Sharks 4, Canadiens 2: The kingdom of Aaron Dell reasserts its sovereignty

Is Arendelle a Queendom now? Is that even a word?

On the back of an inspired performance from Aaron Dell, the San Jose Sharks stole two points on the road from a dangerous Montreal Canadiens team. Even with Evander Kane’s two goals and Tomas Hertl’s three points, Dell was the difference maker in this one, stopping 35 of Montreal’s 37 shots on goal, and allowing just two goals on 3.31 expected.

Just like we found positive things to look forward to in San Jose’s home-and-home series against the Buffalo Sabres, there were some concerning trends in tonight’s win. The Sharks were soundly outpossessed and outplayed at 5-on-5 for almost the entire night, recording just 39.82 percent of the shot attempts and 29.31 percent of the scoring chances at evens. The difference came on special teams, as the Sharks scored two power play goals and allowed none on three Habs opportunities.

On offense, Kane led the way for the Sharks again, scoring both of the teams power play goals for his fifth and sixth on the season in just seven games. Kane’s netfront presence on the man advantage unit has been a huge boon for a team with a Joe Pavelski sized hole in that exact area of the ice.

Hertl assisted on the first three Sharks goals, also making his presence known right down the middle of the ice. Hertl’s presence down low helped the Sharks take control of rebounds coming off of Price after point shots from Karlsson and Burns, and his ability to funnel the puck out of danger to Kane or to Labanc directly led to two of the team’s first three goals.

The Sharks will need to play a lot better than this to get two points out of Toronto tomorrow, as sloppy neutral zone and transitional play is more likely to be capitalized on by the Maple Leafs’ army of skilled forwards. Still, two points is in the bank, the losing streak is over, and the boys can look forward to continuing the journey back to .500 in about 21 hours.

Man, the Bell Centre is gorgeous, eh? An earlier trip up to Montreal than the Sharks are used to, but we’ll take the opportunity to bank a couple points for later.

First Period

20:00 Here we go friendos, big boys starting out during a commercial break, apparently. Sharks get the first shot, that means they win, right?

18:20 Was that a Joe Thornton... shot? It’s interesting how slow he moves and how he seems to slow down all of the action around him. Appreciate this man.

17:41 Is murder illegal in Quebec? Cale Fleury laid a great classic hip check on Marcus Sorensen at the half-wall.

17:17 Brendan Gallagher is not a good fellow to leave alone in the slot. He’s scary.

15:30 Barclay Goodrow continues to steal my heart, almost capitalizes on a 2-on-1 on Carey Price.

14:55 Aaron Dell just stoned Nate Thompson point blank. Noah Gregor needs to be more aware of where the puck is when it’s directly beneath him. Nick Cousins couldn’t quite get wood on it, or we’d be 1-0 already.

14:11 Montreal starting to Mete out punishment already, but Dell’s right pad is seeing plenty of action early.

13:30 Is Joel Armia trying a wrap-around? In the NHL? On future hall-of-fame legend Aaron James Dell? Nonsense.

12:57 SHARKS SCORE 1-0 Barclay Goodrow blasts a five-hole past Carey Price after splitting the defense and receiving a great Joe Thornton pass from an Erik Karlsson breakout.

We have an offside challenge on the play. Everyone’s favo(u)rite NHL rule is here, Julien must feel confident, considering the penalty on the line here. Looks like Goodrow might be offside before receiving the Thornton pass.

12:57 SHARKS DO NOT SCORE 0-0 We didn’t see definitive evidence on TV, but it was close enough that Goodrow could well have been offside. The rule is being correctly applied here, it’s just a stupid rule.

11:06 Brenden Dillon almost capitalized on a Logan Couture screen, Erik Karlsson passing like a monster.

10:50 Dell just took that goal right out of Max Domi’s pocket, what a performance in this first period from the goaltender.

10:04 Gregor is back up with Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane with a great fore checking shift. Did Pete just remember Labanc’s last game and demote him mid-period?

9:32 Aaron Dell is out here saving all kinds of bacon tonight. Another series of great saves on Jonathan Drouin to head into the commercial break.

9:03 That Game 7 overtime winner changed Barclay Goodrow’s DNA, man. A great, high energy, forecheck shift from out resident hockey playing hedge fund manager.

7:45 These Karlsson outlet passes are absolutely not fair at all.

7:29 MTL Power play Melker Karlsson gets caught doing a slashing, tagged Nick Cousins with kind of a lazy swat instead of moving his feet to get in the lane. Sharks get a chance to show off their league 2nd penalty kill.

6:54 Melker was a beast on the PK in Buffalo, he’ll be missed by the rest of the unit.

5:54 Dell just snagged a Shea Weber shot out of the top corner, let’s hope his hand wasn’t liquefied inside his glove.

5:28 Great penalty kill overall, capped off by a strong backcheck from Evander Kane with seconds left in the situation.

5:06 Close call from Paul Byron in close, looked like he kind of heeled it with the one-timer, but Dell was ready anyway.

3:24 CANADIENS SCORE 0-1 Nick Cousins pounces on his own rebound, opting to shoot in a 2-on-1. Great footwork to kick the puck back up to his stick after bouncing it off Dell.

Looked like either Dillon or Tomas Hertl should have been back to prevent the odd-man opportunity. Dell and Mario Ferraro played it right shoveling the rebound toward the corner and taking away Cousins’ pass, respectively. Cousins just out waited them and converted on a low probability shot. Props.

2:02 NBC waiting to put the officials’ names up until they miss a roughing call is peak.

1:50 SHARKS Power play Shea Weber gets caught holding the stick of Logan Couture. Sharks have an opportunity to exploit the 26th ranked penalty kill of Montreal.

54.8 SHARKS SCORE 1-1 What a power play, man! Great puck movement on the boards lets Labanc walk in along the goal line. Couture passes on his first opportunity at an open net, but a point shot finds its way back to him and he blasts it through into Evander Kane’s legs and about 70 feet to Price’s left.

24.3 Thornton and Goodrow are fivechecking over here.

END FIRST: Sharks 1, Canadiens 1

The Sharks had some looks, but they’re being badly outshot to the tune of 13-8. At 5-on-5, the Habs have recorded a little less than two thirds of the shot attempts, and account for 80 percent of the expected goals share. Dell came up huge more than a few times, but if the Sharks can’t get some sustained pressure and better communication on the backcheck, he’ll have a long night.

As an aside, do you think that, now that they’re on the same team finally, David Poile and Matt Duchene could bury the hatchet on this offside thing and spare the rest of us?

Second Period

20:00 Back in action! Let’s hope the Sharks can clean up their defensive play in the neutral zone so Dell doesn’t have to steal this one the rest of the way.

18:57 So far so bad. The Sharks cannot get through the neutral zone with possession here, and Hertl got caught offside for many seconds without knowing it. Inauspicious start. Got an icing out of it, so they have to have some O-zone time now.

18:18 These Habs are decent on the rush, getting a few opportunities after Hertl just misses a Dillon tip on Price.

17:35 The Sharks have forced a few icings. Good for the team, not great for the viewers. Looks like Labanc got his spot with Hertl and Kane back to start the period, as well.

17:05 Price catches a low percentage shot from Melker Karlsson, but San Jose’s fourth line kept the puck in the zone and had a good shift against Montreal’s depth.

16:13 Looks like the Sharks back check is a little more effective here. Small sample size we’re working with, but I like what we’re seeing so far.

15:40 SHARKS Power play The Sharks get another chance to make hay on special teams as Brett Kulak gets caught for tripping Kevin Labanc with his mind powers. It didn’t look like he touched him at all, so we may be in line for a make up call later tonight.

Julien is trying to get an explanation from the officials, and I don’t blame him, it’s a bad call.

Now it’s a Jeff Petry trip, which also didn’t happen. Labanc looked like he either fell on his own or over Hertl’s stick. Lucky break for San Jose here.

15:06 SHARKS SCORE 2-1 Evander Kane scores his second power play goal of the night, pouncing on a rebound with a back hand shot from a Brent Burns point shot into Carey Price’s pads.

Kane is becoming a net front monster. All of his hat trick goals were scored from almost the same spot as both of his goals tonight: almost inside the crease to the goalie’s left.

12:54 How the turn tables turn, the Sharks are doing a great job of clogging up the neutral zone to shut down Montreal’s transition play.

11:51 SHARKS SCORE 3-1 Labanc scores San Jose’s third straight goal. Hertl’s net front presence gets the rebound from Erik Karlsson’s point shot over to Labanc in the corner, who sneaks in toward the net just like he did on the Sharks’ first goal, and drops to one knee to blister the puck over Price’s head.

10:44 The Sharks are maybe a little paranoid about offside now, as Gregor barely makes it over the line in time while Melker Karlsson does pirouettes on the blue line.

10:05 And Gregor’s worst fears are realized, he is OFFSIDE!

9:31 The Sharks are outshooting their hosts 6-3 and outscoring them 2-0 in this period.

9:04 Dell comes up with another big save on a weird bouncing puck that Armia batted into the crease. It probably wouldn’t have counted, since Armia’s stick was grazing the ionosphere, but good save nonetheless.

8:05 Tim Heed’s last shift was over 20 minutes ago. I’m still not convinced he’s not just a figment of my imagination. Has anyone here ever seen Tim Heed?

6:40 MTL Power play Brent Burns heads to the box for holding Nick Cousins. I can see it, but it seems pretty soft. This might be that makeup call we were worried about.

5:58 Max Domi goes end to end and just barely can’t get to the front of the net. Some good shots and looks on this power play, but Dell stands tall enough.

5:00 Jonathan Drouin looking very dangerous on the man advantage, but Aaron Dell is a stone cold killer. Of penalties.

4:32 You guys. This Sharks penalty kill. I’m telling you. What an absolute unit.

4:00 The Habs had six shots on goal in that power play. Dell is putting on a show, and hopefully he won’t have to for too much longer.

2:29 How nice of Armia to just give the puck back to Karlsson at the blue line. That’s how to be a pirate, if you talk good enough, you don’t have to pillage.

1:59 How often do you see both centers’ sticks break on a faceoff? Should they both be called for slashing?

53.0 Is that the Sharks’ first shot on goal in ten minutes? There might be some score effects going on here, or the Sharks might be turtling a bit. Maybe those are the same thing.

35.4 SHARKS SCORE 4-1 Well, there goes that expert analysis. Melker converts a 2-on-1 with Thornton after the big man steals the puck from Gallagher at the red line. I would say it was a great pass by Thornton, but of course it was.

13.8 CANADIENS SCORE 4-2 The Habs get it back fast. Joel Armia tips a Domi shot from the half wall. Armia has been dangerous all night, he had it coming.

End Second: The Sharks lead by double, but they’re getting outshot by more than that: 29-14. The Habs will come out hot to start the third after getting a goal back in the last 15 seconds of the period. San Jose will have to resist the temptation to play prevent defense for 20 minutes. Montreal is controlling 80 percent of the expected goals at 5-on-5 but, as predicted, San Jose is making the difference with special teams. That’s less reliable going forward, so buckle up.

Third period

20:00 One more time, fellas. Let’s hope the Sharks can stay aggressive and keep ahold on this lead.

18:52 Oh now Timo Meier’s not allowed to throw it into the net with his hand? Bogus.

17:57 Victor Mete tosses the puck right in front of San Jose’s net, but Karlsson bats it away like so many obnoxious flies. Habs are looking really dangerous right now.

16:13 Sharks are still getting starched at 5-on-5, some pressure from this offensive zone draw would go a long way.

16:03 Patrick Marleau is apparently going to do this whole thing himself. He looks really dangerous in the Habs’ zone right now.

14:48 Looks like the prevent defense is in full force here. Not my favorite strategy, they need to keep communicating and clean up their passes. Be simple and predictable with a two-goal lead.

13:34 Karlsson bobs and weaves through three Habs before icing the puck. Three A+ followed by a D+.

13:18 I’m not counting the icing calls in this game, but it’s because I stopped when I got to 700.

10:08 Dell stones two great shots from Armia and Domi again. The Sharks need to get back to the neutral zone play from the second period, holding the Habs out of the zone.

8:22 This is very familiar Sharks hockey. Holding onto a lead for dear life for the entirety of the third period. When I have chronic heart conditions by age 41, tell the doctor this is why.

7:11 As Kane, Dillon, et al, hold the puck against the boards, the officials seem to be flexing a bit, refusing to whistle for almost ten full seconds, then pushing the faceoff outside of the zone for some reason.

5:37 Now there’s the Melker I know. Just barely whiffs on a great behind-the-net pass from Kane, and Kane barely misses the net for the hat trick.

4:48 SHARKS Power play Drouin trips Mario Ferraro, giving the Sharks a great opportunity to put this thing away, despite being soundly outplayed at evens.

3:52 Erik Karlsson on the power play is a cheat code.

2:19 We have an empty net for the Habs, not that it matter unless you get some shots on goal.

1:39 Hertl bounces the puck of the post of the empty net! Gotta get another chance at that one, guys.

49.3 Dell makes another ten bell save. The Sharks get caught at the end of a shift on an icing call as Marleau ices the puck going for the empty net. Time out call from the Montreal bench give the Sharks skaters some rest.

20.2 MTL Power play Dillon going off for cross-checking Domi in the crease, right as Domi takes a puck to the mouth. Brutal stuff.

FINAL SCORE: Sharks 4, Canadiens 2

The Habs can’t convert on the 6-on-4 opportunity, and the Sharks steal two points out of Montreal despite being dominated at even strength. Stay tuned for a recap tonight and an even better recap tomorrow morning.


The San Jose Sharks (3-5-1, 8th Pacific) visit the Montreal Canadiens (4-3-2, 6th Atlantic) tonight in an attempt to stave off what could be their second three-game losing streak of their first ten games. While it is still early, it’s not that early, and the Sharks’ position in last place in the division approaching game ten is cause for some concern. As of tonight, San Jose’s season will be a little over 12 percent over, so while it is still too early to panic, that particular runway is getting uncomfortably short. The Canadiens could be just the prescription the Sharks need, as our boys have not lost a game against the bleu, blanc, et rouge since March 21, 2015.

With another game tomorrow night, visiting the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Sharks have elected to start Aaron Dell tonight, saving starter Martin Jones for what most reasonable observers would expect to be the tougher opponent, John Tavares’ absence notwithstanding. Despite Dell’s numbers so far this season (.884 save percentage, -2.15 goals saved above expected), his last game in Montreal may provide cause for optimism. Dell stopped 30 of 31 Habs shots on January 2, 2018 behind two Timo Meier goals to hand them what was at the time their fifth straight loss.

Despite their troubles on the standings page, the Sharks are producing: Erik Karlsson has a goal and seven points through a six-game point streak, Tomas Hertl has three goals and six points in his last four games, and captain Logan Couture has a goal and seven points in his last seven contests.

If Dell and the Sharks can keep the game even at evens, special teams could be the difference tonight. The Sharks’ 12th ranked power-play (21.9 percent) and second-ranked penalty kill (90.6 percent!) should be able to win out more often than not against the Canadiens’ sixth-ranked power play (27.3 percent, still pretty good) and 28th-ranked penalty kill (71 percent, oof).

Let the parades to the penalty boxes commence.



Expected scratches: Lukas Radil, Jonny Brodzinski, Trevor Carrick

Injured reserve: Jacob Middleton (left shoulder), Dalton Prout (upper body), Radim Simek (knee)

The more things change, the more they stay the same. All of the same names are in the Sharks’ lineup tonight, but they’ve been shuffled around so as to be unrecognizable. Marcus Sorensen’s demotion is notable, as is Barclay Goodrow’s and Noah Gregor’s placement on Joe Thornton’s wings. Knowing head coach Pete DeBoer, though, these lines are all but guaranteed to be jumbled about by minute six.


Tomas Tatar — Phillip Danault — Brendan Gallagher
Jonathan Drouin — Max Domi — Joel Armia
Paul Byron — Jesperi Kotkaniemi — Artturi Lehkonen
Nick Cousins — Nate Thompson — Nick Suzuki

Victor Mete — Shea Weber
Brett Kulak — Jeff Petry
Ben Chiarot — Cale Fleury

Carey Price
Keith Kinkaid

Expected scratches: Jordan Weal, Mike Reilly, Christian Folin

After some scares at practice, there was some doubt about the availability of both Tatar and Armia. This morning, though, head coach Claude Julien confirmed that both will be able to play.

Where to watch

Puck drop will be at 4 p.m. Pacific/7 p.m. Eastern at the Bell Center in Montreal. As usual, tune into NBC Sports California in the bay, and in Quebec, check out TSN2 for the English language broadcast and RDS pour les Francais. Audiophiles, check out 98.5 KFOX, TSN Radio 690, or stream through the Sharks / SAP Center app.