It only took 23 multi-goal games to get there, but Joe Pavelski finally got his hat trick. The Sharks certainly needed it, especially after giving up four — yes, FOUR — goals to Martin St. Louis in the first 23 minutes of the game, but defense needn’t apply in this game, a 5-4 slugfest in Tampa Bay to end a 3-0-0 road trip for the Sharks.
Despite Matt Nieto opening up the scoring early in the first (see the GIF below), St. Louis took over only a couple minutes after I tweeted out my respect to the undersized and underestimated winger. By the end of the first period, I was more annoyed than anything else. The Bolt was absolutely manhandling San Jose’s defense, and more specifically Brad Stuart, who was on the ice for every single one of St. Louis’s goals.
Most people got a lesson on natural hat tricks after his third goal — hat tricks of the natural variety mean that none of the three goals are interrupted by another player’s scoring, and Marleau netted one in the middle of St. Louis’s assault (GIF also below). Even his third goal was a little anticlimactic because it was hard to tell who the puck actually deflected off of en route to the net (as a result, the crowd only threw six or seven hats on the ice :/ ). But St. Louis opened up the second period with his fourth goal, making an official natural hatty … and also probably pissing off Pavelski.
The Lightning looked like they were going to take over until #8 got into the mix. His first goal came on a magnificent feed from Tyler Kennedy, who has been playing some fantastic hockey lately after a fairly disappointing first half of the season:
The next was vintage Pavelski: getting in the goalies grill and taking his lumps, he showed off some of the fantastic hand-eye coordination that makes him one of the best in the game right now:
Pavelski’s hat trick goal was even more anticlimactic than St. Louis’s. Matt Irwin ripped a wristshot into traffic, and it either deflected off of Pavelski, Brent Burns, or no one at all. The scoring on the goal was changed three times before finally settling on the snakebitten one:
Even with Pavelski’s three goals signifying the comeback, this was a team effort … at least offensively. Nine different players registered points in this game, including Marleau (a goal and two assists) and Thornton, whose lone assist moved him into a tie with Bobby Hull on the all-time scoring list with 1,170 career points.
Off the Post
— The players who didn’t feel like participating? Antti Niemi and Tampa Bay goaltender Ben Bishop. The two combined to give up nine goals, and despite his 6’7″ stature, the latter’s biggest contribution was an embarrassing flop in the second period that drew a goaltender interference penalty on Marleau.
— You have to give it to Todd McLellan: he’s not afraid to stick with players who are struggling (see: leaving Niemi in after giving up four goals to St. Louis) (also see: Stuart’s team-leading 22:02 time on ice despite being the usual suspect on each of the aforementioned goals)
— I promised more GIFs. Here’s Nieto:
That was a nifty play, following up his own shot and then showing off his release to put the puck past Bishop. Kevin Kurz said Nieto is the kind of player who needs to play with other elite forwards in order to thrive. My take: you could say the same thing about Tomas Hertl’s early success. They’re both rookies, and I’m loving what I’m seeing from the Long Beach native, now on a two-game scoring streak.
— Here’s Marleau’s goal:
Patty is quietly second on the team with 21 goals, the latest coming on another nice cycle feed from, guess who: Matt Nieto.
— Hat tip to Kurz for pointing out that, since Pavelski moved to the top line with Thornton and Burns on December 21, he has 12 goals and five assists. I loved the top three centers being Thornton, Couture and Pavelski, but with Hertl out, Pavelski can go ahead and stay put.