San Jose Prevails Over Vancouver, But Thornton and Malhotra Injured
UPDATE #1, 10:36pm - According to Comcast Bay Area post game show, Thornton is currently listed day-to-day and will be reevaluated before tomorrow's game against Colorado. No update on Malhotra's injury.
UPDATE #2, 11:48pm, from WTC, "McLellan did say that Manny Malhotra appeared to be in good shape despite some serious bleeding after he took a puck to the face and had to leave the game with 41 seconds left."
San Jose Sharks won an important game tonight, but the victory may have come at a very high cost.
As Plank mentioned in the game preview, this game was going to be a true test to the Sharks confidence. Going into this game on a two game winning streak, the team was looking to build on all the good things that have happened this week. It's a one thing to beat two teams who are no longer in a playoff race. It's quite another to beat a team who's at the top of the Western Conference standings. On top of that, a victory in regulation pretty much meant that the Sharks secured a home ice advantage in the first round of playoffs, as the lead over no. 5 Nashville would have extended to ten points.
The way the game went, it was a tale of three periods.
In the first period the Sharks came out ready to battle and to skate. However, it turned out to be a challenging task as the Canucks did what they do best - fill the neutral zone with forwards and defensemen and completely kill any momentum on the Sharks attack. This kind of game of chess hockey lead to just one shot by both teams in the first ten minutes of the game. The Sharks were unable to complete their crisp first passes, and the Canucks were controlling the boards and all rebounds. Add a puck that farted out of Nabokov's pads to give Canucks their first and only lead in this game, and you get one of the ugliest first periods played this season in the Sharks Tank.
Who knows what McLellan told his players in the second period, but it was exactly what they needed to hear, and the team came out transformed in the second period. To beat this Vancouver Canucks the opposing team has to beat them in the transition game. The Sharks pressured the puck as it entered their zone, which lead to more turnovers and the inability by the Canucks to set up their neutral zone trap. All of a sudden, the machine started to show its cracks, and before we knew it, the Sharks scored three unanswered goals. The first goal was a bullet of a wrister from Dany Heatley. The second goal was a signature Marleau goal, as he stole the puck at the blue line for a lone breakaway and put it behind Luongo as he's done so many times in his career. Marleau would finish the night with four points. The third goal was a tap in of the puck that was flying in the air by Joe Pavechkin.
In the third period the game began to turn into Vancouver's favor, as the Sharks started to push back more and more, thus giving up opportunities to beat the Canucks in the transition game, but Nabokov made no mistakes in that period. Clowe sealed the game with an empty netter, as the puck was stolen from a surprised Canucks player when the refs decided not to blow an icing on the play when it probably should have been blown.
However, when the dust settles tomorrow, we'll remember only two plays from this game. The first play came in the second period as Joe Thornton awkwardly flew into the boards after a violent collision with Edler. He remained on the ice for a couple of minutes, and was helped off the ice with an apparent leg injury. He did not return and we'll keep you updated with any new information on his possible injury. The second play came with less then a minute left as Manny Malhotra took a slap shot to his face, and had to be rushed off the ice with blood gushing from his nose. I'll be surprised if he did not break his nose on that play.
The way the Sharks are playing as a team right now, they'll survive a few games without Thornton and Malhotra. However, both players play key roles on this team, and we can only hope that these injuries do not carry over into playoffs.