By Mary Walsh
AP photo: San Jose Sharks Joe Pavelski is congratulated by Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl after scoring third period goal vs. the NY Rangers on Saturday afternoon
SAN JOSE– The San Jose Sharks overwhelmed the New York Rangers in a 4-1 win Saturday. It has been a while since the Sharks passed the 50 shot mark in a game, but they did so Saturday. They pummeled Henrik Lundqvist with 47 before he left the game, and Antti Ranta faced five more, for a total of 52 shots. At the other end, Martin Jones faced 25 shots and stopped 24. Two San Jose goals were scored by Joel Ward, one by Joe Thornton and another by Joe Pavelski. Tomas Hertl picked up three assists in the game, while Patrick Marleau picked up an assist in his 1400th career NHL game. The lone Rangers goal was scored by Dan Boyle.
Three of the Sharks goals came in the third period, after a hard-fought two periods. After the game, Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer said: “I liked our game through 40 minutes. I thought that if we stuck with it, kept pushing and kept pushing, eventually we would find a crack and I think that’s what happened.”
Missing from the Sharks lineup were Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Matt Nieto, both injured in Thursday’s game against Arizona. Neither injury is expected to be long-term and the team anticipates they will both be back in time for playoffs. Dylan DeMelo was in for Vlasic, while Tommy Wingels returned from injury to fill out the forward lines. He was slotted in on the fourth line, while Chris Tierney moved up to play with Marleau and Ward. That was where Tierney had finished Thursday’s game as well.
After the game, Tommy Wingels talked about how the team should be able to handle the absence of key players:
Guys earn each other’s confidence. When you can show your linemates that you can contribute, you can show your teammates that you can be relied on, the depth shines. To go far in this league you need guys, you need a full team of guys who can do that. I think in this last stretch here, these past 25 games, we’ve really shown each other that any guy can stand up at any moment and that’s what you need.
3:16 into the first period, the Sharks were on the penalty kill. Just back from injury, Tommy Wingels was called for closing his hand on the puck. The Sharks killed the penalty off and followed up with a fairly amazing shift in the Rangers’ zone, complete with last-ditch keep-ins, falling pass interceptions and a couple of good shots. The team looked ready to play.
The Rangers responded with some strong shifts in the Sharks’ zone and the first period went back and forth that way without a goal. At the first intermission, the Sharks held slight leads in faceoffs and shots, and had half as many giveaways as the Rangers. The Rangers had blocked nine shots to the Sharks’ three.
Wingels went to the box to start the second period as well, taking Tanner Glass with him at 2:14. Wingels went for tripping Mats Zuccarello, Glass for roughing Wingels. No harm was done, but no benefit gained either as the four on four elapsed with the game still scoreless. The Sharks had their first power play at 6:01 of the second, for too many men on the ice. J.T. Miller did the time for the Rangers.
The Sharks power play was a bit unsteady at first, but found traction with the second unit. With 11 seconds left, Joonas Donskoi controlled the puck as it came around behind the Rangers net, and sent a quick reverse pass to Joel Ward in the slot. He wasted no time taking the shot for his 19th of the season. Assists went to Donskoi and Hertl.
Dan Boyle tied the game with 2:28 left in the second. Derrick Brassard and Dan Boyle surprised the Sharks with a two on one. Brenden Dillon went down to block Brassard’s pass to Boyle, but the puck got around him. It looked like Jones would stay with Boyle and stop the shot but Boyle waited him out and put the puck in with a nifty backhand. Assists went to Brassard and Marc Staal.
At the end of the second, the Sharks held a 37-18 shot lead.
Five seconds into the third, Marc Staal went to the box for delay of game. The Sharks power play started more quickly this time around but did not score. The Sharks had a series of good chances almost five minutes in, with as many as three tries in fewer seconds but Lundqvist stopped all of them.
Just past the five minute mark, though, the Sharks took the lead back. Tomas Hertl carried the puck over the line and fought his way around the Rangers defense. He carried the puck through a tight turn and to the front of the blue paint. Lundqvist stopped his shot but as Hertl was being taken down to the side of the net, Joe Thornton arrived in front to pick up the rebound and put it away. Assists went to Hertl and Joe Pavelski.
1:49 later, Marleau, Ward and Tierney skated in three on two. Instead of passing, Ward scored his 20th with a shot from the left circle. Assists went to Marleau and Paul Martin. The floodgates were open. Joe Pavelski scored his 33rd of the season in a two on none breakaway at 9:05. Tomas Hertl picked his third assist of the game, and Antti Ranta came in to relieve Lundqvist in goal. At that time, the Sharks held a shot lead of 47-21.
The Sharks took another penalty at 10:32, but not to Wingels. This time it was Dainius Zubrus, for tripping Ryan McDonagh. The Sharks killed the penalty handily, throwing in a couple of short-handed chances to boot. The Rangers looked deflated after that. They managed few shots, and took one more penalty with 1:07 left in the game. The penalty was to Dominic Moore, for boarding Dylan DeMelo. The Sharks made a modest effort to do something with the power play, but Paul Martin ended by holding the puck behind the Sharks net for the last several seconds of the game. It was a reasonable choice.
The Sharks next play on at 7:00 PT Sunday at SAP against the Arizona Coyotes.