Thursday’s 3-1 win against Anaheim may not have been as exciting at the 9-1 win the previous home game against Calgary, however, it was very impressive from a hockey standpoint. The Ducks came in as a Pacific Division rival charging to a playoff spot and were spirited from the moment the first puck dropped. San Jose though found a way to take control in the first stanza and stayed in the driver’s seat all night.
The story of the night was the revamped blueline that scored twice. The crew was missing Olympian Dan Boyle
, who said he will likely miss two games, and two of the pairing were juggled. Marc-Edouard Vlasic
was teamed with rookie Jason Demers
and Rob Blake was paired with Douglas Murray
. The only duo left in tact was Jay Leach and Kent Huskins.
“Blake and Vlasic were partners until tonight, then we broke them up and they both scored,” said McLellan. “I consider that secondary scoring. We got a couple from the defensemen which I don’t think is odd, but to have the only two come from defensemen is important.”
Vlasic had not scored a goal in 36 games dating back to November 1 of this season. He fixed that with a big opening goal against the Ducks and there was definitely a smile on Vlasic’s face in his post game interviews. Vlasic simply took the puck after a faceoff win by Patrick Marleau
and he fired toward the goal.
“It was a good win by him (Marleau) and I put it on net,” said Vlasic. “I’m glad I got one. I just wanted to put it on my forehand.”
Vlasic was thinking more than just defensively all night and led the club with five shots.
“Without (Boyle) we’ve got to step up offensively,’ said Vlasic.
Vlasic noted there may have been a little magic with him and Demers on the night.
“I guess when I play with a French guy, I score a goal,” laughed Vlasic.
Fittingly, the game-winner went to Rob Blake who reached a milestone with his goal and he both started the play and concluded it. Things ignited as the Sharks blueliner chipped the puck high on the glass and it found it’s way to Patrick Marleau
in the neutral zone. The speedy Shark dished it to Joe Thornton
who in turn saw Blake streaking into the offensive zone.
Thornton’s pass hit Blake right on the stick and Blake did not waste time as he simply forced the puck to an empty part of the net. The tally moved Blake into a tie with Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson for 10th all-time on the NHL’s goal scoring list for defensemen. They are tied with 237.
So, how perfect was Thornton’s pass?
“I didn’t see it until it hit my stick,” said Blake.
Blake hinted the tie may not last long between he and his general manager.
“I think he’s training to start a comeback,” joked Blake.
Blake extended his point streak to three games (2-2=4) with the tally.
“Blake was pumped and jumping up,” said McLellan. “He had one of his better games.”
The goals scorers weren’t the only ones who did their part. Murray did his job helping throttle the Ducks top line and Demers nicely helped out as the only defenseman on the first power play unit. Leach and Huskins played an even game in the plus/minus category.
There were multiple bouts early in the contest. The first involved Ryane Clowe
stepping up against George Parros, generally regarded in Jody Shelley’s category as a true heavyweight.
“I jumped on the ice and he ran over Blake on our blueline,” said Clowe. “Most of my fights are like that, sticking up for a teammate. He’s got big hands and is strong. I don’t fight those guys that much. I’m normally not out there with them.”
While giving up some size, Clowe didn’t let that stop him from landing several punches.
In the second scrap of the period Brad Staubitz tussled with Nick Boynton.
“In the first period they came hard and challenged our character,” said Nabokov. “We responded pretty well.”
“It’s a game against Anaheim, it’s not out of the ordinary,” said McLellan. “We responded well.”
Nabokov required a visit from the Sharks training staff at one point in the game as he was involved in a collision.
“I think our D kind of got me and I just wanted to make sure my neck was o.k.,” said Nabokov.
The Sharks stopped five Ducks power plays and have not allowed a power play goal in six games, totaling 23 chances against. There is no question that when the penalty kill is working the most important player is in complete control in the nets.
“He is the key to the penalty kill,” said Blake of Nabokov. “You saw the last couple minutes of the third. When he comes out on top of the crease, he is tough to beat.”
What Blake was referring to was a shorthanded situation at the end of the game where Anaheim had a six-on-four advantage as they pulled their netminder.
“With three minutes left, we did a good job,” said Nabokov.
And not just on Thursday.
“Nabokov has been very focused all year,” said McLellan. “I think the players around him are playing better and he can see the puck. More than anything there are not a lot of second chances. He is doing a good job on smothering the rebounds and the defensemen are doing a good job on clearing the net around him.”
Marleau notched his 35th goal, extending his NHL lead. He also added two assists extending his point streak to four games (4-4=8).
Thornton notched two assists, extending his NHL-leading total to 53.
ANAHEIM DUCKS HEAD COACH RANDY CARLYLE:
“We had our chances in the game. We kept it close. We gave up the winning goal on a bad change. We had a chance to finish Blake when he made the pass up, and then we swung away from him and made a bad change there. The guys coming on the ice didn’t have a chance to affect the play. Then late in the game we had a couple of chances on the power play to push it across the line, and that was the difference. ”
On Blake jumping up into the play before scoring his goal:
“That’s the way they play. They move the puck, and their defensemen get up and involved in the play. It’s a good play by a good player. We read the situation correctly, but we didn’t have anybody up to check on him. We don’t ask our players to put anybody through the boards, but all we had to do was finish Blake – make him stop. Then the play would’ve been dead, but we swung away and changed and consequently paid for it. Those are the little mistakes in the game that get magnified when you’re in these tight races, tight hockey games.”
On Anaheim’s road record:
“It’s not easy winning on the road. Every team doesn’t have a great road record if you look at it. Our hockey club has played better as of late and we didn’t play poorly tonight. I’m not going to criticize our group for our effort and the way we played tonight. Earlier in the season, I’d say, yeah, we weren’t as effective as we needed to be.”
“We’ll take a lot of positives out of this game because we did a lot of things well.”
The Sharks will host Buffalo Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The contest will be available on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.