There were some line changes made ahead of tonight’s game between the San Jose Sharks and New York Islanders. Forward Scott Reedy and defender Santeri Hatakka were sent down to the San Jose Barracuda and defender Nicolas Meloche, who played for the Sharks during their COVID outbreak, was brought back up. Meloche joined the team in New York, and while he might not play during this road trip, head coach Bob Boughner expressed that a few players had been banged up in the past few games and he wanted to have an option for relief.
Jasper Weatherby was back in the line-up after sitting last game, while Noah Gregor and Jonah Gadjovich filled in for Andrew Cogliano and Lane Pederson respectively. Adin Hill made his return to the net, after allowing 8 goals over his last two starts.
The first period started off all Islanders, with Matt Barzal opening scoring on the first shot of the game less than two minutes in. Adin Hill has struggled with early, easy shots, and this was no different. It’s clear he wasn’t prepared for a shot on goal, but it was definitely a goal he would want back. The good news is that once he lets in an early goal, Hill typically settles back down into the net. It wasn’t all Hill’s fault, either — the defense had a slow change, and Jacob Middleton was out of position.
If the early goal wasn’t enough, Jonah Gadjovich was taken down after blocking a shot off the inside of his high ankle, right above the skate where there’s little to no padding. Gadjovich went down hard, and couldn’t make it past the center line. It was heart-wrenching watching head athletic trainer Ray Tufts make his way to Gadjovich as he lay curled on the ice, unable to put weight on his foot. Eventually, Weatherby and Brent Burns helped Gadjovich off the ice, and he made his way down the tunnel, still propped up.
We don’t know how long he’ll be out, but by the severity of his reaction, it’s certain he will miss time. Gadjovich did not return to the game.
The Sharks were costing themselves precious zone time with their repeated turnovers and the Islanders were taking advantage of the disarray. After a couple of rough shifts, the team got a break when the Islanders were called for too many men, sending the Sharks to the power play.
For the second game in a row, the power play was the Sharks’ Hail Mary in a struggling period. Shades of Jonathan Dahlen’s father (and Sharks legend) Ulf Dahlen were in his silky pass in front of the Islanders’ net, threading through Isles’ defense and straight to Nick Bonino’s tape, and he tapped it in for the equalizing goal. Bonino showing up at key moments was exactly why the Sharks brought him in, and with that seal broken, he just keeps getting better and better.
Okay, so technically it was an even-strength goal because the penalty expired right at the shot on goal, but it was the power play unit on the ice, and the power play strategy that resulted in the goal.
Ugh. I could watch it on repeat.
For all of the Sharks’ inability to clear the defensive zone during the Islanders’ rushes, and the team’s unerring ability to turn the puck over in front of their own net with alarming regularity, the Sharks are good at one thing; the late push.
In the last few minutes of the first period, the Sharks turned on the jets, looking for the go-ahead goal. Despite a few good chances from Erik Karlsson and Dahlen, it remained tied, but much-needed momentum was building.
The second period was a more consistent effort, with end-to-end, fast play from both teams. Rudolfs Balcers couldn’t hit an empty net after Ilya Sorokin (and half of the skaters) fell to the ice, which leads me to believe that whatever scoring curse was on Bonino early in the season has attached itself to Balcers.
It led to a sustained period where the Sharks were hemmed in their own zone, nearly leading to another Islanders goal. Radim Simek was hit high by Matt Martin and was slow to get up, and Middleton was stuck on the ice for an extended shift of more than two and a half minutes.
As the period, progressed the Sharks looked more energized, more cohesive and more importantly, were generating more shots on goal and stronger zone breakouts. On a rush the other way, Jean-Gabriel Pageau belly-flopped onto Hill, which led to an interference call.
The Sharks weren’t able to capitalize upon that power play, but the actual strategy, especially by Kevin Labanc, looked fantastic. San Jose had another opportunity after Zach Parise shot the puck up and out of play, but Ilya Sorokin had it locked down. The second period ended with the Sharks and Islanders tied at two.
The third period began with early zone time for the Sharks led by Karlsson and Burns, completed by a close break by Staten Island native Labanc. The Sharks drove the first half of the period, but the Islanders started to push back, forcing Hill to make aggressive plays to keep the game tied.
Part of that push included knee-on-knee contact by Adam Pelech on Timo Meier. Meier returned the the ice for his next shift, but he hobbled off the ice initially and took a breather with Ray Tufts in the hallway. There was no call on the play, which was an oversight from the referees — it should have been a tripping call.
As time wound down, both teams were battling to end it, but doing too well at keeping the puck to the outside, and neither team was able to break the tie in the third period.
Overtime didn’t last long — in under a minute, Karlsson and Meier were on a 2-on-1 breakaway. Meier lifted the puck for a shot off the pads of Sorokin, scooped up the rebound and sent it back to Karlsson, who snapped the puck into the net.
I mean ... just look at that. Bow down, UBS Arena.
The Sharks have won all three of their road games thus far, and their confidence is riding high with a 2-1 overtime victory.
But if the Sharks were already running ragged before this game, then they’re definitely bruised now. With Gadjovich out and a few heavy collisions, I’m expecting the Sharks to go through the Barracuda roster and maybe call up a player or two to have on hand. Someone might be on a red eye flight ahead of tomorrow’s quick turn around against the Rangers.