Sharks Bounce Back in Big Way

The San Jose Sharks answered their critics—thanks for taking my phone call, guys—with arguably the most dominating performance of the season Tuesday night by beating the team that led the NHL in points on their own ice, 5-2.

Here are some of the things that made this one all the more impressive:

  1. It was only the third win for the Sharks on the road against a team that is currently in the top eight in their conference in point percentage.
  2. It was the most lopsided loss of the season for Boston, who had not lost by more than two goals all season.
  3. It was the first time the Bruins lost a game in regulation after taking a lead into the third period.
  4. Boston came in hot, going 4-0-1 in their last five.
  5. The Sharks were coming off a three-game losing streak and had not played well, going 2-1-2, since beating Detroit before the All Star break.
  6. San Jose racked up five penalties to one for the Bruins, but their fourth-ranked power play shut down the league’s third-ranked penalty kill, including for back-to-back penalties that resulted in 52 seconds of five-on-three.
  7. San Jose was out-shot 13-6 and out-scored 2-1 in the first period and was being outplayed through the first half of the second period.
  8. The Sharks dominated the face-off circle 33-15, a very difficult task on the road. Joe Thornton won 10 of 12.

At the mid-point, something gave way and the Sharks went from frantically trying to keep a lid on the Bruins to taking over. By the end of the second, while still down 2-1, San Jose had closed the gap in shots on goal to 23-19. In the third period, they tallied 12 shots and held the puck so much that Boston managed just seven.

San Jose turned the game around with physical play, out-hitting the smaller Bruins 39-25. And it was not just Douglas Murray doing the dirty work. Skill players like Patrick Marleau, who led the team with six hits, and Devin Setoguchi (five) paced a line-up that featured a dozen players with more than one hit.

It may have been that physical play that led to Petteri Nokelainen and Chuck Kobasew getting hurt. Nokelainen took an eye injury that sent him to the hospital, and the short bench most likely contributed to the momentum swing.

Boston opened the scoring with Milan Lucic cleaning up a rebound less than four minutes in during a mad scramble in front of the net. Marc Savard and Dennis Wideman got the assists.

The Sharks scored next on their only power play, with Ryane Clowe attacking the zone and getting the puck back to Marc-Eduoard Vlasic on the point. Rob Blake took the cross-ice pass, slapping a point-shot that deflected off a Boston defender into the net 3:20 later. The goal was originally given to Joe Pavelski in front of the net, but it officials ruled he did not tip the shot on the way to the goal.

But Boston answered back with just over five minutes left in the first. Lucic made the play in the neutral zone to start the rush, passed it to Nokelainen, and then pounced on a rebound of Nokelainen’s shot on the resulting even-man rush.

Milan Lucic Bruins
(Icon SMI)

That was it for the scoring until the final stanza, and that score once again was started with Clowe bringing the puck in deep before passing back to the point. This time it was Ehrhoff sending the shot in; Marleau put home the rebound.

But the Sharks were not done. Marleau started a scoring chance which led to a feed from behind the net by Setoguchi that ricocheted off Joe Thornton’s skate with 10:12 to go.

San Jose added another with 12:32 to go, and once again Clowe got it started. This time, he passed the puck into the zone to Dan Boyle, who drew a defender to him and did a 180, backhand drop-pass to Milan Michalek, who roofed a wrist shot to the corner on Tim Thomas’ glove side.

The Sharks added an empty net goal by Mike Grier with 29 seconds left, assisted by Marleau and Tomas Plihal.

My three stars:

  1. Patrick Marleau: the big game-tying goal and two assists to go with a plus-three rating, six hits, a blocked shot, and three of four in the faceoff circle.
  2. Milan Lucic: two early goals on two shots, and two blocked shots and five hits.
  3. Evgeni Nabokov: made three or four circus saves among his 28 to keep the team in the game until his teammates could win it. I wanted to put Clowe in the three stars, but there were just too many deserving players.