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Quick Bites: Puck bounces Bruins’ way

From start to finish, the battle between the Boston Bruins and the San Jose Sharks last night was exciting. Both teams came to play, knowing they’re Stanley Cup bound. Boston struck first. The Sharks, led by a Joe Thornton hat trick, responded. But the Bruins had the winner.

For Sharks fans, they’ll cry foul after a controversial call in the final minutes of regulation, but it is what it is and I can’t wait to see these two teams play again in seven days.

Numbers-wise, there’s a little bit to worry about when it comes to the play of Martin Jones. The Sharks’ goaltender saved 14 of 20 shots and had a scary bad .700 save percentage. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say if they Sharks want to win the rematch on Feb. 26, Jones will need to play better. Much better.

As for possession, it’s pretty much what you would expect when you look at the scoring. According to Natural Stat Trick, adjusting for score and venue at 5-on-5, the Sharks started things out well, then when the Bruins started scoring, they also took over possession. When the Sharks tied things up, they took back control of the game.

The first ten minutes of the first period was everything you hoped it would be and more. The Sharks and the Bruins, two top tier teams in the NHL, traded scoring chances, but the ice never really tilted in one direction or the other. The minute one team seemed to have the upper hand, the other would amp up their play and push the puck back the other way.

There was a scare midway through the period, when a puck made it past Martin Jones and scooted toward the goal line. Marc-Edouard Vlasic got his stick in there just in time and tapped the puck out before it completely crossed the line. At the next whistle, Toronto reviewed the play to make sure it really was a save. Jones will get credit, but Vlasic was the real hero on this one.

A little before the 11-minute mark of the first, Tomas Hertl took the first penalty of the night. It was an unfortunate high-stick that could not be debated. But on the Bruins’ power play, it was Evander Kane with the best opportunity to score. He broke in alone and beat Tuukka Rask, but could not beat the goal post. It remained 0-0.

The Sharks killed the power play and then immediately went back to the penalty kill. This time Kane was called for a high-stick. You play with fire (especially a Boston power play that’s ranked second in the NHL), you’re going to get burned. Torey Krug roofed the puck and gave the Bruins the 1-0 lead.

More trouble for the Sharks at the 16:26 mark of the first, when the big man, Zdeno Chara, launched one past Jones. Top shelf once again. This one hurt because it came right off the faceoff. 2-0 Bruins.

After a back and forth first ten minutes of the game, the Bruins really turned it on and took over the momentum in the second half of the first.

They weren’t done scoring, either. At 18:24 of the first, Jake DeBrusk flipped the puck past Erik Karlsson and then beat him to the loose puck. He raced down the ice and then passed it in front of the net to Karson Kuhlman who tipped it in past Jones. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but it was Kuhlman’s first career NHL goal and it came at the expense of the Sharks.

San Jose wasn’t ready to go into the locker room down 3-0. With seconds left on the clock and the faceoff in the Bruins’ zone, Head Coach Pete DeBoer tossed out all his top guns. The Sharks won the faceoff and Joe Pavelski ended up picking up the puck behind the net. He wheeled around the net and then tossed it out front where Joe Thornton was there to poke it in. 3-1 Bruins.

That’s Jumbo’s 408th career goal and it just so happened to happen in the 408 (Dumb stat of the night, I apologize).

The real stat of the first period was Jones, who let in three goals on eight shots. That’s a .625 save percentage, for those of you keeping score.

In the second, the Sharks tried to pick up where they left off in the first. The hard work worked and the Bruins took a delay of game penalty at the 1:40 mark of the second.

The Sharks cashed in. A point shot from Brent Burns and yet another beautiful tip by Pavelski was all it took to get the Sharks within one. Pavelski with his 32nd goal of the season. 3-2 Bruins.

But San Jose couldn’t seem to avoid another trip to the box. Logan Couture, a familiar face on the Sharks’ penalty kill, found himself sitting for two after he hooked Chara in the Bruins’ zone. It’s no good to take a penalty when you’re on the attack.

San Jose seemed to have the penalty killed off, but late in the Bruins’ power play David Backes kicked the puck out of a scrum in the neutral zone. Danton Heinen got there first and tossed it out to DeBrusk. This time it was DeBrusk’s turn to score. He went top shelf to regain the two goal lead for the Bruins. 4-2 Bruins.

With San Jose trailing by two, bodies started flying. Justin Braun finished a check on former Sharks draft pick Sean Kuraly in the Sharks’ zone and Chris Wagner didn’t like the hit. He got into it with Braun and both Wagner and Braun were invited to sit for five minutes apiece.

The Sharks refused to break and it was Jumbo who cashed in against his former team. Thornton parked himself at the side of the net behind Rask and it paid off. He picked up a rebound and tapped it in for his second of the night. Marcus Sorensen and Radim Simek with the assists. Suddenly, the Sharks were back within one.

But the Sharks seemed to be destined to shoot themselves in the foot. This time it was Thornton heading to the box for high-sticking with just 1:29 remaining in the second period. Another chance for the Bruins to cash in on the man-advantage.

The Sharks’ penalty kill went to work. With less than a minute in the period, Hertl did a great job of hanging onto the puck and circling back into his own zone. He flipped it into the neutral zone, where Couture had just come off the bench. He settled the puck, used his quick hands to out maneuver a Bruins’ defenseman and then put it five hole on Rask while he was being hooked to the ice. The puck settled on the red line and after a review by Toronto, it was no goal.

The good news, Couture was hooked, so he earned a penalty shot. With number 39 all alone at center ice, he moved in on Rask and made no mistake this time, going five hole again and putting it into the back of the net. Sharks ended the second with the game tied up at four apiece.

The Bruins won the first period 3-1. The Sharks won the second 3-1. Jones upped his save percentage to a whopping .667.

The Sharks started the third period with about 30 seconds to kill on the Thornton high-sticking penalty. They completed the task and it was back to even strength.

At 1:57 into the third period, the Bruins were called for a routine icing. However, the players took longer than the refs liked to get to the faceoff dot and the team was assessed a bench minor for delay of game. Cue the Jaws music.

The Sharks looked more like baby Shark than daddy Shark on this power play. The Bruins easily killed the clock and things went back to even strength.

That seemed to work better for the Sharks, anyway, who continued to hold the Bruins off the shot clock. Boston actually went more than 20 minutes without a shot on, which helped fuel the Sharks’ comeback.

11:08 into the third and Hertl rang a shot off the crossbar. Nothing doing and it was still tied.

Then just over two minutes later, guess who it was to take the lead … Thornton. His third of the night. Fifth career hat trick and first one in eight years. Thornton used Charlie McAvoy to screen Rask and then rang it off of McAvoy’s knee to beat Rask and send hats raining down on the ice.

With just 6:28 left to play, the Sharks had their first lead of the night. 5-4 Sharks and Thornton’s expression said it all.

That’s when things got nasty and the captains started to joust. 6-foot-9 Chara up against 5-foot-11 Pavelski. Chara crosschecked Pavelski in the head. Not to make excuses, but when there’s a 10-inch difference, I’m not sure how deliberate the hit to the head was. Understandably, Pavelski didn’t like the shot, and slashed Chara. Chara took exception to that, slashed right back and then added a gloved punch to the face for good measure.

Both gentlemen were asked to sit for two-minutes and the game went to 4-on-4 action.

With just 1:49 left, the Sharks were dealt a low blow. The Bruins broke into the zone and Jones made the initial save. The puck popped up into the air and Wagner appeared to knock the puck down to the ice with his stick above the crossbar. Wagner then tapped the puck in.

The Sharks wanted a high touch call, but didn’t get it. It wasn’t a reviewable play because the goal was scored after the touch, even though the play should’ve been blown dead when  the high touch happened. It didn’t matter, the goal stood. Tied game.

Understandably, Sharks fans offered boos at the end of regulation. Instead of going home, they headed to overtime.

That’s where the controversy continued. Kane knocked the net off its moorings in the Bruins’ zone, but Boston took control of the puck. The Bruins went the other way with a scoring chance and the minute Kane gathered the puck for a breakaway the other way, the refs blew the whistle. Again, the whistle should’ve been blown when the net came off initially. Instead, the breakaway was negated.

With a minute left in overtime, the Bruins finished the game off. DeBrusk entered the Sharks’ zone with the puck on his stick. He dished it off to David Krejci on the other side of the net and the pass pulled Jones to the other side. Instead of shooting, Krejci passed it back to the trailing player, McAvoy, who shot it in to win the game.

Final score was 6-5 Bruins in overtime.

The Sharks now hit the road. They start things off in Pittsburgh on Thursday. The Bruins continue their road trip and play in Vegas on Wednesday.

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