Let’s reiterate that: the Sharks’ game-winning goal came in the first 20 minutes. They got the lead and held it for 50 minutes.

On the defensive side, there were a couple missteps, but only allowing one goal always puts a team in good position to win.

Defenders committed three of the Sharks’ four penalties: Burns had a trip and a hold, and Brenden Dillon took a slashing penalty. The more-than-perfect penalty kill made up for these mistakes. Also, the forward who took a penalty wasn’t Evander Kane, which is a positive development.

An area of improvement I identify: shots on goal. The Sharks only took 20 all game, and no player had more than three. The Flames took 33 shots, led by Mikael Backlund’s six.

Coach Peter DeBoer said the team’s game isn’t where it’s capable of being yet. But tonight was at least one step in the right direction, probably more.

San Jose’s next game is Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. Pacific against the 5-1-0 Carolina Hurricanes.


First Period

16:56: Logan Couture drives to the right corner and pulls up hard to lose Elias Lindholm. Couture’s pass to the crease hits Timo Meier’s skate blade for a goal. Sharks have their first home lead and Couture has his fifth point of the season.

11:55: The Flames try to dump and chase from the left side. Brenden Dillon fumbled slightly trying to collect it on the right boards, and he’s lucky nothing bad came of it.

9:47: Kevin Labanc gives the Sharks their first two-goal lead of the season. He receives a pass just over the blue line and shoots over Cam Talbot’s glove. 2-0 Sharks.

6:14: Tomas Hertl passed towards Labanc just as Labanc went for a line change. Luckily, Hertl followed up his pass and there was no turnover.

3:25: Erik Karlsson can’t catch a pass in the center of the defensive zone. Fortunately, the Sharks were in good position to recover before the Flames could pounce.

3:08: Hertl goes to the box for tripping.

1:39: Aggressive penalty killing rewards the Sharks with a tripping call on Mikael Backlund.

0:45: Derek Ryan gets a short shorthanded breakaway that’s stopped by Martin Jones.

END FIRST: Sharks 2, Flames 0

I enjoyed watching that. That hasn’t been the case for the first periods of the past few games I’ve been here. So that’s nice.

That was a really good 20 minutes of hockey, but there’s room for improvement still. Both Tomas Hertl and Erik Karlsson have notably had passes escape them. Either they’re coming in too hard or the receiver isn’t quite ready to handle it—or both.

Labanc’s goal was possibly the best Sharks goal I’ve seen so far. Not the flashiest or most impressive, but it’s a good demonstration of good passing and quick foot movement.

Second Period

17:14: Joe Thornton sends the puck from the middle of the defensive zone to Barclay Goodrow just off the bench at the edge of the offensive zone. Goodrow tries to power it in but loses control.

14:09: I could hear the puck bounce off Melker Karlsson. Ouch. He blocked it with his pads and not his flesh, which I’m sure he’s happy about.

13:17: The Flames get on the board with a tip in front of the net.

9:46: Logan Couture attempts to push a backhand through Talbot’s five-hole on a breakaway. Talbot closed up on it, we’re still 2-1.

4:52: Power play, Sharks.

4:20: Twice now there’s been a potential opportunity about two feet away from Talbot’s blocker side. Both times the Flames have had a penalty killer in place to sweep it away.

3:09: Brent Burns takes a tripping penalty on Michael Frolik.

1:52: Couture and Hertl combine for a shorthanded goal. Couture gets his stick down field hockey-style to pick the puck and Hertl sprints north with him. 3-1 Sharks, but about 45 seconds of penalty killing left.

END SECOND: Sharks 3, Flames 1

There were some moments there where you could tell that was the long change period. The Sharks made a couple mistakes that happen on tired legs.

But they also created a great shorthanded goal and extended their lead before the final period. Honestly, I think the only thing I still want from this game is a Sharks power-play goal. Everything else of a good hockey game has been checked off: fun goals, get a lead and keep it, limit the penalties.

Third Period

14:30: Erik Karlsson protects the puck under pressure from two Flames and manages to pass it to Melker Karlsson for a brief breakout. Nothing came from the play, but it was good work by Erik, and since there were two players committed to covering him, it could have given the Sharks a numbers advantage rushing up ice.

12:40: Meier goes solo against TJ Brodie into the Flames’ zone. He tries to push to the net, but Brodie pushes him off the puck just enough that it goes harmlessly to the corner.

11:39: Brent Burns loses his stick on defense but uses his skate to tap the puck to Tomas Hertl. Hertl flipped it up past center, and Labanc caught up to the puck to force Talbot to freeze the puck.

10:26: Brent Burns gets a bit overzealous trying to keep Michael Backlund under control in the corner. The holding penalty puts the Sharks on the penalty kill.

6:27: Brenden Dillon slashed Michael Frolik. Erik Karlsson was in the middle of poke-checking Frolik anyway.

5:50: Barclay Goodrow has a chance to threaten shorthanded, but the puck is stolen from behind before he can get the shot off.

2:57: The Flames subtract Talbot and add an attacker.

FINAL SCORE: Sharks 3, Flames 1


Pregame

The San Jose Sharks are returning to the SAP Center with two things for fans to be excited about. They won their most recent game to stop the worst season start since 1993.

They also added Patrick Marleau back to the roster. Though he was confirmed to be returning to the Sharks last Tuesday, the deal wasn’t finalized until the next game. But Marleau will officially be on the roster as a Shark again. As someone who has memories of being in the Shark Tank in the early 2000s, this is pretty awesome for me.

This will be the first meeting of the regular season between the Sharks and the Calgary Flames. The 4-game series was an even split last year, with each time winning one home game and one away game.

The most memorable aspect of last year’s series was Sam Bennett’s late hit on Radim Simek in the December 31, 2018 game. Simek missed considerable time due to the hit.

In two 2019 preseason games, the Sharks lost 6-4 in Calgary before taking their only preseason win at home a week later, 4-1.

The Sharks used a near-identical lineup in the preseason win as they have in store tonight. The Flames, on the other hand, had a lot of unfamiliar names in the preseason game who are no longer part of the real roster.

This is especially true up front. On September 26, the Sharks didn’t have to face Bennett, Mikael Backlund, Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, Matthew Tkachuk or Sean Monahan. Gaudreau, Tkachuk, Lindholm and Monahan lead the Flames in points through five games.

Lines

Sharks

Expected Scratches: Trevor Carrick, Danil Yurtaykin, Marcus Sorensen

Injured Reserve: Jacob Middleton (upper body), Dalton Prout (upper body), Radim Simek (knee)

Flames (via NHL.com)

Johnny Gaudreau — Sean Monahan — Elias Lindholm
Matthew TkachukMikael BacklundMichael Frolik
Andrew MangiapaneDerek RyanTobias Rieder
Milan LucicAustin CzarnikSam Bennett

Mark GiordanoRasmus Andersson

Noah HanifinTravis Hamonic
Oliver KylingtonMichael Stone

Cam Talbot
David Rittich

Expected Scratches: TJ Brodie, Mark Jankowski

Injured Reserve: Juuso Valimaki (knee)

Where to Watch

Puck drop will be at 7 p.m. Pacific/10 p.m. Eastern. Bay Area viewers can find the game on NBCS California. In Canada, SN360 and SN1 will carry the broadcast. ESPN+ and NHLtv are your streaming options. Radio listeners can find the game on 98.5 KFOX and the Sharks App.