Word from British Columbia is that the San Jose Sharks are being detained from their trip to visit the Calgary Flames Wednesday, March 6. This is not because of weather in Alberta, but because they are guilty of robbery of their NHL Western Conference rival Vancouver Canucks in their 3-2 victory Tuesday night.
Despite being out-shot 17-7 in the first period, the Sharks had the first score before the first television timeout. Scott Gomez took the puck in the high slot and slapped it home for his first goal with the team. It was an effort of the entire line, as Cory Schneider was screened and both defensemen on the ice (Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brad Stuart) got the assists.
The rest of the period belonged to Antti Niemi. Once again San Jose's best player played his best as his team struggled to generate offensive chances.
The Sharks responded in the second period. Michal Handzus took a big holding penalty early, putting the penalty kill out to prevent the team going from winning to losing everywhere but the scoreboard. But Brad Stuart took advantage of a giveaway and advanced a pass to Adam Burish on a breakaway. The faster Canucks were catching him, so he shot from the slot at the top of the circle and it seemed to fool Schneider for his first goal of the 2013 NHL season.
The Sharks had two goals with more than 15 minutes left in the second period. They finished killing the penalty and looked like they had adjusted to Vancouver's speed. Even when Daniel Sedin took the puck from Alex Burrows and fed it to the front of the net—where it found its way to Henrik Sedin for the easy backhand—they did not wrestle control of the game away from their guests.
A Ryane Clowe penalty gave it to them instead. Over the next five minutes, the Canucks out-dueled the Sharks in the circle 3-2, had the only takeaway and all five shots attempts, three of which were on goal. The last went in after a mad scramble in the final minute of the period, with Niemi never seeing the shot that went through his legs.
Worse, Stuart took an interference penalty after the goal in the final seconds of the period. The Sharks would have to start the final stanza of a road game they just surrendered a two-goal lead in killing a penalty.
They killed the penalty, which turned out to be good practice for the final minutes of regulation when they looked like they were killing a penalty. An eight-shot overtime that included another penalty kill was not enough; neither team could notch that third goal.
When Chris Higgins scored on the first shootout chance and the first two San Jose shots were turned aside, things looked bleak. But again Niemi kept his team in the game by stopping the next two shots, and Logan Couture put a backhand through Schneider's five-hole. Niemi the saved a shot from Burrows and Joe Pavelski ripped one into the net to complete the steal.
The win did not change their Western Conference playoff position, but it was a big win. Sharks analysts Bret Hedican and Drew Remenda disagreed on whether this was a steal or a character win. It was both. On the road against a faster team with a better record, any way the team grinds out a win is commendable.
The Canucks attempted 19 more shots but only got eight more through thanks to a 20-10 edge in blocked shots for the Sharks. They also held the edge in hits (21-19), draws (36-31), giveaways (3-9) and takeaways (7-6).
There were numerous stars in this game, but the top three are as follows:
- Niemi turned away 36 of 38 for a .947 save percentage. He had no chance on either goal yielded.
- Stuart had four blocks—including one after losing two teeth—three hits, three shots and assisted on both goals.
- Schneider might like to have Burish's goal back, but turned away all other 28 shots he saw (28 of 30 for .933 save percentage).