Game of Firsts Keeps the Sharks on Top

By Mary Walsh

OTTAWA- Sunday, the San Jose Sharks defeated the Ottawa Senators 5-2 with goaltender Alex Stalock making his first NHL start. Stalock had played in 2 NHL games before, but always in relief. James Sheppard and Andrew Desjardins also scored their first goals of the season, bringing the number of 2013-14 Sharks with goals to 16. The Sharks are now 10-1-1 this season.

After the game, Stalock spoke on CSNCA‘s television broadcast:

Being there before, going in in relief is a little bit easier, because you don’t have all day to think of it. But you’re thinking about it all night– I found out yesterday– and thinking about it all day today. But it was nice to have a five o’clock game, a quick turnaround, didn’t have much time to think, just go and play.

Stalock stopped 38 of 40 shots from the Senators. The Sharks had not allowed more than 31 shots in a game before Sunday. The Senators’ quick, persistent forecheck was one reason they had so many shots. The Sharks’ energy level was inconsistent, almost sluggish at times. That could be because Sunday’s game followed a very quick turnaround.

The Sharks’ game in Montreal had ended a mere 17 hours earlier. Only two San Jose players had not played the night before: Stalock and forward Mike Brown. Other changes to the lineup included moving James Sheppard to the top line with Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl. Sheppard had been a healthy scratch two games earlier. Matt Nieto was out, though he had been expected to play. After the game started, news came that he was not a healthy scratch.

The Sharks didn’t look especially weary to start the game. Tomas Hertl reminded everyone that he bears watching when he elluded the Senators defense and slid the puck by Craig Anderson just 1:16 into the game. Andrew Desjardins followed at 6:35 with a quick, hard backhander that surprised everyone. Desjardins had to look over his shoulder to follow his shot, since his back was to the net. That gave the Sharks a two goal lead.

The Sharks played with that lead for just over four minutes. At 11:07 of the period, Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson cut the lead in half with a shot from the point, while Cory Conacher screened Stalock.

With under three minutes to go in the period, San Jose’s Mike Brown was called for interference on Kyle Turris. With Brown in the box, Logan Couture initiated a short-handed rush off a pass from Tommy Wingels. Couture’s shot was stopped, but Anderson went down to stop Couture’s shot. Before he could recover, Wingels pounced on the puck for a shorthanded goal.

It was during the second period that the Sharks looked weary. With very little zone time, they still managed 11 shots, but the Senators outskated them at every turn. Karlsson’s first period goal served as a model for the Senators’ second goal, the only one scored in the second period. Near the midpoint of the period, with traffic buzzing in front of Stalock, Marc Methot‘s slapshot from the blue line brought the Senators back within one.

The Sharks came out refreshed for the third period. It took Joe Thornton under 90 seconds to get behind the goal line with the puck. James Sheppard, just arrived in front of the net, took Thornton’s pass and put the Sharks back up by two.

A little over six minutes later, Justin Braun and Joe Pavelski executed a play that should show up on the week’s highlights. Tommy Wingels picked up a mishandled puck from Senators defenseman Jared Cowen, carried it out of the Sharks’ zone and passed it to Pavelski who was just crossing the Senators’ blue line. Pavelski sent the puck to Justin Braun, who entered the zone at a good clip. Each player had pressure to contend with. The Sharks’ defenseman continued almost to the corner, drawing defense away from Pavelski and Anderson far out and to the side of the net. Anderson slowed Braun’s shot but it got by, sitting behind the goalie for a beat before Pavelski came flying in to put it home. Pavelski finished by crashing into the goal post. The goal was reviewed in case it had gone off of his skate. The goal held up as Pavelski had his stick well in position on the way in.

Each team had 3 power plays in the game, neither scored on any of those. The Sharks return to California tonight, finishing up their road trip on Wednesday, against the Kings in Los Angeles.

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