San Jose Sharks Take 5 of Possible 6 Points to Start Spring

MJ Kasprzak@BayAreaCheezhedSenior Writer IIMarch 28, 2011

Patrick Marleau leads the Sharks in goals (33) and game-winners (9)
Patrick Marleau leads the Sharks in goals (33) and game-winners (9)Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The San Jose Sharks have the biggest break of the season in their schedule at the end of March, so every point is critical in a hotly-contested Pacific Division race.

The Sharks captured five of six after the Vernal Equinox, but also got help from some division rivals' struggles.

On Wednesday, San Jose hosted the desperate Calgary Flames. The 6-3 win all but knocked their foes out of the race—Calgary may be only one point out, but they've played three games more than eighth-seeded Chicago.

The Sharks took just three minutes to get on the scoreboard, with Torrey Mitchell continuing his hot play.

The Flames answered, but the Sharks took the lead again thanks to Andrew Desjardins' first NHL goal.

When the Flames countered again, Patrick Marleau added two more tallies in the first to give the Sharks the lead for good.

Late in the second, just 150 seconds after the Flames closed the gap to one, Mitchell added another to put the game away.

A soft goal in the third period by Logan Couture ended all doubt.

For the game, the Sharks out-shot the Flames 38-25 largely because they controlled the puck.

San Jose had a 48-28 edge in the faceoff circle; while because of this possession they turned the puck over more (15-9), they still managed to steal it more (17-8).

They were out-hit 34-21, but took one less penalty and missed only one more shot while blocking nearly as many (16-18) as their less prolific-shooting foes.

Things were very different on the following night against the Kings.

The two teams were scoreless in the first period, but the Sharks got a tally in the second, just 35 seconds in. The Kings answered twice, however, as they out-shot the Sharks 14-4 in the second and 38-28 for the game.

Yet, San Jose managed just four more blocks and missed the net four more times while committing two more giveaways (both teams had three takeaways).

Still, the Sharks managed to tie the game on a late goal by Patrick Marleau, only to see a dumb Joe Thornton penalty lead to a second power-play goal for LA. But Marleau wasn't done—scoring a goal with Antti Niemi (playing in his 29th straight game) pulled and four seconds left.

However, Los Angeles is one of the best teams in the shootout and got the extra point.

Yet, considering the Sharks were out-performed in every statistical category (winning six fewer faceoffs and taking two more penalties despite registering seven fewer hits), coming away with one point was a success.

The much more important game was on Saturday in Glendale, Arizona against the second-place Coyotes and, to be sure, the Sharks came out with a better effort.

In a game in which at least two more penalties could have been called on each team, neither scored on their power play (Sharks 0-1, Coyotes 0-2). However, for the fourth consecutive time this season, San Jose tallied four goals and gave up no more than three (one).

The Sharks' goals were scored by Couture, Ryane Clowe (who had a Gordie Howe hat-trick of sorts, although he was not considered the winner of the fight with Paul Bissonnette), Joe Pavelski and Couture again.

Mikkel Boedker scored the lone goal for Phoenix.

The Sharks out-shot the Coyotes 32-27 and missed five fewer, while blocking only two fewer. They had fewer giveaways (2-6), more takeaways (4-2) and more faceoffs won (29-25), but were out-hit 34-20.

San Jose is off until Thursday, when they host the Dallas Stars for the last time. Dallas is the only division rival that has the edge on San Jose in the season series, going 3-1-1 to San Jose's 2-1-2 thus far.