The San Jose Sharks and Philadelphia Flyers only meet twice each season, and the lack of familiarity was evident throughout the contest. The Sharks went with backup goalie Aaron Dell for only his fifth start of the season and he continued his stellar play in relief of Martin Jones with a 21-save performance.
The Flyers came into the game against the Sharks just 1-3-1 in their last five contests and Philadelphia would continue to look for its footing following a 10-game winning streak. The Sharks had other plans and matched their season-high win streak of four games and Dell got his first shutout in the NHL.
The Sharks were coming off a lackluster effort against the Anaheim Ducks earlier in the week.
Early in the first period, the ice was firmly slanted towards Steve Mason, who had to make a pair of big right pad saves on Melker Karlsson and later on Timo Meier to keep the Sharks off the board in the early going. The Flyers would get a scare when Mason’s stick would get tied up with a Sharks forward and then a shot hit his exposed blocker hand during an Ivan Provorov penalty. After a lengthy delay, play would resume with Mason remaining in net.
But the Sharks would break through and open the scoring on that same power play. Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s shot from the point would be stopped by Mason and Kevin Labanc’s swat at the rebound as well before Patrick Marleau would get the power-play goal for his tenth marker of the campaign. The Flyers would threaten late in the period during a man-advantage with Joe Thornton in the box for tripping but Aaron Dell would keep Philadelphia frustrated.
Back-up netminder Anthony Stolarz would tend the twine after the presumed Mason hand injury kept him from continuing. The play would be much more even in the distribution compared to the first frame. Both teams would trade chances and power plays but now with both backups in goal, neither team would find the back of the net.
For the Sharks the best chance would be in the latter half of the middle period when Joonas Donskoi and Timo Meier would go in two-on-one but Stolarz 6’6 frame would fill all the net and make the save on the dangerous chance.
Boy that 2nd period was snooze-tastic #sjsharks
— Ben from the Circling The Cup #sjsharks Podcast (@circlingthecup) December 31, 2016
The Sharks jump came back in the early parts of the third period.
Patrick Marleau would continue a strong performance when a wrap-around attempt on Stolarz had a chance, but the right skate would get to the post before Marleau could deposit the puck in the net. That would start off a frenzy at the Flyers net as Kevin Labanc would get a number of whacks with Stolarz down but Stolarz would keep the Sharks off the board since coming into the game.
Claude Giroux would have the best chance of the night for the Flyers. His one-time would beat Aaron Dell but ring off the iron, leaving the Flyers still searching for a first goal against the Sharks backup with six minutes to play.
Justin Braun would finally get a puck past Stolarz as Joe Pavelski would send a backhanded saucer pass over three Flyers’ sticks to hit Braun in stride for the second goal of the night for San Jose.
Late in the game, Marc-Edouard Vlasic would catch a Shane Gostisbehere in the face. He’d eventually be helped off the ice with a towel to his face, leaving a lot of blood behind. It was a scary ending to what otherwise was a rock-solid Sharks victory to keep first place in the Pacific Division.
Patrick Marleau (12) (Power Play) Assisted by Kevin Labanc and Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Justin Braun (2) Assisted by Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau
THW Three Stars
First Star: Aaron Dell (21 saves, first NHL shutout)
Second Star: Patrick Marleau (Goal, Assist)
Third Star: Ivan Provorov (24:00 Time-on-ice, 3 shots)
NEXT UP – Sharks
San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings
Staples Center – 7:30 PM PST on Saturday, December 31, 2016
Broadcast Channels: CSN-CA, FS-W
October 12, 2016 – Sharks 2 Kings 1
November 30, 2016 – Sharks 4 Kings 1
NEXT UP – Flyers
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Anaheim Ducks
Honda Center – 5:00 PM PST on Sunday, January 1, 2017
Broadcast Channels: PT25, CSNP
October 20, 2016 – Ducks 3 Flyers 2