Sharks win second straight with a 3-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers
The Sharks have made a habit of doing things the hard way this season, but a strong overall effort tonight was able to overcome a shorthanded goal against and another closely fought third period.
Patrick Marleau scored the power play game winner, Martin Havlat busted out of his scoring slump, and Joe Thornton potted his sixth of the year in the Sharks 3-2 win. Team defense as a whole was quite sound outside of their matchup with Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, as Antti Niemi was only forced to make 23 saves during the night.
"We need some wins. We need to get a string here going, and we realize we need to take care of our home games," Sharks Captain Joe Thornton said. "It was a good two points."
San Jose would strike first, taking advantage of a poor Edmonton Oilers line change. After gaining possession of the puck in the neutral zone the previously snake-bitten Martin Havlat would break into the zone with team slump buster Michal Handzus. Handzus played give and go with Havlat as the desperate Khabibulin tried to keep his body in front of the puck. A quick touch pass from Handzus would make those efforts moot, as Havlat cleanly received the puck and lifted it into the gaping net.
Havlat, who came into tonight with 61 shots on net but merely one goal, is the midst of one of the worst goal production runs in his career. In the past we haved called that "unsustainable", as shooting 1.6% from the field is a percentage usually reserved for defenseman. Playing with Handzus definitely hasn't hurt either; Handzus has helped Jamie McGinn reignite his scoring touch as of late, and he spoke about how the third line's chemistry has begun to turn into tangible results.
"We've been pretty good the last couple of games. I know we have another gear," Handzus said. "It's all about the chemistry. We've been talking a lot on the bench and nnow we know where everybody is going."
The Oilers would strike back late in the period however, as 21 year old Jordan Eberle gave San Jose a taste of what they will be dealing with on a regular basis next year when realignment puts Edmonton into Conference A with San Jose.
Eberle would dance around Colin White, making about three moves on his way from the right circle to the left post, and eventually slip the puck past the outstretched pad of Antti Niemi. The line of Eberle, Hall, and Nugent-Hopkins was the most consistent lines offensively for the Oilers, giving the Sharks a fair deal of trouble throughout the night.
"If you're fan of hockey [you like watching those guys play]. They're a great threesome to watch," Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan said. "They're young. They're excited to play and very gifted. If you look at that goal Eberle scored, it was just a flat-out skilled goal."
The Sharks would get an early power play in the second period, but as has been the case with their special teams as of late, the results were less than spectacular. After Havlat was unable to handle a Jason Demers drop pass at the blueline, Ryan Jones came down on a breakaway and put one short-side over Niemi's glove.
San Jose would tie the game at two later in the period after coincidental minors put the game into 4v4 play. A beautiful high cycle in the zone got the Oilers defense all sorts of discombobulated in their own end, leaving a slew of open ice in front of Khabibulin. Marc-Edouard Vlasic would connect with Joe Thornton, who slide the puck across the line for the score.
San Jose would get a power play at the end of the second period that seemed to shift the momentum of their special teams unit. Although they couldn't capitalize, they generated numerous chances and gained some valuable momentum heading into the final frame. When Theo Peckham went off for interference at the 5:59 mark, San Jose would cash in on just their third power play of December.
This time it was Patrick Marleau who did the damage, receiving a cross crease pass from Joe Pavelski that he banged in short-side. Jamie McGinn, who has begun to see more power play time, also recorded an assist on the play.
"We're trying to simplify things and get shots through and get [bodies] to the net," Marleau said. "It's nice to finally get one on the power play."
All in all it was a solid effort from San Jose, who have now won two straight games where they had to mount a comeback. This month has been a difficult one for the Sharks, but six points in their last four games is a sign that things may be turning around. Before this current homestand we stated the importance of picking up points before a road heavy schedule in January and February, and the Sharks have handled their business by going 2-0 thus far.
The injury to Havlat, who left the game in the third period with a left leg ailment, is a concern heading forward. Furthermore, the penalty kill's ability to use tonight as a stepping stone to success is something that will be born out in time-- the Sharks received a slight boost when they went to the 1-3 earlier this year, but the results slowly waned as the freshness of that implementation faded with time. Continuing to take away the pass through the box will be key, as both Colorado and Edmonton were clearly looking for that play when on the man advantage.
San Jose will have three days off before playing the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday, but Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan still sees issues that his team will need to correct before feeling completely comfortable with the way things are headed.
"Again, it's a win, a lot of positive things. We overcame a sloppy power play, a shorthanded goal. We won the third period, so we'll take some real good things out of the game tonight."
"But we'll continue to work on others."