The top two teams in the Western Conference met for their first of eight regular season contests on Tuesday night when the San Jose Sharks traveled to the Honda Center in Anaheim to take on the Ducks. But the game did not live up to its billing as the Ducks dominated the Sharks, winning 5-0.
Entering Tuesday, the Ducks (14-2-5, 33 pts) occupied first place in the West with an impressive 33 points. The Sharks meanwhile (15-6-0, 30 pts) entered the evening only three points back and were the first team in the West to crack the 15 wins mark.
In addition to featuring the two best teams in the West, the marquee matchup between the Sharks and the Ducks also featured two outstanding goaltending tandems. Anaheim’s Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Ilya Bryzgalov have a combined 2.36 goals-against average good for fifth in the NHL. San Jose’s goaltending duo in Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala have a combined 2.23 goals against average good for third in the League, behind only Detroit and Dallas.
Tuesday was Evgeni Nabokov’s turn in goal as Head Coach Ron Wilson continued with his rotation. J-S Giguere got the call in net for the Ducks.
The Sharks earned the first quality scoring chance of the game just after the four-minute mark when Milan Michalek snuck behind Ducks defenseman Rob Niedermayer and tested Giguere early. But the Ducks netminder stoned Michalek moving to his right to make the save.
While the Ducks responded with a pair of scoring chances, it was the Sharks who also earned the first power play of the game. But the NHL’s top power play unit was stopped easily by Anaheim’s tenacious penalty kill.
With just under nine minutes remaining in the first, the Ducks earned their first man advantage when Kyle McLaren was sent off for holding. On the ensuing advantage, Anaheim’s power play was neutralized for all but 10 seconds when Nabokov was forced to make two stellar saves, first on the blast from the point, then again on the rebound.
With four minutes remaining, Marcel Goc started a rush for the Sharks with a great individual effort first by winning the defensive zone faceoff to himself, then skating the puck through the neural zone and finally firing a shot on Giguere from the top of the circles. Giguere turned aside the shot, but the Sharks were able to get another chance on goal when they started their cycle game.
But the Ducks quickly responded with a great chance by foward Teemu Selanne. Selanne, sitting at 497 goals on his career, made a crafty move to get free fired a rocket in on Nabokov, forcing the goaltender to make a great standup save through traffic as the end to end action finally slowed.
Anaheim was awarded a power play in the waning moments of the first period when Matt Carle was whistled for interference, but the Sharks were able to kill the first 90 seconds of the man advantage with relative ease. The period closed with no score.
To open the second, the Sharks killed the remaining time on the Carle minor and the two teams returned to even strength.
As they did in the first period, the Sharks earned the first quality chance of the second period. Joe Thornton
forced a turnover after a strong forecheck. Controlling the puck, Thornton then found a streaking Michalek in the slot for the one timer, but Giguere closed his legs just in the nick of time to keep the game scoreless.
The speed and skating ability of each team was on display as both the Sharks and the Ducks tried to create chances by creating space.
Anaheim would break the scoreless tie seven minutes into the second stanza. Moments after Nabokov made a great two-pad stack save on a two-on-one break, Anaheim beat the Sharks goaltender. Ducks defenseman Chris Pronger corralled a backhand clearing attempt by Ville Nieminen and fired a innocent looking wrist shot that drifted through a screen and off the crossbar past Nabokov.
As the Sharks looked to rebound after surrendering the lead, Scott Parker dropped the gloves with George Parros in a heavyweight bout. Each player landed a solid right hand before Parros’ jersey crept over his head, forcing the linesmen to intervene.
The fight seemed to inspire the Sharks as Team Teal used their speed to draw two consecutive penalties, earning a five-on-three advantage. The Sharks spent most of the two-man advantage in the Ducks zone, but a lack of crisp passing on the power play allowed Anaheim to kill the minors on Niedermayer and Todd Marchant.
The momentum swung in Anaheim’s favor after their uplifting penalty kill as the Ducks drew a power play of their own when Scott Hannan was whistled for holding with four minutes reaming in the second.
On the ensuing power play, Anaheim would stretch their lead to two when Ryan Getzlaf benefited from a fortuitous deflection and put the puck into an open net. Nabokov was out to challenge the shot, but the puck was deflected before it made it on net and careened right onto Getzlaf’s stick.
The second period closed the same way the first period did, with Anaheim on the power play. Like they did in the first, the Sharks killed the first 90 seconds of the Ducks power play, but would open the following period on the penalty kill. The second period closed with the Ducks leading 2-0.
The Sharks killed the remaining 37 seconds of the Ducks power play to open the third, keeping it a two-goal deficit. But the Ducks extended their lead to 3-0 seven minutes into the third.
Ducks forward Andy McDonald made a great individual play, moving around the Sharks defense, then around the Sharks net before making a tape-to-tape centering pass to Selanne. The former Shark beat Nabokov five hole for the 498th goal of his career.
With five and a half minutes remaining, Rob Davison took a high-sticking minor sending the Ducks on their fifth power play of the night. On the ensuing power play, Francois Beauchemin rifled a shot from the right point that bounced through traffic and ended up in the net giving the Ducks a 4-0 lead.
With just over two minutes remaining, Selanne scored his second of the game and the 499th of his career. The rout was on as Anaheim claimed a decisive 5-0 lead.
After playing in 140 consecutive games, Jonathan Cheechoo sat out for the second game in a row while he continues to recover from a sore left leg. Cheechoo injured his leg on Nov. 15 against the Colorado when he got tied up with Avalanche defenseman Karlis Skrastins. Cheechoo is listed as day-to-day.
Mark Smith was activated off the IR, but did not dress. Smith is recovering from a charley horse he sustained in Los Angeles. Smith is also listed as day-to-day.
Michalek – Thornton – Grier
Bell – Marleau – Bernier
Rissmiller – Goc – Nieminen
Clowe – Brown – Parker
Carle – McLaren
Vlasic – Hannan
Ehrhoff – Davison
Nabokov – Toskala
For only the third time this season, the Sharks will play on back-to-back nights. Immediately following their Tuesday night game against the Ducks, the Sharks will return home to face the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday. Game time is set for Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. (Pacific) and will be broadcast on FSN Bay Area in high-definition. The game will also air on KFOX 98.5 FM, Sharks Radio Network Affiliates and SJSHARKS.com.