(SAN JOSE, Calif.) Dr. Pavelski, meet Mr. Hyde.
The San Jose Sharks were concerned about being flat coming off the All-Star break. They had good reason to be.
They played so badly for the first 39 minutes of the game, Coach Todd McLellan changed goaltenders, pulling Anttii Niemi and giving Alex Stalock his first NHL experience with San Jose trailing 3-0.
Stalock won’t soon forget what he saw unfold in front of him. His new teammates protected him much better than they did Niemi, as he faced just nine shots in 29-plus minutes (Niemi saw 27 in about the same amount of time). Meanwhile, his mates put 20 shots on net in the final 22 minutes of the game, scoring every way possible – power play, even strength, short-handed and empty-net, as the Sharks stormed back for a highly improbable 5-3 win.
“(I’ll remember) the first 39 minutes,” McLellan said. “If we leave here patting ourselves on our backs, we’ve got huge problems. I was really disappointed in our group tonight. The lack of drive and the lack of passion, basically, to come out and play. It was the last thing I expected.
“I do give them credit. They found a way to dig in and come back, but that’s not going to happen 31 more times, so we’d better find a way to bring it starting tomorrow. If we don’t we’ll be digging our own grave.”
Joe Pavelski scored the first two goals, starting the comeback with eight seconds remaining in the second period. Both his goals were the old-fashioned, “old-time hockey” type, as he got to loose pucks around the crease and put in rebounds. The second goal, which made it a game, came just 1:32 after the first, but there was an intermission between.
“We had gotten outplayed bad enough that we had a reality check,” said Kyle Wellwood, who scored the tying goal at 5:32 of the third. “Coach had a really good speech where he said we were just flat being outplayed, and we shouldn’t be that bad.”
They were THAT bad, but Pavelski flipped the switch, and it stayed on for the rest of the contest.
Wellwood’s goal was his first in the NHL this season and was also the product of being in the right place, near the net. He bounced the puck off the ice, but Bryzgalov got his glove on it. However, the netminder could not control the puck, which squirted into the air, and Wellwood spanked it into the net in mid-air to tie the game.
And when you thought you’d seen everything, Patty Marleau, who was honored before the game and presented with a silver stick by GM Doug Wilson for playing 1000 games in Sharks livery, picked Keith Yandle’s pocket at center ice. Yandle, who leads all defensemen in scoring, lost the puck and then his stick as Marleau blew past him on a one-on-zero short-handed breakaway and roofed the go-ahead goal at 13:55.
Even trailing at that point, the Coyotes were only able to muster three shots in the final six minutes of play and surrendered an empty-net goal to Joe Thornton for the final tally. The completed comeback marked just the second win all year for the Sharks when trailing after two periods, lifting their record in that situation to 2-12-1.
San Jose embarks on a season-long seven-game road trip beginning in Anaheim tomorrow night. They will know whether they are contenders or pretenders by the next time they see their home locker room.