With the Detroit Red Wings in town, the San Jose Sharks had an opportunity to claw their way back into a more stable playoff position, one point out of a Wild Card spot. The Western Conference race is wide open and San Jose has been grasping onto the Wild Card with both hands. But consistency is key, and the Sharks haven’t been consistent for much of the season.
Much of the inconsistencies lie in the roster, which has faced a number of absences. Nick Bonino, and assistant coaches John MacLean and Dan Darrow are still tied up in COVID Protocol, but forwards Logan Couture and Lane Pederson have been removed from the list. Yet another rookie was making their NHL debut last night — Adam Raska, a forward best described as high-energy (and maybe a bit of a pest) took to the ice for his first NHL game.
Last time the Sharks met the Red Wings, they were plagued with turnovers aplenty. The first five minutes weren’t fantastic in last night’s rematch — the Sharks kept getting caught up in the neutral zone and it was clear their fumbled passes were a product of miscommunication (read: no communication). Jasper Weatherby had a tough shift and Raska’s opening 30 seconds weren’t fantastic, either.
But as play strung along, the Sharks were able to break the puck out into the offensive zone more, with a couple of shoving attempts led by Weatherby at the net, nearly notching a garbage goal. Somewhere in the opening ten minutes, forward Riley Barber was skated off the ice with the help of two teammates, and he wasn’t putting any weight on what looked to be his left leg.
Possibly in retaliation for Barber, or Jacob Middleton’s injury from their last meeting (or because a fight in the first period has become a tradition at this point in the season), Jeffrey Viel and Givani Smith tussled. It pains me to say this, but Smith won that skirmish very quickly. Both were leveled with five minutes for fighting.
At about the halfway mark in the first, Jonathan Dahlen was called for hooking, which put the Red Wings on the power play, with Smith and Viel still in the box. Thankfully, despite Filip Zadina’s best efforts, the power play stayed scoreless.
The Sharks then took their own chance on the power play, after Raska was cross-checked hard into the boards by Marc Staal. And when I say hard, I mean it — Raska took a stick to the ribs and needed a minute before pulling himself up off the ice.
To this point in the game, the Sharks had given up a few odd-man rushes, which was a call back to their last performance against Detroit. The Red Wings are fast, and it’s some of that speed that was the Sharks’ downfall less than two weeks ago. But this time, they were better prepared. The Sharks fought to keep pace, and when they couldn’t, defense was their number one priority, thwarting rush chances and minimizing shooting lanes while preserving Adin Hill’s lines of sight.
On a scrambling mess in front of Hill, Robby Fabbri was called for a cross-check that had sent Mario Ferraro sprawling, and it was this second power play of the game that proved successful. Timo Meier was given an empty net on Alex Nedeljkovic, and a quick deke pass from Dahlen set up one of the easiest goals of his career to put the Sharks up one with five minutes left in the period.
I could watch this on repeat:
The Sharks began the second period up 1-0, and with all the energy from the end of the first. The opening five minutes saw San Jose maintaining puck possession, and quashing any chances against through sheer physicality and blocked shots. Even when Detroit did get a chance at the net, Hill swallowed any rebounds and the Sharks were quick to bring the puck out of the zone.
Rookie defender Moritz Seider took a lofted clearing attempt off the face, leaving for the dressing room and putting the Red Wings down two skaters. Seider eventually returned near the end of the period, so it didn’t appear to be anything too nasty.
The first period was riddled with penalties, but the second was clean and free-flowing, allowing for a smooth back and forth between the two teams. Both Hill and Nedeljkovic play similar styles; both coming out to play the puck aggressively and meet a play at the top of the crease, and neither were giving up any second scoring chances — especially since the one rebound Nedeljkovic did give up led to Meier’s goal.
Sam Gagner was called for tripping Timo Meier, which sent the Sharks to their second power play, though they were caught up in cycling the puck a little more than shooting it.
Toward the end of the period, Ferraro was called for holding on Tyler Bertuzzi (notoriously the last unvaccinated player in the league). While on the penalty kill, Tomas Hertl was called for goaltender interference when he sent Nedeljkovic flat on his face as he was trying to get to the bench. Listen, I’m not laughing … but I am saying that we’ve all been Ned at some point.
Unfortunately, it led to Bertuzzi equalizing the score at one to end the second period, on a tip-in. Some things really aren’t a laughing matter.
The third period began with a goal from Detroit’s Nick Leddy, after Ryan Merkley over-committed and was out of position. Leddy snapped the puck high and Hill just missed it. With around seventeen minutes left in the period, the Wings were up 2-1.
It definitely took the wind out of the sails for the Sharks, but not for long. Jeffrey Viel brought the game back to a tie on a piledrive that sent him right into Detroit’s crease.
At about the thirteen-minute mark, the famed ‘We want tacos’ chant started up. There were a few chances, predominantly for San Jose, and as time wound down, the possibility of overtime loomed. The final five minutes of the third were a mad scramble, doing their best to hang onto the puck long enough to get a good shot off and keep it out of the defensive zone.
Meier very nearly got a goal — it went off the post close enough that even the jumbotron flashed the ‘goal’ sign, and the Wings had their own rush back the other way.
Once overtime hit, it was do or die for the Sharks; they haven’t yet lost in overtime. A scuffle in front of the net led to Nedeljkovic essentially pushing it into the net himself, but the goal was under review — even though the Sharks had already celebrated and the coaches turned down the hallway. Reviewing a goal in overtime feels criminal.
Oh, and there was an octopus thrown onto the ice just before the game-winning goal was scored. How that got through security is my question. Did someone have it strapped to their body? An octopus definitely exceeds the bag limit size so ... to what level of dedication did someone go to bring a dead (this wasn’t rubber) octopus into the game?
After a lengthy review, Logan Couture’s goal stood, and the Sharks win it overtime, 3-2.