Antti Niemi

Sharks take playoff-style victory over Blackhawks

Joe Thornton SharksThe Sharks came into Saturday night split 1-1 on their season series with the Chicago Blackhawks, and just like their last meeting in the windy city, it took a shootout to decide the victor. That’s a good thing, because not only are the Sharks still far from full-strength, but the Blackhawks were one of the teams that truly had San Jose’s number in years past. For the 2013-14 regular season at least, San Jose proved to be the better team, thanks to a 2-1 shootout victory at SAP Center.

The first period was slow on the shot clock, but San Jose picked up the pace in the second and third period. The Sharks have been struggling to score over the last few games, and Saturday wasn’t any different. Joe Pavelski was the only Shark to score in regulation, and despite having four power play opportunities, this gorgeous goal came shorthanded:

What a ridiculous set of hands Pavelski has. He batted this pass from Scott Hannan down at the blue line and managed to wrangle it despite a ton of disruption from Duncan Keith. The wherewithal to roof that shot over Corey Crawford … on the move … with Keith hanging all over him is what’s separating Pavelski, not only from the rest of his teammates, but from the rest of the scorers in the NHL as well. It’s his 29th goal of the season, and he’s now two goals away from his career high. We’re not even to the Olympic break yet.

Of course the lead wouldn’t last. The Sharks are awful on shifts following goals, and this one was particularly bad. Brandon Saad scored 57 seconds later, after Justin Braun flailed on a clearing attempted and Marc-Edouard Vlasic ended up way out of position down low. It was the loan blemish for a Sharks penalty kill unit that did a stellar job shutting down the top scoring team in the league on three out of the Blackhawks’ four power play opportunities.

Without a ton of scoring, we got highlights in the form hits:

and goaltending:

But in the overtime period, it was Corey Crawford who got the worst of some superior shooting. I gawked at McLellan’s lineup card of Pavelski, Marleau, Thornton upon first viewing — not because of Pavelski and Marleau, but more because of Thornton batting cleanup. Boy, was I wrong.

Pavelski scored first, on a deke that was pretty in its own right, and as comparable to his first goal as apples are to oranges because they’re just two completely different animals (or fruit, whatever, you get what I’m saying):

Then Jonathan Toews scored, and Marleau answered with a ho-hum five-hole shot. It came down to Thornton, who showed off some hands that I don’t think I’ve ever seen him deploy that close to the wickets. It was a sick move, and I can’t think of a better way to end the game (and this post) than by watching this again and again and again and again:

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