The much anticipated showdown between the Sharks and Penguins did not disappoint in San Jose’s 3-2 victory Saturday night at HP Pavilion.
“It was a fun game for the fans with a lot of chances,” said Joe Thornton.
It was the league’s current MVP who stole the show against the Penguins young guns as Thornton assisted on all three Sharks goals, pulling him into a tie with New York’s Jaromir Jagr for the league lead.
His final helper was a classic centering feed to Mike Grier who netted the game-winner.
Grier received a lot of time playing onThornton’s wing due to the game misconduct penalty Cheechoo was given just one minute into the contest.
“Cheech is not replaceable, but when you lose a big player, it gives guys a chance to step up,” said Thornton. “Grier posted up in the right spot and the puck just floated to the back of the net.”
“We lost Cheech and everyone had to pick up the slack,” said Grier. “Joe is pretty easy to play with.”
All the attention on the night went to Malkin and Crosby, but it was the Sharks rookie who made the biggest impression and he could surprise a lot of people in the race for the Calder Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s rookie of the year.
On his goal, Carle knew exactly what he was doing with Milan Michalek’s pass as the Alaska native went to the far side.
“In that spot, that is where I’m looking to go,” said Carle. “The goalie has to move across. Milan’s pass was great.”
With the tally, Carle has moved into a tie for first place in the NHL in defensemen scoring and added to his resume for rookie of the year.
Still, the Sharks players were impressed with what they saw from Pittsburgh’s talented youngsters.
“They’re exciting young players,” said Carle. “Malkin, Crosby and Staal have a lot of potential.”
“I think they deserve all the hype they get,” said Vesa Toskala. “They are dangerous every time they touch the puck. They’re special kids.”
Toskala had to make a big play on each to keep both Malkin and Crosby off the scoreboard.
In the first, Sergei Gonchar was coming round the back of the net andCrosbywas open out front. Toskala reached around and deflected the pass. Late in the third, Malkin was on the doorstep.
“That one almost got through my arm,” said Toskala.
But it didn’t.
McLAREN CONTINUES HITTING . . . AND SCORING
For the first time in his career, Kyle McLaren scored goals in back-to-back contests and he added an assist on the game-winning tally Saturday night. But again, it was his physical play that may have made the biggest impression on the night.
With Malkin coming down the board, McLaren quickly closed with one of his classic hip checks and broke up the play. He didn’t quite get all of Malkin, but he got enough to make his point.
McLaren wasn’t simply looking for the young star, but he is always looking for a hit.
“I’m just doing my job,” said McLaren. “I don’t care who it is. My role is to bang bodies. We wanted to finish all our checks, even if they’re not bone crushing hits. If you keep playing physical, you can wear people down.”
The physical play did play its part in slowing down the high-powered Penguins McLaren’s big hits should continue against unfamiliar foes.
“We’ve been playing the East and they’re not used to seeing him and every game a guy is getting killed,” said Toskala. “They guys out here (in the West) are aware of him and don’t try to beat him wide.
In addition to running his record to 7-1, Vesa Toskala is now the answer to a trivia question. Entering Saturday night’s contest, Malkin had scored in his first six NHL contests. Toskala will now forever be linked to the talented youngster as the one who stopped the streak.