The San Jose Sharks defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins by the final score of 5-3 in a very entertaining game that was a nail-biter in the final minutes. It was a strong game all around for the Sharks and it was great to see against one of the best teams in the NHL.
Getting the start in net this evening was Antti Niemi after a couple of games off. He looked great tonight and came up big late in the game when the Sharks were trying to survive a Penguins onslaught as they were doing everything they could to tie the game late in the third period. Also, credit the energy line of Tommy Wingels, James Sheppard, and Raffi Torres for getting the team, and in effect the entire building going.
Just as they have the last few games the San Jose Sharks got off to a slow start in the first period with Pittsburgh controlling play all over the ice, especially in the offensive zone. They also had the better of the chances aside from a Sharks power play that had four shots on net. By the end of the first it was 2-0 Penguins on goals by Olli Maatta on even strength jumping in from the point and Chris Kunitz on the power play.
The second period looked to be going the same way as the first until San Jose’s third line started getting the team going with physical play. You could feel the momentum swing in their favor throughout the end of the period, and eventually it paid off. They also outshot the Penguins 18-8 in the period and finally looked to have things turned around.
That payoff came with 2:17 left in the second period on a bit of a flukey goal by Justin Braun. It all started when Tommy Wingels crashed the net on a simple shot on net and forced the puck loose while Pittsburgh goalie Jeff Zatkoff was trying to cover it. Instead he knocked it loose and threw it back up the boards to Justin Braun who shot it on net with Burish providing a screen. After Zatkoff stopped the original shot it bounced off of him and pinballed around until it went off the post and in.
That goal made it 2-1 and you could see San Jose was hungry for more.
The Sharks started the third period off just where the left off with the aid of a power play after a Brooks Orpik penalty. They came out fast and for the first time in this homestand looked determined. Unfortunately they hit a bit of a speed bump and it looked as though Matt Nieto had killed that momentum when he took a high-sticking double-minor, but the Sharks stood strong.
Unfortunately, just 21 seconds later, Maataa would score his second of the game and the second power play goal of the game for the Penguins in very similar fashion to his first goal when he snuck in from the point and put home a one-timer with Niemi out of position. That made it 3-2 and again it looked that maybe the Sharks would lose that edge they gained in the second.
But, Brent Burns was sure to answer that goal quickly and did so on a one-timer of his own scoring in his second-straight game to tie it again at three apiece. The goal, which came just 1:13 after Maatta’s goal, kept the San Jose Sharks in business and kept “The Tank” buzzing.
Eventually, after another power play and a Burns breakaway opportunity where he hit the post, the Sharks would take the lead when Joe Thornton (of all people) decided to just throw the puck on net from the blue-line. The shot looked like it may have deflected off a defenseman because it severely fooled Zatkoff as it knuckled towards him. He even took a stab at it with his glove but was not even close as the shot looked similar to a batter in baseball looking for the fastball but getting the changeup.
With the 4-3 lead the Penguins threw everything they had at the San Jose Sharks. Niemi made probably his best save of the night with about 3:30 left that preserved the 4-3 lead on a point-blank one-timer that had him move across his crease. Pittsburgh would then be forced to pull their goaltender for one last ditch effort, but rather than score it was Burns who scored an empty netter to seal the deal. With that the San Jose Sharks took the 5-3 win.
Also of note, while the Sharks were 0-4 on the power play, they did have 17 shots on net and were very effective with the man advantage. Defensively they held arguably the best player in the world to a -5 plus-minus rating and only allowed one shot on net.
GGS 3 Stars
1. Joe Thornton (1 goal, 1 assist)
2. Olli Maatta (2 goals)
3. Brent Burns (2 goals)