If critics had started to question the Sharks after San Jose dropped two games in a row, Thursday’s outcome against Calgary stopped them in their tracks. A four-goal first period, including three on the power play, proved that the Sharks really are the best in the Pacific. And the West. And the NHL.
Ironically, the biggest story in San Jose’s 6-1 rout over the Calgary Flames was the Sharks defense. San Jose tied a franchise record for points by defenseman by registering eight points against the Flames. Rob Blake and Dan Boyle
earned three assists apiece and Christian Ehrhoff added two helpers in the first rematch between the Sharks and Flames since the 2008 Western Conference Quarterfinals.
Originally, Ehrhoff had been credited with three assists. However, a scoring change that came about on Friday afternoon gave his first assist to Sharks left wing Ryane Clowe
After the game, a key question among reporters in the locker room concerned the Sharks ability to hold two-goal leads. On November 9 against Phoenix and on Tuesday against Nashville, the Sharks had scored back-to-back goals to put their opponents in 2-0 holes. But in both games, the Sharks ended up on the wrong side of the score card.
When the Sharks scored two goals in the first ten minutes of Thursday’s game, everyone was thinking, ‘could lightning strike a third time’?
Leave it to a defenseman to come up with the answer.
“We addressed that here in the locker room before,” explained Blake, who registered assists on the Sharks first, second and fourth power play goals. “Once you get a team down a couple, you can’t give them any life. We let Nashville hang around and we saw what happened in overtime there. Once you get two, you want to look for the third and the fourth.”
After missing Tuesday’s game against Nashville, Boyle returned to the lineup and notched assists on the Sharks fourth, fifth and sixth goals of the night scored by Joe Thornton
, Milan Michalek and Joe Pavelski
“In order to win in this league, you have to play with some leads and keep those leads,” added Boyle. “I thought we had a little bit of a slip there in the second period, but we played good hockey. Obviously we had a great first period and our special teams helped us win the game tonight. “
Judging by the way they dominated the Flames, its obvious San Jose hasn’t forgotten about last year’s too-close-for-comfort playoff series. During the Western Conference Quarterfinals, it took seven nail-biting games to knock Calgary out of the Stanley Cup playoffs. And the Sharks lost three of their four regular season meetings to the Flames. But on Thursday night, San Jose went gangbusters on Calgary. They wanted to leave zero doubt in anyone’s mind about the capabilities of their team.
“We’re trying to learn to win,” said Pavelski when asked about the Sharks strategy. “Whether the score is 4-1 or 1-1 going into the third period. We always want to get that fifth one and that sixth one. It doesn’t really matter what the score is, we want to play the same way. We did that at times tonight but there’s still room for improvement.”
Pavelski and Michalek led the Sharks offensive charge from the second line. Pavelski scored the Sharks first goal of the game six seconds into their first power-play opportunity and then 37 seconds later, Michalek broke free at center ice and beat Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff to his right side for his fourth goal of the season. Michalek added the only goal of the second period at 1:18 and Pavelski capped the Sharks scoring with a power play goal at 3:35 of the third. Patrick Marleau
and Thornton rounded out the Sharks scoring. Marleau’s goal came on the power play in the first period and tied a franchise record for power play goals (75) while Thornton’s followed on a power play less three minutes later.
During the first period, Sharks right wing Mike Grier left the game with a lower body injury. He is listed as day-to-day.
“Mike is day-to-day, or hour-to-hour really,” said Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan. “He’s a little bit sore. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him play in Chicago and I think Cheech (Cheechoo) will be back by then. Nabby (Nabokov) will make the trip and he’ll skate when he’s on the trip so he’s getting awfully close too.”
Also listed as day-to-day are Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov (undisclosed lower body) and Jonathan Cheechoo (undisclosed upper body).
The Sharks, along with some of their fathers, will travel to Chicago for the annual Father’s Trip. San Jose will take on the Blackhawks and former Shark Brian Campbell on November 16 at 4:00 PM (Pacific) and the game will be broadcast on Comcast SportsNet in High Definition, 98.5 KFOX FM and SJSHARKS.com.