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Winning Play: Outnumbering the opposition

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Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau (13) and left wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) collide with San Jose Sharks right wing Marcus Sorensen (20) and left wing Evander Kane (9) during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

How to create offense, especially at even strength, is the constant challenge for any team.

One way to create offense is to outnumber the opposition — and not just with odd-man rushes. Outnumbering the opposition anywhere on the ice can create offense.

There are many examples of this in any game; there were many examples of this last night in the San Jose Sharks’ 5-2 victory over the Calgary Flames.

For example, outnumbering the opposition in the defensive zone helped San Jose stave off Calgary’s hot start:

Then, outnumbering the opposition on the forecheck would finish off the Flames:

Exploiting a Sharks’ change, T.J. Brodie (7) and Matthew Tkachuk (19) outnumbered Radim Simek (51) at the line. But Simek refused to yield, sweeping the puck off Brodie’s stick, then beating Tkachuk to the loose puck.

In a couple strokes, Simek turned a Calgary 2-on-1 into an Evander Kane (9) counterattack.

Kane’s (9) pass, however, missed Joonas Donskoi (27), sliding into the corner for Mark Giordano (5) to retrieve. Tomas Hertl zeroed in on Giordano’s forehand; Donskoi closed on Giordano’s backhand. The Norris Trophy favorite was in trouble.

Hertl got a stick on Giordano’s attempt up the wall, while Donskoi was quick to pounce on the ensuing loose puck. Another San Jose 2-on-1 forced a turnover.

Sean Monahan (23) hustled back to help on Donskoi. Giordano tried to chase too, but he might have been held up by a subtle Hertl hold. Regardless, Donskoi had the time and space and patience to outwait Brodie, who was trying to wall off both the net and the slot. The moment that Brodie opened up his stance, Donskoi fired it through him to a lurking Kane, who made it 4-1.