The San Jose Sharks (9-1-1, 19 points) played a great game from start to finish and as a result earned their second shutout of their current road trip by defeating the Montreal Canadiens (6-5-0, 12 points) 2-0 at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi earned his second shutout of the season with 22 saves in another great performance. Once again he kept the Sharks in the game until they broke the 0-0 tie midway through the second period. Niemi also did receive some help from his defense when he needed it, but in all in all turned in another stellar performace.
That first goal of the game, which was Logan Couture’s first of the night, was on the power play. Couture received a great pass when he was driving to the net from captain Joe Thornton and all he had to do was tip the puck past Habs goaltender Carey Price.
Couture’s other goal, which gave San Jose some breathing room in the third period, was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. The play started on a Patrick Marleau dump in that took a crazy bounce high off of the glass and right in front of the Canadiens net. With Price out to play the puck behind the net, Couture was crossing in front and just had to fend off a stick check from a defenseman in order to put the puck into the net. Marleau would receive an assist on the play making that his second of the game.
A couple of guys that stood out tonight were Matt Nieto and James Sheppard. Combined they had 11 of San Jose’s 35 shots on goal and wreaked havoc in the offensive zone when given the chance. It was an especially great showing for Sheppard who was just inserted into the lineup today and definitely made his case for more playing time moving forward.
As for the young Nieto, his speed was evident tonight and was in on a few odd-man rushes. He was willing to go to the dirty places on the ice to create chances as well, and seeing that from a young kid is very impressive.
While the offense for San Jose has begun to slow down (as expected) it has been the defense that has continued to impress. That was very evident in the latter part of the third period with the Sharks holding a 2-0 lead. With just a few minutes left the Canadiens were trying to get the puck out of their defensive zone in order to pull Price for an extra attacker but the Sharks forecheck and neutral zone pressure denied any chance of that.
It was the best I have seen so far this season and the Habs were unable to even get the puck beyond center ice for quite some time. That is the type of game-closing ability a top-level team needs to have, and we saw it this evening. It also shows a team who is continuing to improve game in and game out because they finished this game very well as opposed to the Bruins game where the let at least one point slip away form them with the lazy defense that allowed Boston’s goal with 0.8 seconds left in regulation.
GGS 3 Stars
1. Logan Couture (2 goals)
2. Antti Niemi (22 saves)
3. Matt Nieto (7 shots on goal)