It’s hard to believe Thursday’s 3-0 win for the San Jose Sharks was their first over the Florida Panthers in seven years. It’s not that the Panthers are a good hockey team — they aren’t this year, and really, they haven’t been for much of their existence. Perhaps it’s the fact that these teams meet so rarely and that when they do, the Sharks sleep on the Panthers. But regardless of the reason for past struggles, San Jose got the most of Florida tonight.
Let’s be honest: it’s really hard to sell anyone on this game. The Panthers are in no way, shape or form a sexy opponent. This was a 4 o’clock start in a BB&T Center that looked more like the Cow Palace for a San Francisco Bulls game than a National Hockey League team’s home game. No matter how obscure the opponent, every point matters, especially to the Sharks, who are treading water as the Pacific Division’s second-best team behind the high-flying Anaheim Ducks. After beating the Capitals on Tuesday, the Sharks needed a convincing road victory and they got it. In fact, this was their first time winning back-to-back road games since November 15th, and they’ll look to complete the road sweep when they face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday morning.
This game was full of milestones. It signified Todd McLellan’s 250th career victory, as well as backup goaltender Alex Stalock’s first career shutout, who stopped all of Florida’s 24 shots. Joe Thornton scored his first goal since December 3rd in Toronto, and this one was pretty:
It wasn’t a breakaway, but Matt Nieto scored one too, his third of the season and first since October 17th in Dallas:
And then it was Joe Pavelski with the goal for a little insult. I don’t have any depressing statistics about Pavelski and cold streaks — he’s leading the team with 22 goals on the season:
All three goals came at the expense of Tim Thomas, who isn’t what he was during his glory days in Boston but isn’t a chump nonetheless. Thomas looked like he would crush some souls early in this game; after all, the Sharks put 21 shots on net in the first period with nothing to show for it. But it was Thornton who broke the levy late in the second period, taking a pass off of the boards from Brent Burns and foreshadowing the Sharks most dominant period of the season in the third.
Don’t get me wrong — not everything the Sharks did in this game was gravy. You don’t get 21 shots stopped without some kind of misfirings, and San Jose even managed a nearly two minute long 5-on-3 in the first without scoring. The majority of the second period was lackluster too, with the Sharks failing to put a shot on goal for the first eight minutes of the second frame. Luckily for the Sharks, they rediscovered their offensive groove late and managed to break their alternating road record, escaping Thursday with the win.