Fifteen San Jose Sharks finished the evening +1 or better, five scored goals, nine had points and Anttii Niemi recorded his second consecutive shutout as the Sharks came back from the All Star Break and swamped the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets.
Last season, the Sharks came out of the break and proceeded to roll up the most points in the NHL for the rest of the season; they seemed to serve notice of plans to repeat the feat this year with a game that involved virtually every player.
The three Sharks who did not finish +1 all made physical statements, either participating in scraps or earning fighting majors in a game that featured several undercards and a main event. 10 fighting majors and three game misconduct penalties were distributed nearly evenly between the squads.
The San Jose Sharks celebrated several milestones Tuesday on the first day back from the All Star Break.
Defenseman Brent Burns returned from a leg injury to play his 500th game. Fellow defender Douglas Murray played his 400th, and Dan Boyle, the graybeard of the Sharks’ defense, became one of a very few undrafted players currently in the league to play 800 games and have a Stanley Cup ring. (Boyle, Greg DeVries, John Madden, Brian Rafalski and Martin St. Louis).
Burns made a tremendous play late in the game, coming from a full stride behind to defend a breakaway with a poke check in the crease, and Boyle was involved in a late fight with Derek Brassard, who lingered too long on the ice after Boyle finished a check.
“I fight once every two years,” said a laughing Boyle after the game, “so it doesn’t happen very often. I’m just glad I came out of it without breaking anything. When I was younger I used to do it a little more, but I’m too old for that now and it’s not part of my game anymore.”
The game started out physical, when Jared Boll took a penalty just 20 seconds for elbowing San Jose captain Joe Thornton in the head. Seven minutes later, Jim Vandermeer found an opportunity to respond and clearly won the evening’s first fight, which set a tone for the game.
“It’s not good that Jumbo took an elbow to the head,” said Sharks coach Todd McLellan, “but it did wake our group and we played after that.”
San Jose put 36 shots on net in the first period, including those blocked and near-misses. They scored two goals in each period, scored four of their six off rebounds, and scored one on the power play. Even with the game socked away late, the Sharks continued to control the play and live in front of the Columbus net.
The goals came from young and old alike, with Patrick Marleau, Thornton (2), Joe Pavelski, Jamie McGinn and Michal Handzus all putting the biscuit in the basket.
– San Jose’s power play has struggled, 17th in the league. Tuesday they had Pavelski and Boyle on point, Thornton, Marleau and Couture up front and were 1-for-3 on the man advantage.
– The penalty kill, ranked 26th in the league, was successful in its only opportunity and has now killed 41 of the last 46 penalties the Sharks have taken.
– Douglas Murray’s 400 NHL games have all come with the Sharks; he’s only the fifth blueliner to play that many games in the teal uniform.
– Thornton’s goals were # 146 and 147 as a Shark, moving him into fifth place in franchise history. His assist, the 746th of his career, tied Luc Robataille for 46th all-time in the NHL.
– The Sharks recorded 49 penalty minutes, a season-high.
– Five Sharks had multi-point games (Thornton, Handzus, Couture, McGinn and Pavelski.
– The Sharks will play 35 games in just 68 days after the break, after they played 47 in 114 days before it. They will play 17 games in the month of March, a franchise record for a calendar month.