"That's a hot pickle!" Vlasic, Sharks beat Red Wings 5-2

"He’s an offensive defenseman now."

Marc-Edouard Vlasic has long been touted by us at Fear the Fin for his near-perfect positioning and great defensive game. However, as Joe Thornton commented during a post-game interview, Vlasic’s offensive abilities were on display tonight. The normally defensive defenseman scored a goal and added three assists in a four-point night, a career high and a first for a Shark defenseman since Rob Blake.

Interestingly enough, it was eight years and day ago that the Sharks traded Miika Kiprusoff for a second round pick – the second round pick that was used to draft Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

The first period started just as the game against Phoenix six days prior left off – the Sharks couldn’t even get the puck past the red line, much less set up a cycle in the offensive zone. The Red Wings dominated the period, out-shooting the Sharks 17-6 and drawing two penalties. However, the Sharks exited the period tied with Detroit, 1-1.

Detroit’s first goal came on the power play, breaking the Sharks’ streak of eight straight penalties killed and the Wings’ streak of 0-for-16 on the power play. As Tomas Holmstrom screened Niemi, Niklas Kronwall’s shot bounced off of Dan Boyle and behind Niemi. As with most goals that deflect off of players, there was little Niemi could do about it.

However, with 11.1 seconds left in the first period, with Jason Demers off for his second penalty of the period, Vlasic dumped the puck in, which landed behind the goal line and outside of the trapezoid. Joe Thornton retrieved the puck while Kronwall peeled off, and centered it to a waiting Joe Pavelski in the slot, who did what he usually does and buried it behind Jimmy Howard.

The second period began with the Sharks killing of the remainder of Demers’s penalty. While the first eight minutes of the period featured back-and-forth play by both teams, after that the Sharks took over the game. It began with a great chance on a play by Jamie McGinn, Douglas Murray, and Torrey Mitchell; Jamie McGinn pulled a spin-o-rama deep in the Detroit zone, passed it up to Murray in the high slot, who shot it on Howard, generating a rebound that Mitchell almost put away.

Later, an odd-man rush was broken up by Joe Thornton, who used his stick to disrupt a shot by Henrik Zetterberg. Vlasic picked up the puck and dished off a breakout pass to Logan Couture. Couture, Vlasic, and Thornton broke out on a 3-on-1 rush. Couture passed the puck across the ice to Thornton, who wrested it past Howard with left in the second for San Jose’s first lead of the game.

While Detroit came back with some pressure after Thornton’s goal, the Sharks were able to pad their lead even more. Brad Winchester emulated Holmstrom, planting himself in front of Jimmy Howard, while Vlasic took the puck behind the net and scored on a wrap-around to make it 3-1. The shots were still 25-14 in favor of Detroit, but the momentum had completely shifted.

Two minutes left in the second period. At home. With the chance to win free Jack-in-the-Box tacos. That’s right – it’s Torrey Mitchell time. With left in the second period, Mitchell with a great breakout pass to McGinn, who fires it on Howard, who in turn barely redirects it past the net with his pad. Vlasic picks it up behind the net and centers it to a waiting Torrey Mitchell, who answers the crowd’s desire for free tacos and roofs it. Mitchell has scored two goals thus far this season, both goals giving Sharks fans free tacos. He is also the only Shark to score during the taco minutes.

With Ty Conklin in for Jimmy Howard, the third period saw the Sharks and the Wings trade goals. The fourth line – who had been playing well all night – chipped in the fifth and final goal for the Sharks. Andrew Murray chipped the puck past the Detroit defense, which Brad Winchester picked up and shot past Conklin. It marked the goal as a Shark for Winchester, as well as Andrew Murray’s first point as a Shark.

Detroit’s second goal came on the power play, leaving the Sharks 1-for-3 on the kill, which is hardly what they wanted after focusing on the penalty kill during practice for the past few weeks. What’s worse is that both Jason Demers and Colin White – two defensemen who had been struggling – were at least partially responsible for the goal, failing to cover Dan Cleary as he was standing in front of Niemi.

Both Demers and White had poor games tonight, with Demers having the worst of the two. He took two of the three Sharks penalties, and was responsible for the Detroit goal scored on the one penalty he didn’t take. While it could partially be explained by his lack of playing time recently, he still needs to play better, especially with Justin Braun playing so well.

Meanwhile, the fourth line was probably the best line all night. Even during the doldrums of the first period, they pushed the play towards the offensive zone, creating some of the Sharks’ best chances. They had jump all game, and played as well as they did on Opening Night. It was This was reflected in their ice time, with the line getting 10 minutes of ice time, twice as much as they usually do.

Assorted notes:

  • Joe Thornton, with two points on the night, continued his dominance against the Red Wings, much to the delight of Sharks fans everywhere.
  • Antti Niemi also continued to improve, with the only two goals against coming on the power play, and neither goal was one he should have been expected to save.
  • Despite being held off the score sheet, Justin Abdelkader was everywhere tonight.
  • After a while, the Red Wings were using the HP Pavilion boards like they would the Joe Louis Arena boards. Interesting, to say the least.