Despite again being without the services of Erik Karlsson and Evander Kane, as well as having franchise cornerstones Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns battling the flu, the Sharks got exactly what they needed against the Montreal Canadiens tonight: two points.
More specifically, they had a balanced scoring attack, with goals coming from Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl, Joe Thornton Marcus Sorensen and, with his first in a teal sweater, Gustav Nyquist. This is the Sharks’ bread and butter as the team that scores the second most goals per game in the NHL; one that possesses one of the deepest offensive groups in the league, currently boasting a roster with seven players who have crossed the 50 point threshold. The prowess of this group was on display against the Habs.
Former Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi once again gave San Jose fans something to cheer for in his return to the SAP Center, allowing four goals on a mere 24 shots and looking generally uncomfortable in net all night. His counterpart, Martin Jones, made 37 saves on 39 shots, posting a stellar .949 save percentage. Jones didn’t have to steal the game for San Jose, but when he was asked to come up with a big save or two down the stretch, he delivered.
The Sharks beat the Canadiens 5-2, and with the Flames losing in Arizona, are only a single point back of first place in the Pacific Division with a game in hand. The Sharks will have an opportunity to leapfrog Calgary on Saturday, when they host Jordan Binnington and the red-hot St. Louis Blues.
20:00: Puck drop in San Jose!
16:50: Tomas Hertl sends a shot to the front of the net where new linemate Gustav Nyquist is positioned, but Montreal’s defense prevents him from getting his stick on the puck.
13:29: Montreal’s Victor Mete fires a shot from the blue line, which is caught by Martin Jones. Thus far, both teams have exchanged possessions (primarily in the neutral zone) with very few stoppages.
13:05: Goal number 30 for Tomas Hertl! He streaks down the ice and behind the net, and tucks a wrap-around between the skate of Montreal net minder Antti Niemi and the left post.
12:25: The Sharks turn the puck over twice in the defensive zone on attempted break out passes, and Montreal defenseman Shea Weber rips a dangerous shot from the blueline. Jones makes the save.
10:00: Marcus Sorensen makes it 2-0 with his fifteenth goal of the season! Antti Niemi has allowed two goals on five shots and looks very uncomfortable making even the most routine saves (when he’s been able to make them).
7:28: Timo Meier makes a great effort and gets an important defensive zone clear, as the Sharks had been hemmed in by the aggressive play of the Canadiens.
5:23: Brendan Gallagher breaks down the right side of the ice and beats Jones with a shot from the top of the circle — but it bounces off the post and out! Jones (and the broadcasters) thought it was in.
2:56: Mete, with a burst of speed, drives the net and fires a one hander just over the top of the crossbar.
2:04: Montreal’s Artturi Lehkonen beats Jones from up close and cuts the lead to one. 2-1 San Jose.
END FIRST: Sharks 2, Canadiens 1
20:00: We’re underway once again!
19:04: Montreal’s Paul Byron splits the defense on a breakaway, but Jones comes all the way to the top of the blue paint and makes a great save!
16:36: Nate Thompson gets a dangerous tip on a shot, and Jones is forced to make a good save. Semi-unrelated, but important to mention: Joonas Donskoi really has his legs going tonight.
15:34: Radim Simek gets a nice slap shot through on Niemi, and although he made the save, he continues to look really shaky on every shot he faces. The Sharks would be wise to throw everything but the kitchen sink at him.
14:45: Simek catches Max Domi under the visor with a high stick, and the Sharks will be short-handed for two minutes. The Canadiens are last in the NHL on the power play, while the Sharks are third in the league in the penalty kill when playing at home.
12:55: The Canadiens maintain possession in the offensive zone for almost a minute and a half on the power play, but Hertl manages to clear, and the Sharks avoid surrendering a tying goal short-handed.
12:14: Joe Thornton scores with a redirect off of a Canadiens player in front of the net! The Sharks’ third line continues to terrorize middle-six forward groups across the league, and San Jose leads 3-1.
7:37: Jonathan Drouin leads the Canadiens into the offensive zone with some smooth stick handling; combined with his speed, the Sharks are having trouble regaining possession as he takes it behind the net.
4:42: The puck deflects off of Andrew Shaw, trickles in past Jones, and the Canadiens are still alive. San Jose leads 3-2.
:31: Donskoi sends a beautiful pass to Hertl as he drives the net, but they just fail to connect. Hard to believe a player as talented as Hertl wouldn’t have converted that opportunity if the pass connected, especially against a goalie like Niemi.
END SECOND: Sharks 3, Canadiens 2
20:00: The final period is underway!
15:16: Both teams stuck in a perpetual cycle of recovering the opposition’s turnover, carrying it into the neutral zone, and promptly turning it back over.
13:52: Meier cashes in a beautiful pass from Donskoi, and the Sharks lead 4-2! Donskoi stripped the puck, dished to Meier, got around a defenseman to recover the rebound from Meier’s shot, and feds Meier a gorgeous backhand pass across the blue paint. He single handedly created that play, wow.
13:27: Gallagher stirs the pot with Brent Burns in front of Jones after the whistle. Gallagher is frustrated, and was clearly the instigator.
12:16: Max Domi takes a slap shot on Jones from the circle. Jones has taken a few hard slap shots to the body tonight, including one from Shea Weber that got him right in the shoulder; he’s going to be sore tomorrow.
10:04: Nyquist almost finds Joe Pavelski on an odd man rush. Though it didn’t work out this time, it’s nice to see Nyquist display such potent offensive instincts while coming into the zone so quickly. You have to think he’s going to get his first goal in a Sharks uniform soon.
5:09: Pavelski gets a good shot off of a two on one with Logan Couture, but Niemi comes up with the glove save.
3:39: Barclay Goodrow and Gallagher battling relentlessly for possession of the puck. Goodrow on the bench grinning afterward, this is exactly how he likes to play.
1:49: Niemi hits the bench, Canadiens have the extra skater on the ice.
1:15: Drouin gets a powerful slap shot on net with Jones heavily screened, but he comes up with the save.
:05: Nyquist gets his first goal (and point) as a San Jose Shark as he hits the empty net!
FINAL SCORE: Sharks 5, Canadiens 2
For one, the Sharks were playing the final game of an absolutely disastrous road trip, during which they had failed to win a single game. Before their first meeting of the season against the Canadiens, the Sharks players held a closed-door meeting with General Manager Doug Wilson. Things were looking scary for a team with high expectations.
Meanwhile, the Canadiens were surprising the entire NHL by holding onto a playoff spot after trading away stars Alex Galchenyuk and Max Pacioretty.
But that 3-1 win for the Sharks on the end of that road trip changed the direction of the Sharks' season.
Since then, the Sharks have regained form, currently sitting three points out of the Pacific Division lead, with a game in hand on the first place Calgary Flames. The Habs, meanwhile, have kept up their surprising season, but are struggling to maintain a playoff position as the second wild card team in the Eastern Conference.
Scratches: Lukas Radil, Joakim Ryan, Dylan Gambrell (healthy)
Injured: Evander Kane (middle body), Erik Karlsson (groin)
On the other side of the bench, Canadiens head coach Claude Julien has not made any changes to his lines. That means that the Finnish wonderkid, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, will be a healthy scratch for the second straight game.
Tomas Tatar — Phillip Danault — Brendan Gallagher
Paul Byron — Max Domi — Andrew Shaw
Jonathan Drouin — Jordan Weal — Joel Armia
Artturi Lekhonen — Nate Thompson — Dale Weise
Victor Mete — Shea Weber
Jordie Benn — Jeff Petry
Brett Kulak — Christian Folin
Scratches: Nicolas Deslauriers, Charles Hudon, Matthew Peca, Mike Reilly (healthy)
An old friend gets the start in net tonight for the Canadiens. Antti Niemi will be guarding the crease on the other end of the ice to take on the Sharks, something he hasn’t done since March 12, 2017 when he replaced Kari Lehtonen in goal for the Dallas Stars en route to a 5-1 loss.
Where to Watch
Tonight’s action from SAP Center starts at 7:30 p.m. Pacific on NBC Sports California in the Bay Area and TSN2 and RDS in the Montreal market. Radio streaming will be available on 98.5 KFOX and the Sharks + SAP Center app.