Playing a teenager in net is a unicorn moment in the National Hockey League. The Vancouver Canucks had few other options when they started 19-year-old Michael DiPietro against the San Jose Sharks last night.
With injuries to Thatcher Demko and Jacob Markstrom, the Canucks called up DiPietro on an emergency basis from the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League to make his NHL debut. Throwing a teenager to face one of the most potent offenses in the league, even without Erik Karlsson in the lineup, was a difficult spot for the Canucks to be in and it played out as poorly for them as expected.
Looking at the Sharks score- and venue-adjusted Corsi For at 5-on-5, the Sharks dominated from puck drop.
After winning a loose puck battle, Logan Couture set up Timo Meier, who fired a snapshot past DiPietro and opened scoring for the Sharks.
The first period saw the Sharks controlling the puck with score- and venue-adjusted 65 percent Corsi For at 5-on-5. They generated 10 shots for and eight scoring chances, leading to three goals before the ten-minute mark of the first period.
An innocent play by Evander Kane to keep the puck in the Sharks zone went off a Canucks defensemen’s hand and DiPietro was unable to keep it out, making it 2-0 early in the first period. A few minutes later, Melker Karlsson redirected a shot from Brent Burns near the crease to extend the lead to 3-0.
With the aforementioned injuries to the netminders, the Canucks had no choice but to keep DiPietro in net, but that wasn’t their only problem. It took more than 12 minutes for the Canucks to register a shot on goal. Despite the slow start, the Canucks did generate some offense with nine shots for and seven scoring chances and a goal from Bo Horvat to make the score 3-1 at the first intermission.
In the second period, the Canucks seemed to figure out how to how to shoot the puck again, taking advantage of the Sharks’ recent trend of struggling in the second period. Vancouver outshot and outchanced the Sharks 13-5. But with the score- and venue-adjusted Corsi For split down the middle, it’s not that the Sharks weren’t attempting shots or controlling the puck, but those shots ultimately didn’t get through to become saves.
Still, three of those five shots found the back of the net.
With the Canucks giving him enough space to shoot, Kane fired a wrist shot, going top-shelf to beat DiPietro, grabbing his second goal of the game. The fifth goal for the Sharks came from Tomas Hertl, who got behind Horvat and took a pass from Joonas Donskoi to make it 5-1.
Though Kevin Labanc netted the sixth Sharks goal, the goal itself took a backseat to the assist from Joe Thornton, marking his 1,049 career assist and allowing for the 39-year-old to surpass Gordie Howe for ninth place on the NHL’s all-time assist list.
Thornton passes Gordie Howe for 9️⃣th place on the all-time assist list. pic.twitter.com/cXbLlhI1uJ— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) February 12, 2019
The next name on the list is another Detroit Red Wings legend in Steve Yzerman who sits at 1,063 assists, so if the injury bug stays away from him, then there’s a chance that Thornton can at the very least tie Yzerman at some point this season.
Moving into ninth place on the all-time career assist wasn’t the only milestone that he hit. Thornton tied Teemu Selanne for 15th on the NHL’s all-time points list. In 14th sits former Chicago Blackhawk Stan Mikita with 1467 career points, so Thornton will need ten points to move into 14th, which is a reasonable goal to hit at some point this season.
Not to be forgotten was that Thornton also moved into 15th place on the NHL’s all-time games played list.
Milestones reached by Jumbo tonight:— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) February 12, 2019
- Passed Gordie Howe for sole possession of 9th on the NHL's all-time assist list
- Tied Teemu Selanne for 15th on NHL's all-time points list
- Passed S. Doan and J. Bucyk for sole possession of 15th on the NHL's all-time games played list pic.twitter.com/q8OPXkReXn
Down 6-1 heading into the third period, the game was all but certain, barring any catastrophic meltdown by the Sharks. The Canucks were able to get their second goal of the game thanks to Derrick Pouliot, attempting to make their defeat more respectable.
The Sharks weren’t done scoring, though. In the third period, Joe Pavelski scored his 30th goal of the season, and the extra point on the touchdown was good.
With a 7-2 win over the Canucks, the Sharks swept their road trip through Western Canada and now head back to the Bay, where they will host the Washington Capitals on Thursday night.