It’s a bit unclear what it is about playing the Ducks that gets a fire going under the Sharks’ skates, but they might want to consider bottling it up, particularly after the smackdown they put on Anaheim Thursday night.
“You start off good against a team … I don’t know, maybe you feel like you have their number,” Andrew Desjardins said with a shrug.
That magic number was six — as in the 6-3 victory the Sharks notched thanks to a five-goal second period slaughter where everyone contributed. “Up and down the lineup, guys were good,” Joe Pavelski said. “Everyone showed up. Guys played well … It’s a simple recipe.”
It was one of those collective “team wins” that Todd McLellan likes to point out.
“A pretty good team effort. Four lines deep, six defensemen, good goaltending effort, so everybody contributed,” the Sharks head coach said. “Really good way to start the second half.”
If anybody showed up to open up the second half of the season, it was the Sharks third line with a whopping six-point game. That “spa weekend” in Worcester with the AHL Sharks did wonders for Tomas Hertl and Barclay Goodrow (who registered two points apiece), along with winger James Sheppard, whose second stanza goal was his first in 16 games.
“Our line really came hard tonight,” said Sheppard.
“On my goal, that doesn’t happen if Hertl doesn’t drive the net and take that (defense) with him. It’s nice to see him get his ‘big legs’ going and get to the net. So, I’m very thankful for my two linemates.”
There were concerns, of course, headed into the Sharks first game back from the All-Star break, given that they have struggled this season in games following any substantial amount of time off. When Andrew Cogliano chipped in a rebound right up in Antti Niemi’s grill to give Anaheim an early 1-0 lead in the first frame, it looked like Team Teal might struggle to put points on the board. Not to mention they had a short bench, with Desjardins in the box and Matt Nieto in the dressing room getting repairs after taking a puck to the face.
“It made our bench short, and we weren’t up to game-speed yet,” McLellan said of being in the early hole. “But once we got in between periods, and really took advantage of some of our outnumbered rushes, which we haven’t done consistently enough as a team … Tonight we did that.”
Really, the Sharks got into the game before that first intermission while on their first power play attempt of the evening. A tic-tac-toe play from Patrick Marleau to Joe Thornton to Pavelski in the blue paint knotted the game up 1-1 in the first frame.
But it was the second frame assault on Ducks netminder Ilya Bryzgalov that busted the tilt wide open for the Sharks. That third line created the first even-strength opportunity, as Sheppard passed to Goodrow who skated around Hampus Lindolm and beat Bryzgalov for the go-ahead goal. Just a few minutes later Brent Burns — fresh off his showing in the NHL All-Star game — “tee’d up” and shot the from the point, Patrick Marleau’s stick redirected it up high past Bryzgalov’s block to make it 3-1.
On the following outnumbered rush, Matt Irwin with plenty of time slapped the puck through traffic to push the lead to 4-1. The third line went back to work and on another odd-man rush, Goodrow set up Sheppard for the Sharks fifth goal on the evening. When Anaheim finally had an opportunity on the power play, San Jose countered with an odd-man rush in which Brenden Dillon pin-balled the puck off Ducks winger Jakob Silfverberg and notched the shorthanded goal with help from Matt Nieto. The 6-1 marker chased Bryzgalov from the game, with three minutes and some change left before the second intermission.
The Ducks made things interesting by notching two third period goals that cut the Sharks lead in half 6-3, but it wasn’t enough to break down the home team. The victory concluded the regular season matchup with San Jose registering a 4-0-1 record. Great foot to start the second half on, right? “Well, it’s one game,” Marleau said with a partial grin. “If we can keep it going, that would be good.”