Sharks cap off mammoth comeback with 4-3 shootout win over the Penguins

It wasn't the start they wanted. It was probably the result they deserved. But after the dust settled following a first period where the Sharks were outshot 15-4 and gave up a pair of goals in the first 2:04 of the game, San Jose got to work and began to claw their way back against one of the NHL's premier teams, scoring three goals en route to a shootout victory.

"I think after the first everybody touched the tusk and it brought us some luck," Captain Joe Thornton said following the game

It was a spectacular effort from a team that wanted to avoid a lull after going 5-1-0 on a six game road trip, and a gritty performance that showcased just how resilient this team can be when pushed to the brink.

Patrick Marleau potted a goal in the second while Ryane Clowe and Jamie McGinn scored in the third to erase the Penguins lead with 4:54 left in regulation. After a 4v4 overtime period fraught with dangerous scoring chances on both ends came to a close, the game headed to the shootout where Thomas Greiss continued to put on a show of athletic dominance. He stopped all three Pittsburgh opportunities, while Ryane Clowe deviated from his normal backhand roof shot to go forehand on Marc-Andre Fleury, and the Sharks locked down two points in a game that seemed out of reach.

The night started poorly for San Jose, as starting netminder Antti Niemi was pulled from the game following two goals on six shots. His 2:04 of ice time was the second shortest start in Sharks history, eclipsed only by Evgeni Nabokov's 1:57 appearance on January 29, 2000 where the former Sharks netminder gave up two goals on four shots against. Deryk Engelland scored 24 seconds into the tilt after Joe Pavelski committed a turnover in his own end, and Evgeni Malkin found the twine after sending an innocent looking puck to the net that seemed to careen off Brent Burns skate in front.

San Jose would continue to struggle in the first period following the wake up call however-- despite giving up two goals in two minutes and watching the starter get pulled, the Sharks would go on to get outshot 15-4 in the opening frame. The Penguins were hunting down puck carriers in the nuetral zone and jumping on the puck carrier in the cycle with ferocity, nullifying everything the Sharks attempted to do.

But in the second period, things began to change.

"We turned our heads on. We started to skate. We made plays and looked like we were actually interested in playing," Todd McLellan said. "Then in the second period we found an emotional attachment to the game. We began to come close to their work ethic, and then we worked our way into the game. That doesn’t happen too often where you give away a period like that and then come back."

The second period began with a bang, as Ryane Clowe dropped the gloves to start the frame and looked over to the bench in a way that suggested he wanted his teammates to follow suit. And follow suit they did-- San Jose completely reversed the momentum from the first, racking up 17 shots in the second period and holding the Penguins to a mere 6.

Patrick Marleau would cut the lead to one at the 2:37 mark, flashing the speed that has made him one of the premier goal-scorers in the NHL. After exiting the zone with the puck, Marleau sent a nice pass off the boards to Martin Havlat, who played give and go with Marleau and sprung him into the zone with speed. Marleau drove hard down the middle of the ice and wristed a shot that snuck through the left arm of Marc-Andre Fleury. San Jose would continue to pour on the opportunities in the frame, but a loose puck that careened off the skate of Evgeni Malkin into the net midway through the second put San Jose down by a pair heading into the third.

The Sharks started out slow in the third period, relying on Thomas Greiss to continue his stellar play to keep them in the game. With Marc-Andre Fleury doing his job at the other end of the ice as well, it seemed like only a matter of time before the clock would become the enemy-- things began to turn around seven minutes into the period however, as Marleau and Burns barely missed on back to back scoring chances.

And the Ryane Clowe and Jamie McGinn struck.

After Martin Havlat entered the zone with speed and, dangling like Ron Jeremy on a Saturday night, sent a silky smooth pass to open space where only Ryane Clowe could grab it, the Sharks got their mojo back. Clowe lifted a scorching backhander up top past Fleury to cut the lead to one, getting HP Pavilion back into the game.

It would take six minutes of game time, but San Jose got the equalizer after relentlessly pressuring the Pens. Following a nice play by Michal Handzus to control the puck along the boards and find a passing lane, Jamie McGinn hammered a one-timer in tight through the five hole of Fleury for his first goal of the season and knot the game up at three.

The Sharks and Penguins would continue to trade chances for the rest of the game, including a stellar 4v4 overtime period, before heading to the shootout where Thomas Greiss and Ryane Clowe would seal the deal with three saves and a shootout goal respectively.

"I thought we did a great job responding.  Greiss was great. They got that weird goal off the shin pad," Ryane Clowe said. "We got better as it went on.  They are an Eastern Conference team and it's great to get two points from it."

Some assorted thoughts from tonight:

  • It goes without saying, but that mammoth tusk the team bought for Thornton to recognize 1,000 games in the NHL is absolutely historic. A wooly mammoth guy indeed.
  • What else can you say about Thomas Greiss. Utterly superb tonight from start to finish. At one point he ended up between the circles after sliding to a stop following a save. That kind of aggressiveness has paid off for him thus far this season.
  • Martin Havlat, Ryane Clowe, and Patrick Marleau had very good games, and Justin Braun had his best game of the year tonight. With Jason Demers continuing to struggle to start the year, Braun is a nice option to have on the backend. We initially thought he would be sent to Worcester following the road trip, but if he can build on his game tonight, he will stay in the lineup.
  • McLellan mixed up his lines throughout the game tonight, playing Couture with Pavelski-Thornton and dropping Marleau down to play with Havlat-Clowe. It remains to be seen whether or not these will stick as time goes along, but Couture and Thornton have always played well together.
  • Rest assured, there will be a Jamie McGinn article tomorrow. He's been great this season in a checking role and it was a matter of time before he potted a goal.