Joe Pavelski stayed hot enough to burn the Calgary Flames Monday, January 20. It was the fourth consecutive win for the San Jose Sharks, who have won all three meetings between the Pacific Division rivals.
Pavelski scored two goals to lead the pictured stars of the game. He was easily the difference in what was otherwise a fairly even game considering Calgary is the second-worst team in the Western Conference.
The win was all the more important because the Pacific Division-rival Anaheim Ducks finally lost at home in regulation Tuesday—to San Jose's next opponent, the Winnipeg Jets. Their 22-game streak matched the 2008-09 Sharks for most home games without a regulation loss in the memories of any current player but Dan Boyle; both were 20-0-2.
More importantly, that reduces Anaheim's Pacific Division lead to under four games. Since San Jose has two games in hand and two more games head-to-head (one on each rink), it is within the team's control to get within a single point of its rival by simply winning one more of the other 28 games.
The Sharks mostly won this game by winning puck possession from beginning to end. They had all four faceoff wins and five shots in the first four minutes of the game.
Nevertheless, they still gave up the first goal just seconds beyond that point. First, Mark Giordano kept the puck in the zone by chipping it to TJ Brodie, who then dumped it down low. Jiri Hudler handled it from there, beating one defender to the puck and another out of the corner before putting a backhand past Antti Niemi.
It took San Jose a little over eight minutes to counter, but Brent Burns fed Justin Braun on the point and Pavelski deflected the slapshot home. On the next shift, Brad Stuart dumped the puck in and Patrick Marleau got it to Tommy Wingels. From there, a strange turn of events led to a second straight game wherein the Sharks scored two goals exactly 21 seconds apart.
Wingels took the puck back up the boards on the other side but whiffed on the pass to the point. Then he recovered it at the blue line and dumped it back to the opposite corner. He then followed it and got it back from Marleau along the boards, firing a sharp-angle shot through a little traffic that fooled Kari Ramo.
That did not phase the Flames, who came back and scored within a minute: Kris Russell fed Brian McGratton, whose shot rebounded to an uncovered Kevin Westgarth. It would be over 20 minutes before Pavelski would redirect a Joe Thornton shot-pass for the controversial power play goal (offsides was not called) that gave Jason Demers a secondary assist and the Sharks a lead.
Calgary pushed back in the third period, but could not get any of their 11 shots by Niemi. San Jose finished the game with a 35-21 edge in the circle with only two more turnovers (11-9 in giveaways and both teams had seven takeaways). Despite this they had only four more shots (27-23) and three more attempts (58-55), yet managed two more blocks (23-21).
The Flames had a 34-19 edge in hits, but the only penalty in the game that lost it for them. More than anything, the Sharks deserve credit for blocking as many shots as they allowed and winning the battle in net even if the opposition is the second-worst team in the Western Conference.