There is no glamour on the fourth line. Sharks center Scott Nichol and wingers Dwight Helminen and Jed Ortmeyer are responsible for stirring chaos, creating energy and busting across the ice whenever they get the call. They do the dirty work. And on Thursday night, they did it really well.
Nichol, a 10-year NHL veteran, led the fourth line with four hits, one shot and 8:38 of ice time. The 35-year-old spent 2:24 on the penalty kill --- just two seconds less than Dan Boyle
--- and led a short-handed scoring chance in the second period.
“McGinn had it two feet in front of the blueline and instead of just icing it, he made a real nice pass to me in the middle,” said Nichol of the play. “We went down two-on-one and I just tried to get the shot off to his blocker to McGinn. The puck got up a little bit, but McGinn got a good stick on it and it hit his shoulder. That would have been a huge goal for us, but that’s just one of those things where the goalie makes a real nice save on it.”
San Jose killed off that penalty and the other three they were handed in Game 1. Their defense held the Red Wings to four shots on the power play and earned two shots shorthanded. When they had the man advantage, the Sharks scored twice; once on a 5-on-4 and once on a 5-on-3 while taking seven shots on net.
“Our penalty kill and our power play were great tonight,” added Nichol. “Detroit’s power play can change the momentum of a game. They’ve got real skilled guys on their team so it was good to shut them down.”
Alongside Nichol on the fourth line, Ortmeyer had one hit and 3:51 of ice time in his first game back since missing Games 4-6 due to injury while Helminen had 3:36 of ice time and lined up against Pavel Datsyuk, one of the best two-way forwards in the game.
“We got one shift against Datsyuk’s line,” continued Nichol. “I thought Helminen did good job down low with Datsyuk. He just kept him on the outside. The time we had out there I thought we got in and created as much energy and havoc as we could so it was a good game.”
Nichol also lead the Sharks in the faceoff circle. After ranking first in the NHL during the regular season (60.6%), the Sharks fourth line center went 6-3 in Game 1, tying Torrey Mitchell
for the top faceoff percentage (67%) for a Sharks player.
While this series may end up being a battle of elite skill and special teams, Nichol and the Sharks are doing their best to keep it rough. On Thursday they outhit the Red Wings 38-21 and used their bodies to tire down a Detroit squad that only completed Round 1 on Tuesday.
“They’re going to play their game and we want to hit ‘em,” said Nichol. “Their D jump into the play a lot so we want to finish them. And if they’re going to jump into the play, they’re going to take a hit and then have to skate 200 feet down the ice to get in the play. That’s our game plan and it worked against the Avalanche. We just wore them down as the series went on.”