It started at the 2:48 marker of the first frame.
Micheal Haley, fresh off a call-up from the Barracuda, chucked his gloves to the ice for a tussle with Florida Panthers tough guy Shawn Thornton. The fight was just the jolt of energy the San Jose Sharks needed to get the quality start they had been lacking, and helped carry Team Teal to a 5-2 win.
“Haley did a great job,” Joe Thornton gushed after the win. “That energy brought early on kind of gave us all a kick in the butt to go, and we really responded off that.”
The fisticuffs and the early kick comprised just a portion of what went right for the Sharks on Thursday night. Here’s the nitty-gritty:
The Sharks were smart to get the jump on Florida, who was ending a back-to-back and had lost to Anaheim the night before. The jolt from Haley ignited the offense, who tilted the ice in their favor early in the first stanza.
“We know what it’s like to play back-to-back, on the road,” said Alex Stalock, who tallied his first victory of the season behind 31 saves. “We stayed on them. Our lines tonight, when we got in their zone five-on-five, it was fun to watch.”
Patrick Marleau agreed. “We’ve been talking about making sure we get off to good starts. Especially with a team coming in here on the back-to-back.”
Early Goals, and the Donskoi Effect
San Jose jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first frame. As a colleague of mine noted, it was only the second time in eight games they had scored first.
“We had good jump right from the drop of the puck,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “We got the first goal — the first two goals, which was key. We wanted a good start. Did a lot of good things.”
The first goal was a laser shot off from Brent Burns that bee-lined past Florida’s backup netminder Al Montoya. The second was a doozy, with Joonas Donskoi chipping the pouncing puck into the net despite a chaos of bodies in the blue paint.
This wasn’t the first game that Donskoi has made an impact, as he has become a pivotal piece in the top line’s production since coming back from injury. Thornton was incredibly complimentary of his young linemate.“The last two games, I think he’s played the best I’ve seen him play. The last two games, he’s really fit into the way we play.”
The Marleau Effect
There is no denying it — when Number 12 has a good game, everything he does on the ice becomes worthy of the highlight reel. He provided San Jose’s third goal on the evening in spectacular fashion, dragging the puck around Montoya’s block and backhanding it into the net.
“The goal spoke for itself,” DeBoer said when talking about the veteran forward’s all-around great game. “I thought he was flying tonight.”
In addition to being a goal worth watching on repeat, the game-winner also tied Marleau for 18th place on the NHL all-time game-winning goal list. It also puts him at 997 points, so of course he was asked after the game if he it would be nice to reach the big 1,000-point milestone while the Sharks were on their homestand.
“It would be nice,” Marleau answered modestly, trying to suppress a smile. “The sooner the better (laughs).”
Instead of losing steam when Florida narrowed the gap 3-2 — then missed out on a second Donskoi goal because of on interference call on Thornton — San Jose got that one back before the second 20 expired thanks to a Marc-Edouard Vlasic wrister to make it 4-2.
The Sharks then kept their feet on the gas in the third frame, killing off two big penalties to hold the Panthers to two goals on the evening. They then solidified the win when Chris Tierney went down on one knee when he knotted an empty-netter.
“I liked our push-back,” DeBoer said. “Every time they got one, we didn’t sag. We pushed right back, and that’s how we have to play in this building.”
Keeping that atmosphere in the building is something the Sharks have struggled with since last season. Perhaps the next test is carry that relentless home-ice demeanor into another game? It would make Saturday night more interesting, with the Anaheim Ducks coming to town. And it is well chronicled how edgy the Sharks get when they face the Ducks.
“We’re working on getting that identity back here,” Marleau said. “That (this is) a hard building to come in to. And jump on teams right away.”