Midway through the second period Tuesday night, San Jose Sharks
coach Todd McLellan
finally saw what he was looking for from his team.
"I felt we started to establish our game, which was a good sign going into the third," McLellan said. "We didn't score, but we got on our toes. We started to back them off a bit. They played less time in our zone and their D was starting to fatigue a bit."
The Sharks still trailed by a goal after 40 minutes, but what they learned while exchanging chances with Boston in the second period gave way to their domination of the third and led to an eventual 5-2 victory in the clash of the League's conference leaders at TD Banknorth Garden.
It's the first time all season the Bruins have lost in regulation after taking a lead into the third period. It's also the first time they lost by more than two goals.
"We just turned it on and usually when we turn it on, teams can't handle us and that's what you saw (Tuesday)," said Sharks center Joe Thornton, who scored one of San Jose's three third-period goals in his return to Boston. "Our speed. Our size. Everything. I don't think you can handle the Sharks for 60 minutes."
Even though they were dejected with their play after the first period, it could be argued that the Sharks were just building to that great crescendo in the third when Thornton scored less than three minutes after Milan Michalek gave them a 3-2 lead 7:28 into the period. Michalek's goal came less than four minutes after Patrick Marleau tied it at 3:32.
The Sharks held a 14-6 advantage in hits and a 13-3 advantage in faceoffs in the first. They were trying to be physical with the Bruins, but trailed 2-1 on the scoreboard and 13-6 in the shots department because, "we didn't have a forecheck going at all," McLellan said. "Tim Thomas was probably their best defenseman. He was handling the puck and breaking them out, so we had to keep the puck away from him."
While McLellan and his assistants made some adjustments after the first period, defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic said the message was pretty straightforward.
"Wake up," he said.
They did with smarter play. Their pressure on the puck resulted in another 15 hits and that wore out the Bruins, especially their defensemen, who now had to dig the puck out of the corners because the Sharks were keeping it away from Thomas on dumps.
The Bruins didn't have an answer for the fresher Sharks in the third.
"A guy like (Zdeno) Chara playing 30 minutes, after getting hit so much it has an effect," Vlasic said. "We didn't do anything special. It's just when you put a lot of pressure on a team, good things happen."
The faceoffs wound up 33-15 in favor of San Jose, including a 10-2 mark for Thornton. The Sharks were credited with 39 hits to Boston's 25. After registering 13 shots in the first, the Bruins combined for just 17 the rest of the way. San Jose had 25 in the last two periods to finish with 31, but it was balanced as no one had more than four.
"In the second period we had a lot more jump. We got the pucks in deep and got them back to get a lot of scoring chances," Sharks wing Ryane Clowe added. "On the other way, we were giving up too much. We were kind of getting into a run-and-gun game. We talked about that after the second and then we played a great third. Not only did we score, we kept pouring it on and had a couple of huge kills."
It didn't help Boston that Petteri Nokelainen left the game for good with an eye injury late in the first. Chuck Kobasew also missed time in the second with a lower body injury and more in the third with an upper-body injury, Bruins coach Claude Julien said.
"We got thin pretty quick and in the second period there weren't that many whistles. I think our guys kind of got a little tired at that point," Julien said. "We basically had three lines all night against a team that's pretty big and pretty strong. At the end we didn't have enough to continue to compete against a team like that."
Clowe wondered if the Bruins sat back too much while playing with the lead.
"I think that's definitely what they wanted to do in the third, not get anybody caught," he said. "Their D was pinching more in the first and then I think they sat back."
The Bruins, specifically Marc Savard and Milan Lucic, admitted as much.
"We have to have that killer instinct to extend the lead," Lucic said. "It's not a good thing when you're sitting back, trying to hold the lead. You have to push back and try to extend that. That's what we have to get back to. That is what is going to give us success."
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org