By Mary Walsh
SAN JOSE– The New York Rangers defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-1 on Saturday. New York goals were scored by Martin St. Louis and Chris Kreider in the first period, and Rick Nash in the third. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 30 of 31 shots for the win. The win completed a sweep of the California NHL teams, as the Rangers beat the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings in back to back games earlier this week.
Joe Thornton returned to the Sharks lineup Saturday in time to face his old teammate Dan Boyle.It was Boyle’s first time playing against the Sharks as a Ranger, since he was out with an injury when the teams first met this season. In Saturday’s game, Boyle had one shot on goal for the Rangers, one hit and one blocked shot in 18:58 of playing time.
Thornton talked about the Sharks loss afterwards: “It was a competitive game, it really was. It felt like we got our chances, they got their chances but our compete level was high, it was a good hockey game.”
If that sounds maddeningly sensible and insufficiently agitated for someone who just lost 3-1 at home, it isn’t. To my eye, the Sharks showed more poise, better effort and energy than they have in a couple of games. All they seemed to lack is confidence. Despite winning two of their last four games, they have had some truly stunning losses. Games like that take time to recover from.
Joe Thornton thought that the way the Sharks played Saturday was a good sign, and Todd McLellan said much the same thing:
The moral victory is the commitment level and the effort went way up. I twas evident. I thought that if we apply ourselves that way most nights, we’ll give ourselves at least an opportunity to win.
Melker Karlsson scored the Sharks’ only goal, extending his scoring streak to five games. It was a little more memorable for the Swedish rookie because he had to beat Henrik Lundqvist to score that goal: “It’s huge. I mean, he’s a big player in Sweden and I was looking forward to this game. And I scored today so it’s, yeah it’s unreal.”
Make no mistake, Karlsson had his priorities in order about the loss. Asked if scoring against Lundqvist took the sting out of losing, he answered: “I don’t know, I want to win. It sucks to lose. So…”
The Rangers took the lead after the ten minute mark had passed, after being outplayed in most regards by the Sharks. Martin St Louis scored off the faceoff, it was his team’s second shot of the game. Assists went to Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan.
Chris Kreider took an interference penalty at 11:34 of the period. The Sharks’ power play was effective at setting up chances but unable to finish them.
With just under five minutes left in the period, Chris Kreider extended the Rangers’ lead, again right off the faceoff. The Rangers’ push back was in full swing. Assists went to Dan Girardi and Derek Stepan.
Despite dominating in the faceoff circle (winning 74%) and earning good chances in the offensive zone, the Sharks’ finished the period down by two goals and just one shot ahead of the Rangers.
The second period was going very like the first one, with the Sharks starting well and the Rangers coming back late. The big difference was that the Sharks had given up no more goals. With 3:29 left in the period, Matt Tennyson was called for high-sticking and received a four minute penalty. Almost a minute into that, the Sharks drew a penalty to even things out. Martin St Louis went to the box for interference against Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
With no scoring in the second, the teams finished the second period even in shots on goal. The Sharks penalty kill had not given up any shots to the Rangers’ power play so far.
The Sharks completed the penalty kill to start the third period, but the Rangers did not go away. At 4:24 of the third, a Mats Zuccarello shot ended up in Niemi’s glove but the shot was reviewed at length. That the puck crossed the line, in or out of Niemi’s glove, was probable, but Toronto took their time determining that they could not overturn the call. After the long rest and a bit of good luck, the Sharks had every reason to get back in the game.
That opportunity was amplified with a penalty to Dominic Moore for interference at 5:31. The Sharks power play started inauspiciously with a won faceoff, a stray pass that left the zone, followed by a short handed chance for the Rangers. All of that transpired in the first ten seconds of the power play. The Sharks did get set up after that. After a tentative shot or two, the Sharks dug in. A keep in from Matt Tennyson turned into a pass to James Sheppard along the boards. Sheppard and Karlsson converged on the net and Karlsson scored to cut the lead in half.
Logan Couture was called for holding at 11:58. The Rangers again got credit for no shots on their power play, but the Sharks had one short handed shot that ended with Vlasic and St Louis tangled up in Lundqvist’s net.
In the final three minutes, the Rangers used their time out after a very good shift from the Sharks. The Sharks did not get their mojo back after the time out, and after the Sharks pulled Niemi for the extra skater, Rick Nash was able to ellude the Sharks defense to score the game-clincher.
Patrick Marleau, James Sheppard, Tye McGinn and Logan Couture each had four shots on goal, no Shark had more. Tommy Wingels had the most hits with three. Marc-Edouard Vlasic led the team in ice time with 25:18, while Justin Braun blocked five shots. Antti Niemi made 29 saves on 31 shots.
Rick Nash led New York in shots on goal with seven. Dan Girardi and Jesper Fast each had four hits, no Ranger had more. Ryan McDonagh led the team in ice time with 23:54.
The Sharks next play in Arizona against the Coyotes, at 6:00 PT on Tuesday the 13th.