By Mary Walsh
It could be hard to remember when the Sharks struggled in the shootout, since they have now won in five in a row. Their defeat of the Washington Capitals on Tuesday was not a dominant one, but it was worth two points. It was also worth pride points, as the Sharks extended their current winning streak against Washington to six, and 17-1 since 1999.
After the win, Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan described the game in subdued terms:
It was important for us to start the trip off the right way. [It was] kind of a back and forth affair: they had some momentum, we gained it back. Close game, two pretty good teams that played pretty well.
The modest 2-1 final score was a good indicator of the kind of game it was: a tough defensive game that didn’t leave the star shooters a lot of room to meneuver. The goals were scored by Tyler Kennedy for the Sharks and Alex Ovechkin fo the Capitals, with Patrick Marleau scoring the shootout winner. The final shot count was 36-29 for the Capitals. Each team had one power play, neither gave up a power play goal.
Patrick Marleau spoke during the post game for CSN:
Coming out east we took a little while to get warm, into the game.
They hemmed us in early on but we stuck with it. We were able to get our forecheck going in the first kind of went back the other way in the second, but we came in with a good effort in the third and in overtime.
Washington had 5 shots to the Sharks’ 1 in the first five minutes of the game. The first slip-up came during a line change that let Alex Ovechkin enter the Sharks’ zone with only three players defending. That seemed to set off an offensive flurry for the Capitals.
A very fast fight between Mike Brown and Aaron Volpatti at 11:39 broke up the game, and shortly thereafter Tyler Kennedy scored the first goal of the game.
At 13:30, when Tommy Wingels went off for a change, Kennedy went to the middle of the ice and got to the net in perfect time to deflect a shot from Jason Demers. At intermission, Kennedy described the play:
He made a great change in the offensive zone, and I tried to get out there. And JD made a great pass … that’s a world class pass there and I just tried to get it on net.
By the end of the period, the shots stood at 11-10 Sharks.
Going in to the second period, the Sharks’ weak spot lately, San Jose was lucky to not have worse luck to go with their inefficient puck management.
It took the Capitals almost thirteen minutes to tie the game up in the second period. The goal came from Alex Ovechkin, who took a fast shot from a bad angle and put it up the into the far corner. It was his first shot of the game, off a pass from Karl Alzner. The puck blew past Brad Stuart and Antii Niemi before anyone had time to react.
Nieto and Pavelski changed places on the top two lines at the end of the second period. In a last-second flurry of offense, Brad Stuart scored just after the buzzer. The goal was quickly reviewed but the period ended with the teams still tied.
The second period ended with the shots at 11-9 Washington.
The third period opened with some pressure from Washington, but that fizzled quickly with the first penalty of the game, a tripping call against Nicklas Backstrom.
The Sharks started their power play with a clean breakout and a quick shot on net, but Capitals’ goaltender Philipp Grubauer suffocated the shot and stopped play. After the faceoff, the Sharks had some trouble getting out of their own end, and the next zone entry produced just one shot on net.
The teams traded chances after that, with each taking long turns on the attack. In the first seven minutes, the shots for the period were 5-3 Sharks.
Ten minutes in to the third period, the Sharks were spending a lot of time in their own zone. Niemi had to make a point blank save on Eric Fehr, after he was left to saunter out from behind the net and shoot at will.
That seemed to wake the Sharks up and spur them back onto offense. Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski had the best chances of that shift when they each took a try, Marleau’s shot hitting the post and Pavelski’s ending up in Grubauer’s glove.
After the game, Marleau spoke about the team’s improved play in the third period:
I think we got a lot more time in their zone so it was just trying to get to those loose pucks after we got shots from our point. I think the D played really well tonight, moving the puck back and forth and getting the shots through.
It would be nice to find a couple of those rebounds and put them in but for the most part, we’ll take the two points.
During the last four minutes of the game, McLellan made another lineup change, moving Marleau to the line with Thornton and Nieto, or so it seemed. Thornton was right back out with Burns and Nieto a couple of shifts later.
With a minute and 15 seconds left, the Capitals got their first power play when Marleau was called for hooking Grabovski. McLellan mentioned that after the game:
We almost got it to the point where we didn’t take a penalty, using our legs to check instead of our sticks or our hands. Worked until that last minute but the penalty kill did a good job.
Regulation ended in a tie, with the shots for the third period standing at 13-8 for Washington.
As the game went to overtime, the Capitals had 45 seconds remaining on the man advantage.
Two faceoff wins helped the Sharks kill that off, and the four on four play moved very fast after that. Good chances for Marleau and then Fehr came to naught, turnovers and takeaways kept attacks brief for both sides.
With just over a minute left in overtime, Marc-Edouard Vlasic pestered Jason Chimera relentlessly in the Sharks’ zone, staying with him all the way around the ice and behind the net, until Chimera lost an edge and went down. Still Vlasic kept after him, jostling him so he couldn’t get to his feet. Chimera finally did get up, and on the way he clocked Vlasic in the face with a quick left hand. No penalty was called, though Vlasic was clearly unsettled by the punch.
The teams survived the next minute without scoring and went to a shootout.
Of the six shooters, only Patrick Marleau scored:
I was just trying to use Logan’s move a little bit. He’s had some success with it so I just did that, went to the backhand a little bit then quick to the forehand.
Matt Irwin back in the game after missing two games with injury. Scott Hannan sat, as did James Sheppard and Matt Tennyson.
The Sharks next play on Thursday in Florida against the Panthers. Puck drop at 4:30 pm PT.