Antti Niemi

Pavelski falls short of hat trick in scrappy beatdown of Red Wings

Joe Thornton SharksThe Sharks’ 4-1 victory over the Red Wings was already out of hand before the game actually got out of hand, but once Detroit’s frustration kicked in, fans finally got a throwback battle between two former Western Conference foes. The third period featured scraps between not only Tommy Wingels and Todd Bertuzzi, but also Dan Cleary and Scott Hannan. The former was more satisfying, primarily because it left Bertuzzi bloody in the penalty box, and secondarily because the latter was the result of a flagrant elbow to the head from Cleary.

So I guess there’s still some bad blood in this rivalry-cut-short thanks to the Red Wings’ move to the Eastern Conference. Jimmy Howard had better be a a more solid representative of the United States in the Olympics than he was a representative of the city of Detroit in the SAP Center Thursday. The Sharks got to him early and often, starting with the nifty one-two punch of Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski:

With two assists tonight, Thornton is still averaging a point-per-game this season and is currently climbing the ranks of the NHL’s all-time assists leaders. In fact, he has 45 assists, 45 games in to the season. But as it seems Thornton prefers it, the Sharks’ success Thursday really hinged on Pavelski.

Captain America scored his second goal of the game and 21st of the season in the second period, and it was something special. Pavelski was boxed out and knocked on his face in front of the net while the Sharks set up their attack. Unfortunately for Detroit, it wasn’t enough to stop him. He jumped back up and found himself in the right place at the right time to do this:

The Sharks hold little impromptu kick-arounds with a soccer ball before games, and you can see them paying off in that GIF. Pavelski kicks the puck between from his right foot to his left, then behind his back before roofing it. Absolutely insane goal.

From there on, everyone watching was waiting for the hat trick that never came. Pavelski had enjoyed 21 two-goal games, but now he can add a 22nd to his list. San Jose put on one last push in the final minute of the game and Pavelski had a hard wrist shot rip just high and wide. It has to be frustrating, but he sounds hopeful he’ll get it eventually.

“It’ll happen I bet, hopefully,” Pavelski said. “We’ll see, we’ll keep trying. That was one of the better looks I’ve had at it though.”

Off the Post

— Lost in the excitement of Pavelski’s big game was Andrew Desjardins’ game-winner. He bounced the puck past his defenseman to himself on the boards and put a beautiful wristshot past Howard short side:

“I guess I was going in that area, low blocker,” Desjardin said of the goal. It was a huge schneid-breaker for Desi, who’s usually more involved in the type of scrappiness we saw at the end.

“I think it’s frustration a little bit,” he said. “We’ve been in that position, same thing. It’s frustrating, so you’re trying to fight back. That’s the way it goes.”

— Dan Boyle notched a goal as well, a power play score in the second to rub Detroit’s nose in it. Thornton’s second assist came on the defenseman’s goal, passing the puck to Jason Demers whose beautiful feed to Boyle represented a point in four-straight games for the one they call “Daddy”:

“It’s been going well for a little bit,” Boyle said of the power play. “There’s ebbs and flows, you get cold and get hot. We’ve been doing a decent job, it can always get better of course, but it’s definitely better now than it was three or four weeks ago.”

With only eight goals, Boyle has had a slower start to this season that in past years, but even while finding his stride, he won’t take credit for the power play’s resurgence.

“I don’t know if I’d take credit for it,” he said. “Obviously, I’ve felt better lately and hopefully it is a part of it, but it’s all of us. There’s five guys out there and five guys need to make a difference.”

— The refs didn’t call a penalty on Cleary for elbowing Hannan in the head, but they did give Hannan an instigator penalty for retaliating. It was obvious targeting, and Cleary deserves a suspension for it.

— Boyle took a hit for Cleary in the first period as well, and he talked about it in the locker room.

“That’s the way he plays. I probably shouldn’t have let up and assumed he wasn’t going to hit me,” he said. “He’s got to play a physical game, and I wasn’t too happy about it.”

— Not all of the GIFs have to be goal-related. In honor of his unusually solid game (24 saves, one goal allowed), here’s an Antti Niemi GIF to end this post in style:

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