Oh, jeez, where to begin.
With the end, of course: Joe Pavelski cemented his history as a historic figure for the Sharks, America, and the world tonight with the game-winning goal in Winnipeg with 3.8 seconds left. Capping (get it?) a wild, back-and-forth game among two of the league’s best, Pavelski’s goal secured the Sharks’ berth atop the Pacific division no matter the outcome of the New Jersey Devils - Calgary Flames game later this evening.
More than anything, tonight’s win showcased the Sharks’ depth. After an unfortunate collision with Andrew Copp early in the first period removed Radim Simek from the game (and from a few more games, in all likelihood), the remaining Sharks blue liners stepped up admirably, most notable Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Vlasic led the team with three points, and was instrumental in all three of them, breaking up a pass in the Sharks zone to spring Timo Meier and Pavelski on what would become the game winner late in the third.
Up front, San Jose’s middle six did most of the damage. Newcomer Gustav Nyquist finally converted some of his excellent possession numbers into goals against a goalie (and a wizard goalie, no less!), Marcus Sorensen scored a goal and an assist, and Joe Thornton tallied two assists, both of them as beautiful as you’d expect. With his first, Thornton passed Stan Mikita for sole possession of 14th place on the NHL’s all-time points ranking.
Aaron Dell stood tall in net for the Sharks, despite the four goals against. Of those goals, only Mathieu Perreault’s distant tip in the third seemed particularly save-able, and Dell made piles of highlight reel saves throughout the game, keeping the Sharks within a goal over and over again.
For now, the Sharks head home to host the Florida Panthers on Thursday, and we all wait for the result of the Calgary game later tonight and, more importantly, news on the future of Simek’s knee (?) Hopefully he makes a full recovery and, with Joakim Ryan waiting in the wings, the Sharks have the depth to allow Simek to take his time to get back to 100%.
Hello, friends and countrymen, no one will be upset if you split your fandom tonight to include the Devils. Well, Calgary will be upset, but they don’t matter. That said, let’s go Devils, let’s go Sharks!
20:00: And so begins Joe Thornton’s 1554th career NHL game, tying Jarome Iginla for 13th place. Next up, Thornton will tie Niklas Lidstrom at 1654 on April 2 in Vancouver (knocks on all available wood).
16:45: These Jets look pretty hungry, and the Sharks are holding on. Some more of that strong neutral zone play from last night would go a long way.
13:22: Tragedy strikes. Radim Simek down on the ground talking to a trainer after Andrew Copp fell on his right ankle. Doesn’t look like good news.
No weight on that right leg as Brent Burns, Tomas Hertl, and trainer Ray Tufts help Simek off the ice. I’m not a doctor, but legs that forcibly bend that way don’t like it, I’ve heard.
12:54: On the brighter side, Brandon Tanev whiffing the puck at the Sharks’ blue line is very funny. Works to cleanse the palate, maybe.
11:55 SHARKS GOAL Marc-Edouard Vlasic capitalizes on his own point shot rebound and a fair amount of crease chaos thanks to Marcus Sorensen to make it 1-0 Sharks! Great aggression in the Jets’ zone to bounce back on the score sheet after a tragic event.
11:23 JETS GOAL Well, that was quick. Andrew Copp tips a Ben Chiarot point shot past Aaron Dell. We’re back to a tie game and on and on we go.
10:50 JETS GOAL This thing may be getting out of hand already. Bryan Little banks a shot in off of Justin Braun after Braun phones in a board battle behind the net. Sharks have to commit more to the small battles if they want to stay in this thing at all.
8:14: Burns misses the net by inches on a great chance. More of that would be good, fellas.
5:13: Great pressure from the Sharks as the period goes on here. Meier, Nyquist, and Burns all have had some good looks and the Sharks don’t seem worried about the early deficit.
3:56 SHARKS GOAL Ladies and gentleman, the Goose is loose. What puckhandling by Hertl to break some ankles right back before dishing it back to the net-crashing Nyquist. Tons of credit to Hertl for that zone entry, what a play!
3:02: Thornton has a great look at the side of the net. Hellebuyck looked shaken, maybe Hertl’s magic is intimidating to the career birthday wizard?
2:16: These Shark boys are hungry! Great zone entry and shot on net by Pavelski, and good aggression by Burns in the crease.
1:01: Jets heading on the power play with a Burns interference penalty. Nikolai Ehlers did a very good getting-interfered-with-and-falling-down impression, strong work. A weak call, but Burns took the bait, he should know better.
END FIRST: Sharks 2, Jets 2
What a period. Simek leaves the ice with what looks like a pretty serious lower body injury, Joe Thornton ties and then passes Stan Mikita on the all-time points list, Gustav Nyquist scores his first in teal, and Nikolaj Ehlers finally showed us his fire audition tape. Sharks lead in shots on goal, 12-10, but one of Winnipeg’s goals wasn’t on goal, so up is down and black is white.
The Sharks are dominating the Corsi-off, but this is turning into a track meet, so anything goes,
The fellas at NBC are going to talk to Jamie Baker about an article Katie Strang published in the Athletic earlier this week. If you have a subscription, do yourself a favor and head over and read it here before they get to it, it’s a powerful article, an important and humanizing portrait, and a stand-out piece of modern sports journalism.
20:00: Okay, wipe your eyes, Sharks fans, we’re back in Winnipeg.
19:15 JETS GOAL Kyle Connor takes back the lead right away with some quick jukes. Again, a slow reaction from Braun to cover Connor down low, he’s having a rough night.
17:51: Sharks are getting shelled here. Couture kind of squandered their only real zone time in that little stretch, they’ll have to convert those opportunities into chances going forward.
14:24: Whatever the Jets players are drinking in between periods, I want some. They came out like the friggin’ monstars this period.
13:34: Thornton still has the magic, but the Sharks need to figure out an answer for that Jets forecheck. It is ferocious.
13:06: Haley lays a solid, clean check on ... what ... Melker Karlsson? You’re on the road, Haley, white is your team.
11:38: Off-topic, sort of, but the Flames lead the Devils 1-0 on a Johnny Gaudreau goal in Calgary. Not much coming up Milhouse tonight, so far.
11:03: Man, Blake Wheeler is so good. Turns Burns inside out on the half wall and is just barely stopped by a great Dell save in tight. Another victim of the Chiarelli massacres of yore.
9:27 SHARKS GOAL Vlasic scores again?! Who is that masked French-Canadian man?! Hertl jukes his way into the zone again, dropping the puck through his feet and cycling around the zone like he’s playing on the pond with his 8-year-old Czech cousins.
9:12: Wheeler gets caught holding Vlasic (like we all want to right now) and the Sharks head onto the power play. Let’s get that lead, boyos!
8:33: Hoo whee, that’s a pretty umbrella power play, hey?
7:48: Thornton keeps ‘em guessing with a shot on Hellebuyck who, as he does, makes the puck disappear.
6:29: This Meier — Nyquist — Hertl line is so dangerous. Great entry from Meier, pulling the defenders down into the corner before dropping to Goose, around the net to Hertl for the chance.
4:30: The Sharks are swarming now, that second Vlasic goal really woke them up. Loads of sustained zone pressure and chance after chance after chance. This is much better. Also, still 1-0 Calgary.
3:03: Sorry, Eddie, that last goal is now credited to Gustav Nyquist. Goose is on a Ny-quest for glory tonight.
1:30: The Sharks are closing out this period with so much pressure! A goal here could be back-breaking, at least until the Jets get back to their locker room and get back to absorbing magical energy from that weird basketball.
:31.9: Blake Coleman ties the game at one for New Jersey late in the first!
END SECOND: Sharks 3, Jets 3
Joe Thornton passed Stan Mikita for all-time points tonight, and Evgeni Malkin scored his 1000th. What do these two players have in common? I’ll give you a hint: #NHL100.
The Sharks started that period pretty slow, as if they were playing the back half of a back-to-back on the road or something, but the last ten minutes were as fun and exciting as hockey gets. More of that, please!
Pretty even in scoring chances, until the Sharks took over in the last seven or eight minutes. Let’s carry some momentum from that push into the third.
Also, Kyle Palmieri scored in Calgary, Devils lead 2-1 heading into the first intermission.
20:00: And we’re back, an early Gustav Nyquist hat trick would be what dreams are made of.
18:40: Huge save by Dell on Connor. Dell read that play so well, and was already in position as Connor received the puck for the shot.
18:00 SHARKS GOAL Sorensen scores from a Thornton pass behind the net! Great presence of mind by Sorensen to get the puck out of the corner back to Burns at the point and be ready for the incoming pass. The Sharks lead, just like we asked them to! How thoughtful!
16:53: Burns springs Pavelski for a great opportunity. The Sharks are not letting up.
15:40: Sharks getting sent on a huge penalty kill. Some sloppy stick work from Nyquist tags the hands of Little.
15:15: Blake Wheeler is down in the corner and in no small amount of distress, looks like he got hit in the face by the referee’s hand. We don’t see that very often. Can we send the ref to the box? Are they above the law? What kind of banana republic is this?
14:15: Oh jeez, speaking of pretty umbrella power plays, this Jets team is so scary.
13:18: And it’s 3-1 Devils in Calgary. Oh, how the turntables.
9:40: It should be mentioned that Jets fans are awesome. That building has not been quiet all night, and when they get mad, they get mad together and you know it.
8:16: I’m no referee, but that series of play will probably result in a 5-on-1 or something, right?
That’s a roughing penalty by Tyler Myers on Timo Meier. Myers on Meier crime, in addition to a Wheeler injury behind the play, and a proximate goal in Calgary. What a whirlwind of emotion.
7:38: Burns hits the crossbar. A power play goal here would be very good for all of our heart health.
5:50: Aaron Dell with a monster save to keep the lead away from Tyler Myers! 3-on-1 amounts to nothing!
Calgary and New Jersey tied at three. The sky is falling.
5:07: Sharks giving up way too many chances on the rush. I feel only fear.
3:38 JETS GOAL Mathieu Perreault ties it up for the Jets after the Sharks allow way too many Jets to get into Dell’s eyes. A really good far out tip by Perreault and the game is tied at four.
2:12: Both teams playing for the loser point now so that they’re less likely to play their respective divisions’ 3-seed.
:52.8: What a crazy call of that offside. Looked in to me, but the replay showed white behind the puck. Is... is this good officiating?
:03.6: ARE YOU SERIOUS?! Joe Pavelski gives the Sharks the lead with less than four seconds left. What a great pass interception by Vlasic in the Sharks’ zone to start the play, and a seeing eye shot by the captain. One of the best shots of the season.
FINAL SCORE: Sharks 5, Jets 4
The San Jose Sharks (42-19-8) play their third game in four nights tonight in the warm and welcoming home of the Winnipeg Jets (40-24-4). The Sharks, winners of five straight, sit perilously atop the Western Conference and, appropriately, the Pacific Division. With the Calgary Flames just one point back, and playing the tragicomic New Jersey Devils tonight, a Sharks win over a strong but struggling Jets team would be nothing short of massive.
Similarly, the Jets hold a one point lead over the Nashville Predators in the Central division, but have struggled lately to a 4-5-1 record in their last ten. Key absences on their blue line are no doubt at least partially to blame for the slide, as both Dustin Byfuglien and Josh Morrissey are still out and have been for some time.
As you might expect, these two teams are playing for similar stakes: while the Sharks are fighting hard to avoid a first round match up against the Vegas Golden Knights, and the Jets should rightly fear the resurgent St. Louis Blues. Unfortunately, Winnipeg wunderkind Patrik Laine seems to have woken up to the tune of four goals and nine points in his last nine games, after taking 29 games to score the nine points before that.
The Sharks will have to batten down the hatches tonight to keep the Jets’ high-flying forwards from capitalizing on their travel fatigue, and take advantage of any of the home teams mistakes and their jumbled defensive pairs. If San Jose can focus on the Xs and Os and play some nice, safe, boring hockey, they may get out of Winnipeg alive.
Expected scratches: Joakim Ryan, Lukas Radil, Dylan Gambrell
Injured reserve: Erik Karlsson (groin), Evander Kane (undisclosed)
With no morning skate today, we’re going with the coach’s word. The Sharks dearth of EKs is concerning, but they’ve done well in their absence so far. Starting Dell is a relief, considering head coach Pete DeBoer’s propensity to go with Jones over and over again. The Sharks’ starter will need the rest if he’s going to backstop a deep postseason run.
Jets (via NHL.com)
Patrik Laine — Mark Scheifele — Blake Wheeler
Kyle Connor — Kevin Hayes — Nikolaj Ehlers
Brandon Tanev — Adam Lowry — Bryan Little
Mathieu Perreault — Andrew Copp — Jack Roslovic
Nathan Beaulieu — Jacob Trouba
Ben Chiarot — Sami Niku
Dmitry Kulikov — Tyler Myers
Expected scratches: Matt Hendricks, Par Lindholm, Bogdan Kiselevich
Injured reserve: Joe Morrow (lower body), Dustin Byfuglien (lower body), Josh Morrissey (upper body)
Morrow skated this morning, but in a non-contact jersey, so he won’t return tonight.
Where to watch
Puck drop is at 5 p.m. Pacific/7 p.m. Central at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg, so maybe sneak out of work early to beat that San Jose traffic (well, some of it). Catch the game live on NBC Sports California and TSN3 North of the border, or stream it on ESPN+ or NHL.tv. If you’re stuck in that aforementioned traffic, the radio call will be on 98.5 KFOX or the Sharks app.