Coming into this matchup things just seemed too perfect, too right. The San Jose Sharks had just come off a 5-2 dismantling of the New Jersey Devils and were hosting the Ducks. The Ducks have been a struggling team who had lost some pieces in the offseason but still sported a top line among the best in the NHL.
The preview for this game can be found here.
Sharks fans need no reminder of how efficient this line can be, with only 2008 as a painful reminder.
Even with that talent the Ducks limped into the Tank as the second to last most penalized team in the NHL, their 4-6-1 record was no surprise.
The Sharks have been deadly on the power play this season, almost to a fault as the even strength scoring had been so lacking.
Anaheim has struggled on the road this year posting a 2-5-0 road record and looking flat overall.
The Sharks have dominated the Ducks recently, winning eight of 10 and 11 of the last 14 meetings between the two teams.
Antero Niittymaki would get the start again and has been the stronger of the two new faces in goal for the Sharks. Having said that though, the defensive play has been poor to say the least this season and had many fans wondering if goaltending was the true issue.
And thus the stage was set, the writing on the wall for an almost surefire letdown for the Sharks. After all, this is still the NHL and wins don't come that easily...do they?
Turns out any fear of a letdown was premature and unwarranted as the Sharks completely and wholly dismantled the Ducks for the first two periods. The ice just seemed to be tilted toward the Sharks attacking zone, and the onslaught started early.
Dany Heatley would record his first goal of the night at :36 of the first period after a Boyle shot from the point and a nifty feed from Joe Thornton.
Just under four minutes later, Logan Couture would keep the zone and chip the puck down low to Thornton. Jumbo would attempt to setup Heatley with a pass through the slot only to have the rebound skip out to Couture's tape. Logan would not miss, shooting the puck past McElhinney to push the Shark advantage to 2-0.
Brookbank and Ryane Clowe would throw down at 7:01 of the first period, the beginning of many tussles Saturday night.
The Sharks would outshoot the Ducks by the tune of 16 to 4 in the first period, and the second period would be no kinder to Anaheim. And again, it would start early as Joe Pavelski would take the puck from out of the corner, skate toward the net and dish a pretty pass to Heatley at 2:08 for his second tally.
Two more fights would break out, between Mayers and Voros and surprisingly Nichol and Chipcurra would exchange knuckle imprints at 2:10 in the second period.
The puck would deflect off of Wallin's skate at 12:32 into the back of the net, and after a brief video review was ruled a goal.
Patrick Marleau would pick the puck up after Boyle chipped it clear on a Teemu Selanne missed shot and skate it out. Marleau would then simply skate around Andreas Lilja and shoot it five hole for the fifth goal of the night. Lilja was invited to the Sharks camp on a tryout basis and was not offered a tender.
The Ducks were still sleepwalking through the game as they had just 11 shots on goal to that point. The Sharks were simply dominating the Ducks and Anaheim looked as though they had no answer.
Assistant coach Matt Shaw would speak at intermission about keeping the pressure on despite being up late and coming into the third frame there was still plenty to work on.
Questionable calls had littered the Devils matchup late with the Sharks up big. The trend would continue on the Sharks first minor penalty at 4:08 of the third period, when Demers was called for a ticky tack interference call.
Selanne would shoot the puck from the point, and Getzlaf would slam the Ducks first goal of the game home at just 12 seconds later on the power play. The Ducks 10th ranked power play would jumpstart the Anaheim team, spoiling Niittymaki's shutout bid.
The Sharks had undoubtedly heard from coaches about the lack of focus and energy when having a large lead.
Scott Nichol and Ryan Carter would tussle shortly thereafter in Nichol's second fight of the game. Nichol continues to be a spark plug and play with a edge despite his diminutive stature.
Douglas Murray would step up at the blueline as Kyle Chipchura would skate in and attempt to hack the puck down low. Murray would deliver a punishing blow bringing the San Jose faithful to their feet in appreciation.
Voros would challenge the big Swede a few minutes later, and while Murray seemed reluctant on behalf on his team he finally did drop the gloves. Voros would prove no match for the big man as Murray landed some decent blows before slamming Voros to the ice.
It looked like the Sharks were sending a message to try and stem the tide of penalties and poor play when up late.
Sadly, all of that message sending to the Ducks resulted in a horrible play by Niclas Wallin who would be called for boarding at 10:22. Vlasic would come too far out to support the play along the boards on the ensuing power play leaving Boyle alone with Perry and Getzlaf on the doorstep.
Corey Perry would add another goal on a two on one advantage down low to make the score 5-2. The Ducks looked like someone had finally informed them there was a NHL regulation game going on in the building.
The Ducks began taking the game to the Sharks, and the Ducks enjoyed a 12-3 shot advantage with only five minutes remaining.
Logan Couture would make another horrible lazy play as he was called for tripping at 17:13 on Parros. The Sharks would kill off the ensuing penalty and miss a few cracks at the open net to meekly finish the game.
Was a difficult choice to leave Niittymaki out of the three stars this game, despite probably being bored out of his mind the first two periods. But when push came to shove, Antero played remarkably well even after the Sharks left him out to dry on several occassions.
It's early but Shark fans have to be impressed with the keeper and his composure throughout the game.
Stars of the Game
Third star: Dan Boyle
Dan Boyle had a tough going of it this season, especially in Sweden where a pair of the defenseman's mistakes would result in direct goals against. It didn't get much better upon returning to the States as he would continue to make some odd mistakes that were not characteristic of No. 22.
He would bounce back with a superior effort tonight, and his play was key to several goals including the Marleau goal. He came up with a huge block on Jason Blake, stopping a sure fire goal and contributed an all around game that isn't reflected in pretty stats.
Second star: Joe Thornton
The captain continued his torrid start to the season, chipping in three assists and being a factor all night long. The top line is playing with a great energy level and confidence and it mostly stems from Joe Thornton's strong play.
First Star: Dany Heatley
Heatley finally got on track netting two goals in the victory. Heatley has played well this season, and when he's not scoring he's acted as a good setup man. Heatley was the second highest skater in terms of time on ice and even though he did slow a tad late in the third, he carried the play and set the tempo throughout the game.
Goat of the Game
It's hard to nitpick about a 5-2 victory, given how badly whoever was dressed up as the Anaheim Ducks played. But a lingering concern has to be the Shark turnovers in their own zone and the late penalties are a ongoing concern if one can call it that.
It really seemed from the third period onward that the Sharks were just trying too hard to get Heatley the hat trick. Don't think the Ducks didn't notice as they put pressure on the Sharks from their second goal onward.
Overconfidence? Taking the other team too lightly? Sloppy and unfocused play? Take your pick or make your own excuse, the Sharks just haven't been the same team with a big lead in the third period.
Several times late in the third, shifts would lag on too long and Sharks began to take tired lazy penalties. It's great that it's happening now so that the coaching staff can drill discipline and focus into the Sharks.
The Sharks travel to Minnesota to take on the Wild next Tuesday, and that leaves plenty of time for the team to focus and review their mistakes.
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