Sharks keep the Capitals winless in HP Pavilion for at least another year with 5-2 victory

Washington came into tonight's contest winless in HP Pavilion since 1993.

They left the same.

Jason Demers, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Patrick Marleau and Torrey Mitchell all scored for the Sharks. Antti Niemi made 28 saves in the 5-2 victory.

"It ranks up there [as being one of the most complete efforts of the year]. A depth night for our hockey club, we needed all four lines," Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan said. "For some reason we play less of a gamble game and more of a good positional game when there's a little bit fatigue on our team. Maybe we're learning something, we need to do that more often."

The first period was a fairly uneventful affair, with the Capitals holding the Sharks without a shot for the first 7 minutes of the frame. San Jose and Washington both had some scattered chances, with the Capitals holding a 12-9 shot advantage in the frame. Outside of those scattered chances as well as two huge checks from Douglas Murray that leveled Jeff Halpern and Jason Chimera respectively however, it was a tight checking affair between the two teams. San Jose didn't have much success carrying the puck into the offensive zone and with the majority of their dump-ins being retrieved cleanly by the Capitals defenseman, struggled to put any sustained pressure together throughout the frame.

Fairly standard stuff for an East-West matchup where both teams don't see much of each other on a regular basis. Things began to pick up in the second however, as the two head coaches made the standard adjustments at intermission and prepared their teams for a much livelier second period.

The Sharks would get on the board first as Jason Demers took advantage of HP Pavilion's recently installed backboards. After his shot from the point bounced off the endboards it ricocheted into the crease where it glanced off Tomas Vokoun's back, slowly inching over the line to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead.

"I gotta thank the arena guys and the ownership for putting those in," Demers said with a smirk. "I kinda wanna say I was doing that [play it off the backboards], but I was trying to get it on net. You guys can say I was trying to get it off the endboards."

A wonderful thing is an endboard, the endboard a wonderful thing. Their tops are made out of rubber, the bottoms are made out of spring. They're bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun. The most wonderful thing about a endboard is Jason Demers scored with one.

The lead wouldn't last long however, as Brad Winchester headed to the box for goaltender interference shortly afterwards. Washington wouldn't waste any time with the man advantage, scoring 26 seconds into the power play when Dennis Wideman pinched in from the point and beat Niemi with a clean wrist shot.

San Jose and Washington would trade shots throughout the middle portion of the frame, with both John Carlson and Joe Pavelski getting some great scoring chances that either just missed or were squashed by the respective goaltenders.

After outshooting the Capitals 14-8 in the frame, San Jose would get a power play advantage in taco time. Brent Burns would capitalize with the advantage, blasting a beautiful slap shot into the far corner after receiving a pass from Dan Boyle at the point. Although the demise of New Years resolutions will likely come a little quicker this year for the 17,562 in attendance, they as well as the Sharks would welcome the tacos and 2-1 lead heading into intermission.

Things would get started quick in the third as both teams traded goals in the early going. Joel Ward would score for the Capitals 44 seconds into the period, but San Jose would answer 14 seconds after that when Joe Thornton made a beautiful no-look backhanded pass to Patrick Marleau in the low slot. It was a slam dunk shot for Marleau and another beauty for Thornton, who gave San Jose back the lead.

"Boyle made a great play to see me. Then Patty gave me a scream so I knew where he was," Thornton said. "Patty was just talking and made all that happen."

With tensions beginning to increase as the score stayed tight, a big hit from Brad Winchester set off Alex Ovechkin and led to some 4v4 action. After Winchester glided cleanly into a hit that absolutely demolished Alex Semin, Ovechkin took exception and jumped on Winchester during the course of play. The Sharks would take the tradeoff when Winchester (charging) and Ovechkin (roughing) headed to the box, and they would also take the goal that came with it.

In one of the better individual efforts of the season Marc-Edouard Vlasic dashed and dazzled for his third goal this year. After receiving a pass from Ryane Clowe, Vlasic took advantage of an out to lunch Alex Semin who seemed to lose track of the play. Following a backhand chance that Vokoun stopped, Vlasic stuck with the rebound and muscled a puck into the top of the net to give the Sharks a two goal lead at the 8:51 mark.

They wouldn't relinquish it, with Torrey Mitchell getting an empty net goal to put the finishing touches on the 5-2 victory.

Overall the Sharks played a strong game following a slow first period, outshooting the Capitals 30-18 in the last two periods of the game. Antti Niemi had some excellent saves at key moments of the game to keep the Sharks in the lead, and Torrey Mitchell did an excellent job responding to being scratched on Thursday night by putting in one of his better all around performances of the season. Getting rewarded at the end with an empty net goal was icing on the cake.

The top forward line was all over the Ovechkin line as well, generating numerous chances in the offensive zone. Credit should also be heaped mightily upon Dan Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who saw the lion share of their minutes against Ovechkin. Boyle was hard matched up against him in essentially a one on one role for a large portion of the tilt and came out on top.

San Jose will have two days off before embarking on a four game road trip that will take them to Minnesota, Winnipeg, Columbus, and Chicago.