By Mary Walsh
photo credit AP Sharks Joe Pavelski scores first period goal vs. Red Wings
The Sharks finally defeated the Buffalo Sabres in Buffalo, breaking a ten year losing streak with an overtime win. Before Saturday, the Sharks had only won one game in Buffalo and that was in 2005. After the win, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said:
It’s a good feeling. It’s a big weight to carry around: ten years. I didn’t know it was that long until kinda dug into it here today, so I think the guys were happy to get that monkey off our back. It was a hard fought game, we pushed out early and they came back at us. Both goaltenders I thought were excellent. It was a good game.
Sharks captain Joe Pavelski picked up his 500th NHL point. It was just the second time that Sharks goaltender Martin Jones played in back-to-backs, and the second time he won both games. It was just the second time the Sharks went to overtime this season, and they won both games.
The game was remarkably even, though each team had moments of dominance. The shots were 32-31 Sharks, faceoffs were 31-29 Sabres. Each team had three power plays, and the Sharks scored on one. The teams were within one on giveaways and takeaways, and the Sharks blocked eleven shots to the Sabres’ eight. It was only fitting that such a close game go to overtime.
The Sharks drew a penalty in the first minute of play, when Tommy Wingels skated into the Buffalo zone and was slashed by Jake McCabe. As a result, the Sharks took the lead on a power play goal from Marc-Edouard Vlasic, at 1:48. Patrick Marleau screen Buffalo goaltender Chad Johnson. Assists went to Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns. It was Pavelski’s 500th career point.
The Sharks took their first penalty at 8:26, for having too many men on the ice. Just 34 seconds into that, Marc-Edouard Vlasic made contact with Ryan O’Reilly’s upper body, and was called for tripping. Martin Jones, Paul Martin, Joel Ward and Brent Burns weathered some close calls during the five on three time. Pavelski, Dillon and Hertl went out for the second part of the kill, and finished it off.
With 1:36 left in the period, Joe Pavelski was called for tripping Jake McCabe. The Sharks had a steady penalty kill, leaving the Sabres with just 26 seconds left of power play to start the second period. at the end of the first, the Sharks held a 9-8 lead in shots as well as the 1-0 lead on the scoreboard.
The Sabres took their second penalty at 7:34 of the second period. Carlo Colaiacovo was called for tripping Joe Pavelski. San Jose’s second power play was much less effective than their first. The Sabres penalty killers not only kept the Sharks out of the zone, but backed them into the defensive own zone and took a shot or two.
In the final four minutes of the period, Mike Brown went to deliver a check on Tyler Ennis. Ennis seemed to lose his footing before being hit and fell backwards awkwardly into the boards. He appeared to be shaken up but he did not leave the game.
The Sabres dominated play in the final minutes of the period, but could not beat Martin Jones. Except for the one penalty, the second period was quite even. The shots were tied at nine each for a total of 18-17 Sharks.
Early in the third period, coach DeBoer started adjusting his lines, moving Matt Nieto into Goldobin’s spot and alternating others with the fourth line. Late in the second period, Goldobin lost track of the puck at an inopportune moment, allowing a dangerous scoring chance for Buffalo. That seemed like a forgivable offense but in general his play had not been as strong as prior games Saturday.
At 4:33, Buffalo defenseman Cody Franson left the game after sliding into the boards feet first.
While Goldobin’s second period miscues did not result in a goal against, the new second line was on the ice at 6:27 when Ryan O’Reilly won the puck away from Paul Martin near the Sharks blue line. O’Reilly had time to take a clean shot past Jones on the far side. Assists went to Rasmus Ristolainen and Josh Gorges.
At 14:35 of the third period, Tommy Wingels lined up Sabres center Zemgus Girgensons for an open ice hit, but Girgensons seemed to duck and Wingels sailed over him. Wingels may have caught Girgensons in the head with a knee as he fell over his target. Girgensons stayed down. Colaiacovo went after Wingels, and was called for the roughing. Girgensons went to the dressing room.
The Sharks power play started pretty well, and Brent Burns had a chance one on one with the goalie, but his shot caught the edge of the goalie’s pad and wound up hitting the post. The Sharks spent the rest of the power play in the offensive zone but could not score.
In the final 20 seconds of regulation, Jack Eichel took the puck and skated end to end around every Shark that tried to get in his way. Eichel did get a shot off but Jones stopped it. The Sharks that had been chasing Eichel almost ran over Jones as he tried to corral the puck. He did keep it out.
The teams headed to overtime three on three. DeBoer opted to start with Thornton, Pavelski and Burns. The Sabres started with Ristolainen, Gionta and O’Reilly. Hertl, Vlasic and Marleau went next for the Sharks, then Vlasic, Wingels and Karlsson. Cody Franson had to defend all three Sharks skating into the zone, and opted to fall over Wingels’s stick to prevent a shot or a pass.
With 2:10 left in overtime, Tomas Hertl had the puck along the boards. He fell but held on to the puck and managed to turn and skate into the slot to take a shot. The rebound started a flurry of shots from the Sharks. Vlasic took a slap shot from the blue line that created a rebound for Marleau to pick up near the net. He put the puck over Johnson for the game winner.
Patrick Marleau led the team in shots with five, Tommy Wingels led in hits with six. Martin Jones made 30 saves on 3 shots for the win.
The only change to the Sharks lineup was on defense, where Mirco Mueller got a look, in Matt Tennyson’s spot with Brenden Dillon. Mueller and forward Nikolay Goldobin, both rookies, skated very limited minutes in the game but neither were on the ice for goals against.
Zemgus Girgensons led the Sabres in shots with five, and Josh Gorges led the team in hits with four. Former Shark Jamie McGinn had three shots and three hits. Chad Johnson made 30 saves on 32 shots.
The Sharks next play on Tuesday in Boston against the Bruins at 4:00 PT.