The San Jose Sharks hosted a rare Friday evening game in February.
Rare for two reasons: Most of their home games are Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and they spend most of their Februarys on the road every year.
That is because the SAP Tennis Open uses the HP Pavilion for two weeks every February. Because NHL schedules have most of a team's road games being either the first or second game of back-to-backs (San Jose has 25 such road games this season), the Sharks enter every February with fewer games played than most of the league.
That is why after just four wins in their last 10 games, the Sharks had to beat the Chicago Blackhawks. Trouble was that with six straight losses of their own, the 2010 Stanley Cup Champions were at least as desperate. At least the Sharks were in control of their division—Chicago was fourth in theirs.
The Sharks came out of the gate dominating, putting three pucks past goalie Corey Crawford. The second one instead became an interference penalty even though it was Crawford who came out and made contact with Patrick Marleau.
The third was after a scrum near the boards in which Chicago received a questionable extra penalty. Penalties were a big part of the first period, resulting in 28 PIMs and both Sharks goals.
In a less emotional second period (just one minor penalty), Chicago took over the game. They out-shot the Sharks 17-3 and tied the game up before a Joe Thornton pass deflecting off the stick of Dylan Olsen once again gave the Sharks the lead.
They continued to dominate after the intermission and re-tied the score. That is when Jamie McGinn took matters into his own hands, literally. Not literally as most people use it—as an emphasis to a figurative statement—literally literally.
He started with his fists, energizing a flat Sharks team with a bout with Bryan Bickell 3:03 after his tying marker. He ended it with great hands on a power play goal, pushing the puck to his forehand before snapping it past Crawford from a tough angle.
Because of the long lapse of emotion, the Blackhawks out-shot the Sharks for the third time in four meetings this season, 33-27. (San Jose has only been out-shot eight times in their other 48 games.) It would have been worse if not for the Sharks registering 25 blocks to 13 for the Blackhawks.
San Jose also registered seven more hits, won four more faceoffs, had an extra takeaway but five more giveaways.
The win enabled the Sharks to keep their NHL Pacific rivals (whose recent successes are outlined at that link) at bay. An tough road trip—nine games over 15 days involving more than 15,000 miles of travel—begins Sunday in St. Louis, and turning those games in hand into points could secure a fifth straight division title.
But what is their recipe for success?