The 2013-14 NHL season started as well as the San Jose Sharks could have hoped. In their first four games, they scored at least four goals and won by at least three over every opponent. One look at the stat sheet proves the Ottawa Senators were not intimidated in the first two periods by that or the 12-game winning streak (including pre- and post-season) in the "Shark Tank" (official names HP Pavilion for half and SAP Center now).
Even when the early Calder Trophy front-runner Tomas Hertl scored 55 seconds into the game, they did not falter. It was not even the forward's first scoring chance of the shift, but Brent Burns gathered up the puck from another chance and fed Dan Boyle on the point. His shot was headed for the post and pulled Robin Lehner out of position for the rebound.
After the Sharks registered 10 of the first 13 shots, the Senators took the lead in that category by mid-game. They had the edge on the scoreboard much sooner than that: Zack Smith tied the game on a clearing attempt by Matt Irwin after a Chris Phillips shot (Colin Greening got the secondary assist) in the final five minutes, and just over three minutes later they got the lead. An Andrew Desjardins high-sticking penalty gave way to a familiar sight: Bobby Ryan finishing a one-timer from a pretty pass against San Jose, though this time it was Jason Spezza feeding him from the half-boards and Patrick Wiercioch getting the secondary assist.
The Sharks trailed for almost 18 minutes before Patrick Marleau's backhander cleaned up a loose puck on the scrum during a power play; Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski were credited with assists. By this time, they were playing with a shorter bench because Hertl was in the dressing room after taking an inadvertent hit to the head. (He also missed Sunday's practice for a "maintenance day" but coach Todd McLellan said after the game he does not expect him to miss games.)
Nevertheless, they took over in the third period. Their 24-4 edge in shots on goal resulted in the one goal they needed: Burns one-timed a beautiful feed across the crease from Joe Thornton into the open side of the cage just over seven minutes into the final stanza, with new line-mate Matt Nieto getting the secondary assist. It also gave them an amazing 50-23 edge in shots on goal for the game, with an 87-48 edge in attempts.
How did they establish such dominance? They were more disciplined to control the puck (39-30 edge in faceoffs, 10-6 in takeaways and 15-17 in giveaways) and stay out of the box (three penalties vs. five) with the same number of hits (24). They also still managed to get more blocks (16-15) despite facing fewer shots.
Unlike the previous games, the Sharks still needed to overcome one star of the game with two of their own:
- Burns had a goal and an assist on three shots (five attempts), added five hits and a takeaway to go with his giveaway, won three of five faceoffs and got his teeth knocked out—should we call a goal, assist and teeth knocked out a Brent Burns hat trick?
- Lehner held the Senators in the contest for most of the game, turning aside 47 (.940 save percentage).
- There are a few worthy choices, but Dan Boyle gets the nod for not just his assist but nine shots, 11 attempts and four blocks.