On Tuesday night, San Jose defeated Detroit, 5-1. What makes the victory even more significant is that all five goals came on the power play – a franchise record. In fact, three of the extra man goals came in the third period. For the night, the Sharks were 5-for-10 with the man advantage.
Could the reason be the acquisition of Joe Thornton
? Entering Tuesday’s game, San Jose had converted on 20.5 percent of their power play chances (38-for-185) since Thornton’s first game on Dec. 2, compared to 14.0 percent (22-for-157) before that date.
Is it fair or unfair to say that Thornton has made the difference. Unfair, according to Thornton. “Everybody’s been playing well and we have a whole bunch of good players who compliment me real nice,” he said. “It’s a total team effort, not just one guy.”
“We’ve talked a lot about it and have worked hard on it in practice,” Nils Ekman said. Ekman scored the game’s first goal on the power play at 3:34 of the first period. “Over the season, you see what other teams do to kill penalties. You try to adjust and we’ve done a good job analyzing what we need to do to be successful. If you outwork the opponent, you’ll get the scoring chances.”
The previous Sharks record for most power play goals in a game was four, set three times. The last time came on Oct. 4, 1999 in a 7-1 win over Chicago as San Jose converted on four of seven opportunities.
NILS, NILS, NILS
Nils Ekman wasn’t awarded one of the game’s three stars, but he did make an impact on the ice.
Ekman had a goal and three shots in the first period. For the game, he had five shots, four missed shots and one failed penalty shot. Not a bad night’s work in 16-and-a-half minutes of playing time.
Ekman, one of the surprises from the 2003-04 season, got off to a slow start this season. In San Jose’s first 26 games, he scored just three goals, had two assists and was a healthy scratch three times. But in his last 24 games, he’s got 30 points (10 goals and 20 assists). During that stretch, Ekman had a franchise record eight assists in two games (Dec. 30 and Jan. 5).
When Ekman was asked about his recent success, he was reluctant to talk about it.
“I don’t even feel like analyzing it,” he said. “I just feel good. Knock on wood, I’m healthy and I just feel good.”
Tuesday’s match against Detroit was Joe Thornton
’s first game as a Shark against their arch rivals.
Sharks fans know the seriousness of this rivalry, which dates back to the memorable 1993-94 season. That’s when the No. 8 seeded Sharks upset the No. 1 seeded Red Wings in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
The familiar anti-Detroit chants were voiced by the sellout crowd of 17,496 at various times during the night. There’s no doubt Thornton heard the fans.
“It was fun to play in,” he said. “There’s history there and there’s a lot of fans who like and don’t like Detroit. It was fun to be part of it.”
Tuesday’s game against Detroit was San Jose’s first game in 16 days. Over that two-plus week period, the Sharks had four players participating in the Winter Olympics, while Detroit had nine. In fact, four of them (Tomas Holmstrom, Nicklas Lidstrom, ex-Sharks forward Mikael Samuelsson and Henrik Zetterberg) weren’t even with the team. That foursome, which accounted for 76 goals, will rejoin Detroit in time for their game in Anaheim on Wednesday.
The missing players, plus Olympic travel fatigue, could’ve played a factor in Tuesday’s win, according to Ekman.
“I think they were more tired than we were,” he said. “We just outskated and outbattled them.”
A V.I.P. AMONGST THE CROWD
National Hockey League Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly was in attendance at Tuesday’s game.
Did he sit in the press box? Was he in a suite during the game? No to both. Daly sat in the stands with the fans. A few people did recognize Daly, which was a good thing for him.
“I got a lot of nice comments with respect to what we were able to achieve in collective bargaining, how we stuck to our guns and how the game is better for it,” Daly said.
Daly’s last appearance in San Jose was during the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“I think the organization (Sharks) is doing a great job,” he said. “It’s a great hockey market. It’s really fun to be at games in this building (HP Pavilion at San Jose) because the enthusiasm is very evident and makes it a lot of fun to watch hockey games.”