Joe Pavelski's Shootout Beats Canucks, Sharks Win Third Straight
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The Canucks lead the Western Conference with 66 points and have been one of the best, if not the best, teams to this point.
The first game may have seemed close on paper, but in reality was a lopsided affair due to a flat effort by the Sharks. Bouncing back from a six game losing streak, the Sharks knew coming into this game that this was a much needed win.
The Sharks would attempt to match their season high three game win streak to put together a surge towards the playoffs.
The trio of Heatley, Marleau and Thornton are beginning to put things together, having strong games versus both the Blues and Coyotes.
"Pucks are starting to go in the net," Heatley said. "I think we're playing better as a team."
The Phoenix game marked Patrick Marleau's 1000th game, making him one of the youngest to do so with one team.
In game with Canuck/Blackhawk subplots and characters from their playoff series last year, this game was sure to have a playoff feel.
The Sharks played well tonight, looking much like the team from last year's playoff run at certain times. Against some questionable non-calls, the Sharks and Canucks went back and forth in as entertaining of a 2-1 game you will see.
New forwards Kyle Wellwood and Ben Eager would make their debuts in Teal, playing the third line two days after being acquired.
Vancouver would get the game off with a strong effort, out-shooting the Sharks early on. A turnover at the Sharks blue line would result in a Vancouver goal at 8:52 of the first period.
In a reversal of roles, Henrik Sedin would open scoring in the first from great feed from his twin Daniel.
The Sharks would go into the locker room outshot 17-10 in the first frame and in the game due to some sprawling saves by Niemi. But a completely different Shark team would emerge from the locker room after the first intermission.
Turning the tables, the Sharks pressed the action and imposed their will, backing the Canucks deep in their zone for long stretches. Dictating the play at regular intervals, the Sharks had some huge scoring chances only to be rebuffed by Luongo.
Logan Couture would respond for the Sharks scoring his 21st goal after a stripping Ehrhoff of the puck in the Vancouver zone. Couture would backhand in the rebound at 6:14 of the second period.
The second period was all Sharks, who carried play throughout most of the frame. These are the Sharks from last year's playoff run, showing hustle and winning battles.
Still however, the late period mistakes continued to rear their ugly head on a Vlasic turnover late. Vlasic would turn the puck over with just five seconds left in the second period and his indecision in that scenario was horrible.
Vlasic would be stripped behind the net by Jeff Tambellini and Niemi saved his bacon, stopping Daniel Sedin on a great scoring chance.
The Canucks fared only marginally better in the third period, and almost completely fell apart halfway through the third. A wild flurry of Sharks chances in the Vancouver zone for the better part of two minutes had the Canucks scrambling.
The Canucks would finally clear and get a change after Burrows would chip it deep. After the horrible non-offsides call at 6:41 of the third, the Sharks finally got a line change.
Luongo stopped the Sharks with some huge saves and the scoring chances the Sharks generated all night were high quality. The Sharks could have easily had three more goals without the efforts of the Canuck goaltender, including a breakaway Joe Thornton chance later in the third period.
The extra frame would present the Sharks with an extra challenge as Dan Boyle would be called for an undisciplined penalty. The Sharks would kill off the 4-3 power play and Niemi would make some huge saves to force the shootout.
Pavelski would net the game winner on the shootout and Niemi would shut the door on Ryan Kesler to secure a huge victory.
Stars of the Game
Logan Couture: Couture would capitalize on a Christian Ehrhoff turnover committed right in front of Luongo. Couture would knock in his own shot after Luongo had made the initial save.
What else can you say about this kid and his nose for the puck?
He also had a strong game on the draw, taking 75 percent of his faceoffs in the Sharks defensive zone. The coaching staff trusts him in some big situations, and that's going to pay off come playoff time.
Couture would open the first PK shift in OT, playing the important point position.
Joe Pavelski: Little Joe is starting to get his legs back after missing some significant time and continues to make some terrific plays. Pavelski had a big impact on the breakout, setting up some great chances in the second.
Hopefully, his shootout winner will help spark his game and bring out the best of Joe Pavelski again.
Antti Niemi: During a stretch starting at 10 in the second, Niemi was absolutely stellar, stopping seven straight shots. The line of Couture, Heatley and Setoguchi would get caught on the wrong end of a long shift and the Canucks took advantage.
The Canucks held the zone for over two minutes and Niemi stoned them cold on multiple chances by the Canuck top line.
"Nemo stole the show," Pavelski said in postgame interviews. "They had some good looks."
Niemi stopped 36 shots through overtime and stopped Mason Raymond, Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler for the two points.
He was huge all night on some quality scoring chances from top flight players in their stadium and deserved the win.
The second period: The Sharks took it to the Canucks in the second period, out-shooting Vancouver to the tune of 25-9.
Setting a new franchise record for shots on goal on the road in regulation, the Sharks simply imposed their will on the road. Without Roberto Luongo's heroics, the game could have been completely different for the Canucks.
Defensive zone coverage: The Sharks did well supporting Niemi tonight, protecting him from rebounds and second or third chances.
It clearly allowed Niemi to play his game and play strong, giving the guys in front more confidence.
Sharks resilience: The Sharks overcame bad break after bad break, with some shoddy officiating and non-calls being a primary cause.
I guess I can understand missing the call after Joe Thornton was clipped by a Burrows high stick. Guys bleed randomly on the ice all the time, didn't you hear? but missing offsides and icing calls? Really?
What Didn't Work
Line changes: The Sharks did a bad job, even for a road team in getting the matchups they wanted tonight.
Too many times we got stuck on long shifts and gave up multiples chances due to fatigue.
Dan Boyle: He had a bad game, committing some bad turnovers in the second and third periods a disturbing trend for him of late.
Punching Ryan Kesler in OT was uncharacteristic of Dan Boyle, but the team was able to rally.
He is carrying the load of too many minutes, and sadly the team isn't in a position to give him a break.
Officiating: Normally I don't like to complain, but last night's game was poorly called, despite the game having a playoff feel.
Multiple times during the game Rob Martell let the game go beyond a "let the boys go" type of situation, a shame for both teams.
Keith Ballard's cross-check to Dany Heatley in the back in front of Luongo was a horrible non-call. With just a minute left, the Sharks were taking play to the Canucks and Heatley missed a great scoring chance there.
Burrows not called for the double minor late in the third is also a huge non-call, it was really bad last night.
The Sharks moved into ninth place in the Western Conference with their third win in a row. The Sharks will need to get some momentum put together through a brutal February road schedule.
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