Earning two points in two road games in two days against two teams in the top quarter of the standings so far in the 2013-14 NHL season is commendable. After a Saturday matinee defeat by the Colorado Avalanche, the San Jose Sharks pulled off a shootout win over the 2013 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks Sunday, January 5.
The pictured San Jose scorers all had more than one point between the games despite solid goalie play from both opponents. The split allowed the red-hot Anaheim Ducks to move three games ahead in the Pacific Division standings.
The Sharks were not late to show up for the early game. They held a 9-4 edge in shots until Justin Braun was called for hooking at 14:44. The first shot and second attempt of the Avalanche power play was after a Peter Stasny feed to Andre Benoit, with the slap-shot tip-in perfectly executed by Nathan MacKinnon.
That rattled San Jose, whose three shots yielded to end the period were a foreshadowing of shaky second-period defense. Colorado scored a goal on three consecutive shots a few minutes in, the last of which was on backup goalie Alex Stalock.
However, the Sharks fought back to make it a game. Pavelski broke the ice on the power play just 2:36 later, and 96 seconds after that Patrick Marleau had cut the Avalanche's lead in half.
Logan Couture brought his team within one play of earning a point in the Western Conference standings before six minutes of the third period had passed. San Jose held Colorado to six shots and no goals over the final 34 minutes, but could not get the tying goal.
Against the top NHL team the next day, the Sharks needed everything they could get. With six injured forwards entering the game, they were forced to play Eriah Hayes in his first NHL games over the weekend.
For the first 9:25 of Sunday's game, Chicago had seven of the eight shots yet still had four of the six blocks. That is when the Andrew Desjardins line got the puck into the attacking end and was able to trap the opposition on the ice while a line change took place.
San Jose had the next four shots, seven attempts, takeaway and hit. That led to Couture getting the puck from Matt Nieto and circling around behind the net before finding a pinching Jason Demers for the one-timer goal.
The score stood through momentum swings both ways over the next 31 minutes thanks to the fantastic efforts of both goalies. The game had all the epic feel of a Stanley Cup playoff series, and the Sharks were more competitive than they had been in the 2010 Western Conference finals.
When the scoring did happen, it had a back-and-forth nature befitting the rest of the game.
A defensive breakdown hung Stalock out to dry early in the third. Jonathan Toews forwarded the puck from Patrick Sharp to a pinching Niklas Hjalmarsson for the one-timed, tying score. Just 2:34 later, Michal Rozsival slapped home a harmless-looking shot after getting the puck from Marcus Kruger.
However, Marc-Edouard Vlasic got the puck to Joe Thornton some seven minutes later. The San Jose captain's fanned shot led to a great feed through the slot to Brent Burns for the weak-side, one-timer goal. Couture and Pavelski were the only two shooters to score through two rounds of the shootout, sealing the win.
With the loss, Chicago lost the top spot in the Western Conference to Pacific Division-leading Anaheim. San Jose is now two full games ahead of the Los Angeles Kings for second place, a position that earns the home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs that seems so important given how well all three California teams play in their own buildings.