The best way to shut down Sidney Crosby
, Evgeni Malkin
and the Pittsburgh Penguins
is to keep them from shooting the puck. The San Jose Sharks
carried out that strategy to perfection.
The Sharks set a franchise record by limiting the Penguins to only 11 shots on goal and smothered the Pens' big guns all night long in a 2-1 victory on Tuesday. Crosby had no shots on goal, though he did assist on Ruslan Fedotenko
's third-period goal. Malkin had just two.
"They closed things off pretty well," Crosby said.
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Rather than use a checking line against the Penguins' top unit of Crosby, Malkin and Pascal Dupuis
, the Sharks deployed their own big line, including Joe Thornton
and Patrick Marleau
. They checked the life out of the Pens, who matched their franchise low in shots on goal.
"Everybody was coming back and working hard, and we didn't turn the puck over as much as we have in the past," Marleau said after the Sharks improved to 5-0-0 at home. "When you do all of that, you can accomplish some good things."
Coach Todd McLellan
was pleased at how Thornton and his line stepped up.
"It was a pretty good challenge to put Joe Thornton
's line against Sidney Crosby
's line," he said. "I thought they did a real good job."
At 8-2-0, the Sharks are off to the best start in franchise history. McLellan has stressed defense, and his players are obviously listening. San Jose came within 5:33 of back-to-back shutouts after blanking Tampa Bay on Saturday.
"We've had to look ourselves in the mirror when it comes to our defense, and it's nice to see how they've responded," McLellan said. "I think (Crosby and Malkin) score 60 percent of their points, their goals. If you can shut those two down, you're in a good position to have some success."
San Jose took a 1-0 lead on Joe Pavelski
's shorthanded goal 10:12 into the game. Pittsburgh defenseman Alex Goligoski
fumbled the puck to Milan Michalek
for a breakaway. Dany Sabourin
made the save but Pavelski knocked in the rebound for his fourth goal of the season and just the second shorthanded score of his career.
added a goal at 12:52 of the third period on a backhander from the slot.
The Sharks wound up outshooting Pittsburgh 34-11. The advantage was 20-5 shot midway through the second period, and Fedotenko's goal came on the Penguins' second of three shots in the third.
"In the second period, they turned it up," Crosby said. "We didn't generate enough."
Aside from Fedotenko's goal, the Penguins generated almost nothing. It was the fourth time in franchise history they managed only 11 shots, including two games in 2003.
"It's frustrating, (because) you want to create chances and find ways to put pucks in the net," Crosby said. "It's not an ideal situation with some of the guys injured, but that's part of the game.
We have to find ways to score. We can't accept that. We expect to find ways to win games. ... We don't feel sorry for ourselves, and we don't want people to feel sorry for us."
The only thing that kept the game close was the play of Sabourin, who excelled in his second appearance of the season.
"They were shooting from anywhere and crashing the net," Sabourin said. "That's what they do. That's what the goalie coach told me before the game, 'Be ready, they'll shoot from anywhere and crash the net.' And that's what happened."
Having beaten the loser in last spring's Stanley Cup Final, the Sharks get a shot at the winner — the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings
— on Thursday.
To beat the Wings, Nabokov said his team will have to play the same way they did against the Pens.
"We have to play disciplined at home — the forwards have to help the defense all over the ice," he said. "That's the way we're going to have to play if we're going to be champions."