The San Jose Sharks didn’t get the win against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but they made their point. They came into the SAP Center on Jan. 15 and won 2-1 in overtime, but the Sharks picked up a point against one of the Eastern Conference’s most talented teams and fared far better than they did the last time they played Pittsburgh. Goals have been hard to find for San Jose the past few games, but the Sharks are playing intense hockey.
Sharks Handled Penguins Much Better This Time
Athletes don’t want to be embarrassed, so it was no surprise that the Sharks came out aggressive against the Penguins after what happened on Jan. 2 in Pittsburgh.
The Penguins scored six times in the first period on their way to an 8-5 win, a game that ranks as one of the lowest moments of the season for San Jose. The rematch at SAP Center was a completely different contest.
The Sharks controlled the first six minutes, going after rookie goaltender Louis Domingue, who made his first NHL start. The pressure paid off 7:01 into the first period when Erik Karlsson sent an extraordinary spinning pass across the middle to Rudolfs Balcers, who tipped the puck over Domingue’s glove for a 1-0 lead.
Kris Letang tied it up for the Penguins about four minutes later, and the Sharks had plenty of opportunities to put this one away in regulation. The one play that may keep San Jose coach Bob Boughner awake at night came early in the second period. Noah Gregor was wide open in the slot and had a point-blank opportunity, but Domingue was able to knock away the puck.
The Penguins didn’t need much time once it got to overtime, with Jake Guentzel scoring on an assist from Sidney Crosby 37 seconds into OT.
“We did some good things, but the only thing we didn’t do was score,” San Jose coach Bob Boughner said. “A lot of our guys are snake bit. We had guys in front of the net but we’re not putting them in. We had 41 shots, tried to make it hard on their goalie, just not a lot of puck luck.”
Ferraro Continues to Be San Jose’s Best Defenseman
Mario Ferraro once again stood on as the Sharks’ best blueliner. As a part of San Jose’s top defensive duo with Brent Burns, Ferraro was all over the ice against the Penguins. He broke up plays, put his stick on pucks, and made a general nuisance of himself. Ferraro was one of the major reasons why the Penguins had a difficult time getting into a rhythm in the first period, and never really operated as smoothly as they often do.
And he played better against the New York Rangers in the San Jose 3-0 loss on Jan. 13 and urged his teammates not to get distracted by the recent lack of offensive production.
“We have to stay positive,” Ferraro said. “We played a really good game tonight. There will always be struggles to put the puck in. We’ll obviously study on ways to improve.”
Reimer Returns, Hill Remains in Net
Veteran goalie James Reimer was activated for the Sharks for the first time in five games. He was on the injured reserve list with a lower-body injury.
Reimer backed up Adin Hill, who has claimed the starting role with his consistent play and a 3-1-1 record while Reimer was out. During that time, he has not allowed more than two goals in a game and was again strong against the Penguins. He had 25 saves against Pittsburgh.
Reimer had a rough few outings before his injury, but he’ll get his chance to show that he is fully recovered. Overall, he has been the Sharks’ best goalie this season, but Hill has made this a very interesting situation for Boughner. Of course, defense and goaltending haven’t been the problems.
The Sharks have scored just one goal in the past two games, but are beginning to finally get healthy. The chances are there, they just need to finish.
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Scott Linesburgh has been a sports writer for 35 years, and has spent more than 15 years as a pro hockey beat writer. He has covered some of the biggest sporting events, including the Super Bowl and Indianapolis 500. A native of Long Island, N.Y. who grew up as an Islander fan, Scott cover the San Jose Sharks for THW, and is always looking for the stories beyond the box scores.