The San Jose Sharks crossed the halfway point of their home schedule with a 5-3 victory against the New York Islanders and moved to 19-0-2 at HP Pavilion, a full 21 games without a regulation loss.
“I think it’s something we can be proud of,” said Jonathan Cheechoo.
“It’s a real positive for us,” said Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan.
Mike Grier took the bull by the horns and led the way with two goals and his fellow winger Cheechoo tied a career best with three assists on the night. Grier’s initial tally came on a wraparound effort and the second was a bit easier as he simply fired into an empty half of a net thanks to a great Cheechoo pass.
“It’s nice to contribute,” said Grier. “There are going to be nights when we need the third and fourth lines. Marcel made a nice play on the first goal and obviously Cheechoo made a great play on the second.”
McLellan was especially happy to see the production from Grier.
“Mike Grier was challenged the other day by the coaching staff,” said McLellan. “He stepped up and I’m really proud of him.”
Grier noted that having a sniper like Cheechoo on the third line helps remind them they need to find their own goals once in a while.
“Sometimes a guy like that will get us thinking offensively,” said Grier.
McLellan noted that Cheechoo’s game is rounding into form.
“He’s coming,” said McLellan. “His game is starting to evolve. It’s hard to check three good offensive lines.”
San Jose was in complete control of the game, outshooting the Islanders 47-24, but the visitors scrambled later to pull within one in the final minute before Patrick Marleau
potted the empty netter to close out the night.
“We knew they wouldn’t quit,” said Grier. “They didn’t the other night in Phoenix.”
The home team simply wasn’t happy with their own performance.
“(The letdown) was unacceptable,” said McLellan. “We were up 4-1 with three minutes left and on the power play. We have a lot to do in learning to win.”
“We just weren’t as strong with the puck in some crucial areas,” said Grier.
“Lesson learned, we didn’t put them away,” said Dan Boyle
With the Sharks leading 3-1, Evgeni Nabokov came up with his most timely save on the night, robbing Doug Weight. It was far from his only big stop on a night where the Sharks weren’t as sharp as they typically are defensively.
“Looking back, it had an impact,” said McLellan. “It was a key time of the game for us because we were starting to get sloppy.”
“He’s been back there for us all season,” said Marleau.
Boyle’s goal on the night came when he had what seemed like an eternity with the puck and Joe Thornton
parked in front of the crease.
“They teach you at a young age to keep your head up and look,” said Boyle. “I saw I had a couple more seconds. Jumbo is a bug guy to have out front and he took up a lot of room.”
Derek Joslin, a fifth round pick from 2005, made his NHL debut and played 12:33 and registered one shot. He was also on the ice for San Jose’s opening goal.
“It felt great,” said Joslin. “I was really nervous my first shift, but the guys were talking to me on the ice and made things easier. I felt I did pretty well and we got the win.”
Joslin noted a very big difference between and NHL and an AHL game.
“It is played a lot smarter,” said Joslin. “The players know where to be and the passes are tape-to-tape.”
Joslin said he had friends and family turning in to his opening night.
“I called my parents before the game and a lot of friends back home were watching,” said Joslin.
ALL STAR COACH
The Sharks lead the Detroit Red Wings by six points in the standing and if the Sharks gain one point in any of their next three games, or Detroit fails to earn any of their available points in the next three games, McLellan will be the official head coach of the Western Conference team at the NHL All-Star game in Montreal.
None of the Sharks were named to the starting lineup via the fan balloting, but there will likely be multiple players named to the squad when the reserves are named by the NHL’s hockey department.
Thornton recorded an assist on Boyle’s second period goal to extend his scoring streak to six games. Thornton added another assist in the contest and now has 11 (1+10=11) points in the six game span. He also leads the team with 46 (9+37=46) on the season. Boyle’s goal was his 12th of the year and his 31 (12+19=31) points now rank him second behind the Islanders Mark Streit (32) for the NHL lead among defensemen.
Milan Michalek extended his scoring streak to three games with an assist on Ryane Clowe
’s first period goal. The left winger has three points (2+1=3) in that span.
Alexei Semenov took a forward role for the evening in place of Jody Shelley and even filled in with a fight. Semenov noted it was his first game up front in about six years.
Many fans were surprised when Doug Weight initiated a fight with Christian Ehrhoff and saw the German blueliner control the scrap, giving Weight way more than he bargained for.
After the New Year’s Eve Game in Minnesota, the Sharks were fogged out of the Bay Area and forced to spend the night in St. Paul.
He only played 16 regular season games, and in two rounds of the playoffs, but Bill Guerin was the only former Sharks player in the Islanders lineup.
ISLANDERS HEAD COACH SCOTT GORDON
“There is no shame in losing to that team. They’re big, they’re strong, they’re fast, they control the puck, they protect the puck, and they are very hard to get the puck from.”
“The third period was a little bit better for us in comparison to the first two, but again we came up short.”
“It’s a tough task. That’s a model that we would like to follow on what they built here, and the quality of the team they are.”
The Sharks will play in Calgary on Tuesday night at 7 PM and the game will be carried on CSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.