Photos by Aris Bernales/SFBay
SAP CENTER — After scoring just one goal in a three-game stretch, the Sharks were overdue to put more pucks in the back of the net.
A home game Saturday night against a slumping Chicago Blackhawks team could have been the perfect remedy to San Jose’s recent scoring woes.
But it turned out to be another tight, low-scoring contest — albeit exciting right up until the end — in the teams’ third and final meeting of the 2014 season.
And this one finally went the Sharks way, thanks to Joe Thornton’s thrilling game-winner for the 2-1 shootout victory.
Thornton’s magnificent chip in past Chicago netminder Corey Crawford’s glove side was absolute highlight reel material. It even made head coach Todd McLellan crack a smile:
“What a move. Really nice to watch. Must have been in his bag for a long time, because I’ve been here for six years and I haven’t seen that.”
It was cherry on top of a win that the Sharks needed. Joe Pavelski, who had one of the evening’s goals, summarized:
“It always feels good to win, especially when you lose a few in a row. When we play our game, we know what we want to accomplish in here.”
Despite the score staying knotted nothing-nothing through two periods of play, San Jose was the stronger team on the ice. Antti Niemi (29 saves) had two huge saves in the opening frame that kept the Blackhawks from getting on the board early.
The Sharks’ special teams were the highlight of the second stanza, with their kill unit neutralizing Chicago on the man advantage.
But that solid performance couldn’t put the Sharks on the scoreboard. San Jose turned up the heat on Crawford (38 saves) to close out the second period, but both still headed into the intermission without a goal.
Pavelski broke through in the third period. With Brad Stuart in the penalty box for hooking, San Jose’s PK unit got possession of the puck and Pavelski’s shot got past Crawford up high. Scott Hannan notched an assist on the shorthanded goal as the Sharks took a 1-0 lead.
The Sharks’ lead lasted a little over a minute. With the Blackhawks still on the power play Brandon Saad’s slapshot that just barely missed Niemi’s glove, knotting the contest back up 1-1.
Thornton said of how quickly San Jose lost the lead:
“We know how to react and I thought we reacted well. It’s one of those things where they just made a nice play…”
Chicago almost capitalized with 2:57 left in the third frame, but Niemi and the Sharks in front of him dog-piled in the blue paint to stop the puck and keep the score tied.
Dan Boyle drew a high-sticking penalty on Patrick Sharp to put San Jose back on the power play with only a few minutes left in regulation, but the home team couldn’t capitalize and the game headed into overtime.
Both teams put shots on net in four-on-four OT but couldn’t find the back of the net, carrying the game into the shootout.
Pavelski and Patrick Marleau got the jump on Crawford before Thornton’s gamer-winner to give the Sharks the 2-1 victory.
The Sharks’ homestand before the Olympic break continues on Monday, February 3 against the Philadelphia Flyers. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
The Sharks went 3-for-3 in the shootout. They also scored their fourth shorthanded goal of this season. … Joe Pavelski’s goal was the 8th shorthanded goal of his career, moving him into 5th place on the Sharks all-time franchise shorthanded goals list. … Scott Hannan’s assist on Pavelski’s goal moved him into sole possession of 6th place on the Sharks all-time franchise assist list for defenseman (108 assists).