by Ivan Makarov
SAN JOSE, CA — The long eight game home losing streak that San Jose Sharks got themselves into when they lost all the home games played in February is finally over. The Sharks played one of their best games of the season against the top Eastern Conference team Montreal Canadiens, dictating the play from start to finish, and beating them by the final score of 4-0.
The win was the all-team effort – from forwards who continually pushed the puck deep into the Canadiens zone and then played a strong forecheck, to the defense who limited the Canadiens to just 20 shots on goal and very limited scoring chances, to the solid play of Sharks backup net minder Alex Stalock, who earned a shutout to preserve the victory.
The kind of play that was telling of the night happened with just five seconds left in the game, when Canadiens got a rare 2-on-1 breakaway. Brent Burns was the lone defenseman and read the play well, intercepting the puck by going down on the ice, and keeping the Canadiens away from the scoresheet.
“Well it was a good effort from minute one,” said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. “We still made mistakes, but the whole team handled it well. It was tremendous goaltending from Alex, really happy for him that he was able to have that type of game and get the shutout against a very good team. We played a very good puck moving game and our forwards didn’t cheat.”
New Sharks player Ben Smith, acquired from Chicago Blackhawks at the trade deadline early in the day in exchange for Andrew Desjardins, put the Sharks on the board at 6:51 mark in the first period. His goal came as a result of a bad attempt to clear the puck by Montreal. Marc-Eduard Vlasic intercepted it at the blue line, and shot it towards the net. Smith, who was standing half way between Vlasic and Montreal’s goaltender Carey Price, touched the puck just slightly but enough for it to change direction and go into the net.
Not a bad way to introduce yourself to San Jose hockey fans!
“There was an energy to the team that we haven’t seen in a while,” said McLellan. “I think some of that had to do with Ben Smith coming in and scoring right off the bat. He energized everybody. It’s one game and we’re pleased.”
Sharks doubled their lead in the last minute of the first period when Joe Pavelski scored on the power play, tipping the shot from Brent Burns, all the way from the blue line. This was Pavelski’s 32nd goal of the season.
Matt Irwin made it 3-0 for the Sharks before the game even crossed the half way mark. As he’s been doing ever since he broke into the NHL, he scored it on a powerful long range slap shot, putting his 7th puck of the season into the back of the net.
On the other side of the puck, Montreal were limited in their chances to score. It seemed like they did finally score on a play in the third period when the puck was cleared on the goal line by Brent Burns, but the video review did not show enough of evidence that the whole puck did cross the line, and the score remained 3-0 in favor of San Jose.
Not long after that the Sharks went on the power play after the delay of game penalty by the Canadiens, and Patrick Marleau made it 4-0 with his 15th goal of the season, which he scored in front of the net after a quick pass from Joe Pavelski.
It was a good win against a good team and two points that are much needed right now, after Sharks struggled with their game all of February.
“We took care of business tonight and it’s about building on it,” said Joe Pavelski. “It’s way better to win than lose. It feels good to see guys play well. That’s a good team right there.”
The win keeps their playoffs hopes alive, but it will be a challenge, as they will spend most of March on the road. The push continues on Tuesday night when they face the Canucks in Vancouver.