(photo: Dinur Blum)
The San Jose Sharks faced Pacific Division rival Vancouver Canucks in the last home game of the year for San Jose Tuesday night. Some notable changes to the roster for San Jose included Matt Nieto’s return from IR, which moved Chris Tierney back down to Worcester. Alex Stalock guarded the net and since John Scott’s suspension, rookie Micheal Haley got his chance to skate again. The Sharks hoped to keep their eight-game winning streak at home alive, but were cut short by Ryan Miller’s 31 amazing saves.
It wasn’t long until the first goal was scored. 19-year-old rookie Bo Horvat of the Canucks got his second NHL goal about four minutes in. The Canucks had spent a lot of time in the Sharks zone, as the Sharks seemed very lackluster like they had forgotten their legs on Christmas break. Not a good way to start the game.
Joe Pavelski was tripped up in front of the net by Alexander Edler and was awarded a penalty shot. The Sharks have had the most penalty shots in the NHL this season, with this one being the third. Pavelski hit the crossbar with a “dink!” and thus extended their 0-for-3 stat on penalty shots.
Then myriad penalties occured, canceling out the Sharks’ first power play at 13:31 with a 4-on-4 for a minute and change. The Sharks went on the power play again amid those penalties for a 14-second 4-on-3. The only real chance the Sharks had was a nifty pass by Logan Couture to Patrick Marleau, whose one-timer was stopped cold by Miller. Finally, this penalty mess ended with a Sharks power play for less than a minute – all to no avail. Actually, it was kind of a weird first period given all the overlapping penalties and the penalty shot. The only real highlight was Horvat’s goal.
(photo: Dinur Blum)
The Sharks began the second period with a power play at 19:01, and even though they were getting shots to Miller, he wasn’t giving away any rebounds. This happened a lot, in fact, as Joe Thornton mentioned in a post-game interview, “[Miller] saw a lot of our shots. It was tough to get good looks tonight for whatever reason.”
Some more bad luck for the Sharks occurred right after the penalty. Jannik Hansen exited the box, recovered the puck, and shot top corner past Stalock.
Amazingly, another penalty shot was awarded to the Sharks, this time to Thornton. A fun and coincidental fact about this 2-penalty-shots-in-one-game deal was that the last time this happened was on the same date, December 30th, in 2009. And guess who was one of the shooters? Joe Thornton. He scored back then and he scored again during this game. Sharks’ broadcaster Randy Hahn made a joke on air that once about every five years Thornton scores a penalty shot.
Miller also reflected on the two penalty shots: “It was pretty wild, I was waiting for a third. Everything kind of happens in threes. They both made nice shots. I got lucky on Pavelski’s, he shot a little more on the inside than I expected him to.”
(photo: Dinur Blum)
Now that the Sharks had cut the Canucks’ lead by one, the Canucks scored again at 12:51 in the second. Radim Vrbata netted his goal from the Sedin twins, Daniel and captain Henrik. Even though the Sharks had a couple of chances in the second and the pace seemed to pick up after that third Canucks goal (read: desperation mode), it just didn’t pan out. However, despite all of the missed chances, I have to mention the Melker Karlsson, Barclay Goodrow, and James Sheppard line. They continue to impress me and deserve recognition. Despite the lack of points on the board, the big guys contributed in other ways, too. Couture had 5 shots, a game high; Marleau was physical with 6 hits, another game high, and led all forwards in ice time. So, they’re out there and they are grinding it out and trying, but something else is missing to the equation. Or maybe it just wasn’t their night.
Joe Pavelski, whom we have been used to seeing scoring goals (team leader), only had one shot in the first period in this game – the penalty shot. You could really hear his disappointment when he commented on the game: “We didn’t find the back of the net. There were a lot of one-and-outs. There was nobody at the net when we had our looks. There were a couple of good ones, but we didn’t capitalize on them.” He knows he and the rest need to step up.
The Sharks got one last man-advantage chance, but Vancouver’s penalty kill had been fantastic the entire night, and was fantastic on this one as well.
The third period did not bring much action. It was the same lackluster play by the Sharks, who always seem to be two goals behind. With about 2 minutes left, Stalock was pulled, but it wasn’t looking good for the Sharks to score 2 in 2. Clearly, in this one, the Canucks were the better team. The Sharks head to Anaheim for an early 5pm start on New Year’s Eve.