Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sharks Rally From Two Goal Deficit To Trample Stars

The San Jose Sharks’ game last night against the Chicago Blackhawks is now all but forgotten. Exiting Chicago from a disappointing 6-3 loss, with five of the Hawks goals coming from the second period, the Sharks knew they would have to significantly ramp up their focus and intensity if a difficult rival like the Dallas Stars were to be defeated.

And ramp up they did.

Following a scoreless first period, where the Sharks led in shots on net, the second period opened with a Stars two goal lead. The Stars scored a very controversial first goal, which developed after Stars forward Jamie Langenbrunner blatantly boarded Sharks defenseman Niclas Wallin from behind, head first. Adding insult to injury, Langenbrunner’s actions went unpenalized, and the Stars were credited with a goal. (Wallin never returned for the duration of the game, and it is likely the hit caused a concussion.)

After the Stars shortly thereafter scored a shorthanded goal to raise their lead to 2-0, the Sharks unleashed their intensity. Following the disappointing start to the second period, the Sharks considerably increased their takeaways, dominated puck control, and scored two more goals before the second period ended: the first from a Joe Thornton slap shot, and the second by Dany Heatley in front of the net on a five on three power play. If the Sharks’ tying effort wasn’t enough, defenseman Douglas Murray demonstrated his superior fighting skill by controlling a fight versus Stars forward Steve Ott, eventually tackling him to the ice, after Ott attempted to cheap shot him (for a massive hit Murray delivered to Loui Eriksson).

The Sharks’ intensity continued through the rest of the game. Ryane Clowe and Torrey Mitchell each got a tally within the first four minutes of the third period, both set up by Joe Pavelski, the Sharks’ adroit playmaking forward. While the Stars managed a power play goal by Jamie Benn in the middle of the third, the remainder of the game stayed scoreless until the Sharks’ Logan Couture took a penalty and the Stars pulled their goaltender, giving them a six on four advantage with the empty net.

Rather than convert their power play to a goal, Joe Thornton fired a shot from the far blue line to score, making the score 5-3 Sharks. Despite the game’s then predictable outcome, the Stars tried their six on four advantage again, this time with Dany Heatley scoring on the empty net. Given the Sharks’ player disadvantage and the Stars’ pulled goaltender, both Thornton’s and Heatley’s goals were credited as shorthanded, empty net goals.

Heatley and Thornton would each end up with two goals apiece.

Honorable mention goes to the clear first star of the game, Joe Pavelski. Despite not scoring, he managed four assists, and was solely responsible for setting up each goal he assisted on singlehandedly. I additionally would like to credit the fantastic defense, namely Douglas Murray (who rarely fails to disappoint) and “Pickles” Vlasic. Both players proved to be extremely fearless when it came to taking the body and blocking shots. Vlasic, near the end of the game, took a puck to the face, but fortunately managed to shake it off later.

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