The New York Rangers are on the middle of a nine-game road trip to start the season and played the Los Angeles Kings Monday, October 7. It showed in the game statistics when they visited the San Jose Sharks Tuesday.
Rookie Tomas Hertl (pronounced like the words toe mosh hurdle) alone had four goals—twice as many as all of his opponents combined. His game overshadowed the effort of fellow-rookie Matt Nieto, who had his first goal and two assists of his NHL career.
Aside from the goal by San Jose's eldest statesman (Dan Boyle), the team's scoring in this game was about young players. The next oldest to score was Justin Braun, born in February 10, 1987—his second goal this season after scoring four in the first 135 games of his career.
By then—a power play with 4:07 to go—the rout was on. The first four minutes of the game were much different.
Brad Stuart needed just 152 seconds of his 2013-14 NHL season to find his way to the penalty box. He delivered an elbow high to Rick Nash, and the elbow glanced off the body to the head. It brought an end to the New York forward's night and is likely to result in disciplinary action from the league—probably not a suspension but certainly a fine.
In the first 30 seconds of that penalty kill, the Sharks had a bad line change that put Nieto in the box along with Stuart. Brad Richards scored 24 seconds into the two-man advantage and the Rangers took the lead. However, after having yet another shorthanded breakaway turned aside, Joe Pavelski established the attack and sent the puck to Marc-Edouard Vlasic at the point. He pulled the puck in and sent it through traffic for the first goal scored this season on their penalty kill.
Before eight minutes had gone by, Boyle gave the Sharks the lead with a slap shot from the point, recording Pavelski's second assist and Nieto's first point on the primary assist. His second point exemplified the night for New York.
Pavelski head-manned the puck to Tommy Wingels, who sent in a shot from a sharp angle that deflected off the skate of a defender right to Nieto. Vezina Trophy winner (2012, finalist in 2013) Henrik Lundqvist also had no chance on either of the next goals.
Jason Demers got the puck to Andrew Desjardins, who sent a cross-ice feed from near the goal line to the crease. Hertl's first goal came when he was able to roof it into the corner on Lundqvist on the blocker side to chase the best goalie in the world from the game. Twenty seconds later, replacement Martin Biron never saw Patrick Marleau's shot deflect over the net behind him, where Logan Couture used his baseball skills to bat it in out of the air.
New York (and former Vancouver Canucks) coach Alain Vigneault had to be feeling snake-bitten against the Sharks after that. Down 5-1, he already knew he would be losing to them for the eighth time in a row and the game was not even half over.
Not three minutes passed before it got worse. Hertl matched his second game's scoring output with a forehand breakaway goal after Joe Thornton advanced him the puck through the neutral zone.
The Rangers did not quit, with Derek Dorsett executing a brilliant breakaway backhander in the ninth minute of the third period. Brian Boyle's beautiful neutral zone feed from deep in his own end set it up, but his attempt to goad Stuart into a fight on the next shift blew up in his face with penalties for roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct.
Hertl scored 20 seconds later, alone in front of the net to clean up a loose puck that brought him his first hat trick and Thornton his second assist of the night. It is the next goal that was already listed on Yahoo and the potential goal of the year.
With about eight minutes to go, Demers got the puck from Antti Niemi, recognized another chance for Hertl and sent a great outlet pass from his own zone beyond the red line. The rookie came in at full speed and lifted a shot from between his legs over a stunned Biron's shoulder.
The Sharks certainly got some breaks. They were certainly at an advantage hosting a tired team. Yet one cannot take away from an entire team effort.
For the first time, they had the advantage in faceoffs (34-31). Possessing the puck more to begin with naturally led to more giveaways (13-10), but they still had more takeaways (10-5) to add even more to their possession advantage. They had just nine hits to 25 for New York and still somehow had an equal number of penalties, but they did so much more when they had the puck.
The Sharks attempted 91 shots and got 47 on net, while giving up just 54 attempts and 20 shots. Even though they blocked fewer (16-22), they actually blocked the higher percentage of attempts (29.6 to 24.2) and had the better ratio of blocks to shots on goal (eight vs. under five per 10).
As much as this was a team effort, picking stars beyond the obvious first star seems almost senseless, but the following are the official three stars:
- Hertl had his four goals in just over 11 minutes of ice time, had seven of 11 shots go one goal and one hit, takeaway, block and faceoff win—in his only attempt.
- Nieto had a goal and two assists on three shots in 13:47 ice time to make up for a giveaway.
- Pavelski had three assists on four shots and seven attempts, won nine of 15 faceoffs and added a takeaway and block to edge out Demers (three assists on seven attempts with a giveaway and a block) and Wingels (two assists on four shots in nine attempts with one hit and one giveaway) for the final star.