By Mary Walsh
DENVER- The Colorado Avalanche did not run roughshod over the San Jose Sharks, on their way to a 4-0 lead Saturday. What they did for a brief spell early in the second period was run around them. The Sharks looked to be in control of the game several times, except for their opponent’s scoring opportunities. Those squeaked through at first, then flowed as from an open spigot.
The game seemed all but over when the score reached 4-0, after the Avalanche scored three times in just over one minute in the second period. The Sharks scored twice in the same period, with the help from some power plays. A third tally from Logan Couture early in the third pulled a comeback within reach, but the Avalanche held on to win 4-3.
The Avalanche had two very good chances early in the game, getting the puck and bodies to the net. Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi made the saves but the Sharks seemed to start out a step behind the speedy Avs.
The Sharks had a couple of early shots, first from Andrew Desjardins and James Sheppard, and then from Matt Nieto on a line with Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau. After the five minute mark, the Sharks picked up their game and started racking up the chances. By the ten minute mark, the Avs had gone for six minutes without a shot.
Colorado finally did make a push the other way and Niemi had to glove a shot from John Mitchell to halt play. A moderate ruckus in front of the net ensued, with Andrew Desjardins in the middle of it. Cody McLeod caught the linesman with a stick but no penalties came out of it.
The Sharks took the game back after that, putting relentless pressure on the Avs, leaving Niemi with little to do except be ready for the occasional and very fast Colorado incursion. One such drew a penalty against the Sharks, when Justin Braun was called for hooking Matt Duchene, at 14:44 of the period.
It took the Colorado power play almost a minute, but they did make that power play pay off at 15:28. Andre Benoit shot the puck at the net from the blue line, and Nathan McKinnon tipped it in. Assists went to Benoit and Paul Stastny.
Shots for the period were 10-8 San Jose.
The Sharks started the second period with two dump-ins but no extended control of the puck, and then Sharks Captain Joe Thornton took an interference penalty on Ryan O’Reilly just 23 seconds in. The Sharks penalty killers minimized Colorado’s chances and survived the early setback.
The Sharks seemed to be getting their act together when a series of mistakes in their own zone created an opportunity for Jamie McGinn to score his ninth of the season, extending his goal streak to three games. Assist to Matt Duchene. That goal seemed to leave Niemi unsettled, and when a bouncing shot came down from the blue line and went by him 52 seconds later, Sharks Coach Todd McLellan replaced him with Alex Stalock. The goal went to Erik Johnson, with assists to Gabriel Landeskog and Paul Stastny.
Right off the faceoff, McKinnon sped into the Sharks zone and put a shot past Stalock, giving the Avs three goals in a minute, six seconds. The next faceoff started with a fight or two. Desjardins, Bracken Kearns and McLeod ended up in the box, giving the Avalanche a five-on-four power play.
37 seconds into the power play, Logan Couture drew a roughing call against Matt Duchene, putting the teams at four on four. 25 seconds later, Jan Hejda was called for slashing Joe Pavelski, giving the Sharks a brief five-on-three. While the Avalanche were busy knocking Couture down repeatedly in front of the blue paint, they missed Pavelski coming in to fire on an open net. That put the Sharks on the board with a minute left in the power play. Assists went to Marleau and Thornton. That penalty expired but seconds later, as Alex Stalock flew to the bench during a delayed penalty, Patrick Marleau came on to the ice and his quick shot brought the Sharks within two.
A chance in front of the Avalanche net ended with the net off its moorings and Desjardins fighting Max Talbot in the corner, after the linesman did make an effort to restrain them. Desjardins quickly took the upper hand in that one. While he and Talbot sat in the box for the fighting major, the Sharks put together some good time in the offensive zone, but the Avalanche kept them from finishing.
With just a minute and 46 seconds left in the period, Alex Stalock was penalized for delay of game after he played the puck over the glass. The Sharks kept the Avalanche power play from scoring before the end of the period.
The shot count for the second period was 13-9 San Jose.
The Sharks finished off the penalty kill to start the third period, and the game proceeded at a subdued pace. With five minutes gone, the Sharks were having trouble maintaining possession of the puck. After playing catch with the Avs in the neutral zone for nearly a minute, the puck finally landed on Couture’s stick so he could carry it into the zone with Marleau. A pass back to the blue line gave Scott Hannan a chance to shoot. Marleau couldn’t get the first rebound in but Couture was there to grab the second one, and put it past Varlamov. That cut Colorado’s lead to one at 5:44 of the third period. Assists went to Marleau and Hannan.
The Sharks had a power play at of the third, when James Sheppard and Jan Hejda collided in front of the Avs net. The refs called Hejda for interference. The Sharks couldn’t score on that power play, despite many close calls. A series of failures to keep the puck in burned seconds off that power play. With about a minute and a half left, McLellan pulled Stalock for the extra attacker, but the Sharks still couldn’t sustain pressure in the offensive zone. The Avalanche held on for the 4-3 win.
Patrick Marleau was the game’s points leader with a goal and two assists. Joe Pavelski led the Sharks in shots with seven, Erik Johnson led the Avalanche with five. The Sharks’ power play went 1/3, their penalty kill 3/4. Antti Niemi stopped 11 of 14 shots, Alex Stalock stopped 6 of 7 for the Sharks.
Eriah Hayes made a difficult trip through a storm to get to Denver from Boston, but he did not crack the Sharks lineup. Mike Brown, hit twice by friendly fire at the end of the game against the Oilers in San Jose, was good to go. Tommy Wingels, however, was still not able to play and has been placed on IR for an upper body injury, not a head injury.