Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sharks End Road Trip With Dramatic OT Win

The San Jose Sharks end their road trip in Nashville, defeating the Nashville Predators with a score of 2-1, in overtime. Despite some initial troubles against a powerful Predators team, the Sharks ended the game with a Patrick Marleau breakaway goal.

After the San Jose Sharks’ loss to the Florida Panthers on Sunday night, their second regulation loss in a row, the team knew their Tuesday night game against the Nashville Predators would be a vital one. Even Logan Couture and Devin Setoguchi expressed the same message to their fans on their Twitter accounts. Couture wrote that Tuesday night’s game against the Predators would be the “biggest game of the year” since the Sharks “need the points badly right now”. Before the game, the Sharks sat in seventh place in a very close Western Conference playoff race.

Despite what was at stake at the game’s beginning, the Sharks executed a very poor performance during the first period, failing to convert for two power plays (including a thirty second five on three), and allowing the Predators’ Cody Franson to sneak a puck past Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi during their only power play to make the score 0-1 Predators by the end of the first period.

By the time the second period began, the Sharks displayed signs of increased vitality, keeping control of the puck and putting more pressure on the Predators’ defensive line. The Predators also put up a tough front, although it was Sharks forward Devin Setoguchi with his amazing wrist shot that ended the Predators’ lead, putting the score at a 1-1 tie. Setoguchi’s shot was a certified snipe, barely beating the Predators’ Pekka Rinne, top shelf in the net. (Setoguchi went on to put a an unbelievable ten total shots on net.)

Certainly, the Predators were ready for the Sharks, although as the game continued to the third period, the Sharks gained the edge with significantly more puck control, peppering the standout Rinne with many shots on net. There was no scoring in the third period, mostly due to the netminders on both sides: Rinne of the Predators and Niemi of the Sharks. At the end of the third, the shots were 45-31 in the Sharks’ favor.

From the get-go of the overtime period until the very end, the Sharks completely dominated puck control, opportunities, shots on net (all five of them), and takeaways. Although Predators netminder Pekka Rinne kept his team alive for the last part of the game, he would eventually fold as a Patrick Marleau breakaway put him in a vulnerable position, with Marleau scoring through Rinne’s five hole to win the game.

Although Marleau, Niemi, and Setoguchi were undoubtedly the three heroes of the game, honorable mention goes to a great number of players on the team who may or may not have made it on the scoresheet:

- Defenseman Kent Huskins notched two assists and was largely responsible for moving the puck to Patrick Marleau for his breakaway (and overtime game winning goal).
- Joe Pavelski displayed excellent back checking and puck control, even putting a respectable seven shots on net.
- Logan Couture shone as well, putting four shots on net and creating several scoring opportunities.
- Niclas Wallin held his point phenomenally, sometimes pinching in, Boyle-esque, and putting the puck on net.
- Captain Joe Thornton contributed to the dominant puck control late in the second and the third and overtime periods.
- Douglas Murray saved goals by converting the puck, blocking several critical Predator shots (that would have been goals), and breaking out the puck very well from the defensive zone.

The Sharks end their road trip with a respectable five wins, two losses, as they head back to San Jose, ready to feel the support of the Shark Tank, while they face off in a rematch against the Washington Capitals on Thursday night.

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