NHL: San Jose Sharks Back on Road, Back to Winning Ways

MJ Kasprzak@BayAreaCheezhedSenior Writer IIDecember 23, 2009

CHICAGO - DECEMBER 22: Joe Thornton #19 of the San Jose Sharks flips over Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Chicago Blackhawks in an attempt to get the puck at the United Center on December 22, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. The Sharks defeated the Blackhawks 3-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The San Jose Sharks have responded to their five-game losing streak with a three-game winning streak. The key may be in getting away from home.

In San Jose's longest homestand of the season to date, they were 1-1-3. In the three road games since, they are 2-1 after winning on back-to-back nights in Dallas and Chicago.

However, the trend began to turn around at home against the rival Anaheim Ducks. In an almost polar opposite of the Sharks, Anaheim had spent most of the year struggling but had been playing well of late.

Coming off a five-day layoff in which the team finally got to rest and practice, the Sharks were understandably rusty. Through the first 12 minutes, San Jose was outshot five to three and whistled for two penalties to Anaheim's one.

However, in the next eight minutes, the Sharks peppered the goal with 15 shots, held the Ducks to four and drew the only other penalty of the period. They did not score, but carried the momentum into the second period, where the outshot the Ducks 11-6 and outscored them 2-0.

Ryan Getzlaf scored a power play goal just 34 seconds into the third period, and the Sharks faced a gutcheck they have failed all too often in past years and the previous five games. But instead, they responded with sustained play for the remainder of the period that limited the Ducks to five more shots while the Sharks tallied two more goals on their eight.

San Jose dominated this game in most categories, generating 37 shots overall (13 on four power plays even though two were under a minute long) to Anaheim's 21, and with Evgeni Nabokov making 20 saves to Jean-Sebastien Giguere's 33.

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The Sharks did not play again until four days later in Dallas, and the Stars skaters outplayed San Jose's for the first two periods. Between sustained pressure and some questionable officiating, the home team had all five power plays of the game (the first time since 2002 the Sharks have not had a single man-advantage in a game).

Dallas outshot San Jose 30-18 through two periods and yet the Sharks scored twice in the second period to take the lead. Then just as they had while hosting Anaheim, they yielded a goal in the first minute of the third, this one 18 seconds in.

Their response was also just as it had been against the Ducks, although with less favourable results. While the road team controlled play in the third, gaining a 14-8 edge in that department over the final 20 minutes, they were only able to trade tallies over the next 5:20.

A misplay of the puck by Dallas resulting in an empty net goal gave the Sharks breathing room in the final minute, but it was again Nabokov who carried his team to victory. He made 36 saves on 38 shots, including some of the acrobatic/spectacular variety; Marty Turco was also strong, but no match—he allowed three goals on 31 shots.

Nabby would have to repeat that performance the next night in Chicago, as the Sharks were outshot 15-4 in the first period but managed a 1-0 lead on a Dany Heatley goal.

Things did not look much better in terms of controlling play in the second, as San Jose was outshot 11-3. However, once again they were the only team to light the lamp, with Joe Thornton lifting a short-handed wrister over Christabol Huet's glove after a beautiful steal then pass from Joe Pavelski.

Chicago responded in the third when Patrick Kane finally backhanded a rebound past Nabby. But like they had in the previous two games, the Sharks showed resilience, needing only 20 seconds for rookie Jason Demers to score his second career goal—both against Chicago.

Marian Hossa got a lucky break inside of two minutes when his shot ramped up the stick of a poke-checking Kent Huskins and over Nabby's shoulder, but those two goals were all they would manage in 47 shots on the San Jose netminder.

The Sharks managed just 14 shots themselves, as they were completely dominated outside of Nabby. (The defence did a pretty good job of cleaning up rebounds, however.)

For the three games, Nabby turned away 101 of 106 shots (.953) and had a 1.67 GAA. The big three also played great, with Thornton and Patrick Marleau both getting three goals (Joe had four assists to Patty's two) and Heatley adding a goal and three assists.

San Jose hosts the Ducks again on Saturday at 7:30pm PST.