Saturday night was a great example of a team defense bending, but not breaking. Buffalo hammered away at Evgeni Nabokov, outshooting San Jose 14-5 in the opening stanza and continuing the trend in the second period. Still, thanks in large part to Nabokov, the Sharks made their chances count and escaped with a 5-2 win.
“He kept us in the game,” said Jed Ortmeyer. “He was unbelievable and gives us a chance to win every night.”
Buffalo’s unique blend of style and speed makes them difficult for everyone (there is a reason they lead the Northeast Division), but San Jose felt they should have handled the contest better.
“We weren’t the better team,” said Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan. “We were getting outworked. I know that there was some concern about the tempo that we played at. I don’t think we worked hard enough in the first period. Not one bit.”
“They were fast and came as advertised,” said Joe Pavelski
. “They are quick in transition and caught us on our heels.”
The results are what counted in the end and the Sharks accomplished their goal in that category.
“We found a way and it’s hard to criticize a win,” said McLellan.
“As the game went on, we got stronger,” said Dany Heatley.
The turning point in the contest came on a play where the Sharks reminded themselves that their hard work is what makes them successful. More specifically the hard work of Manny Malhotra reminded everyone.
Just 2:17 into the second, Malhotra outhustled and outworked a Buffalo blueliner in a battle below the goal line. A quick flick of the stick sent the puck to Joe Pavelski
in front and he quickly snapped it past Ryan Miller, his own goalie for the upcoming Olympics.
“I was more trying to hold the change and saw him start to lose it a little,” said Malhotra. “It was great communication by Pavelski. I didn’t see him but I heard his voice.”
“We weren’t really in the game and we got going after that,” said Pavelski.
It would not be Pavelski’s only tally of the night. During an extended high energy shift 6:31 into the third period, Pavelski struck for the game-winner. While being struck from behind, he rammed home the go-ahead goal. He now has nine points in his last five games (3-6=9).
Just after San Jose tied the game in the second, the club found itself down two men for more than a minute. The hockey gods were looking down upon the team as two early Buffalo shots rang off the post. Nabokov and the Sharks then closed the door the rest of the way.
Dany Heatley had been sniffing hard for a goal, but couldn’t quite convert early and rang one off the pipe at one point. His persistence paid off later in the second when he and Rob Blake parked themselves out front of the crease and created confusion in front of Miller. Heatley then poked in a goal that gave San Jose their first lead of the night.
“The one off the post I thought was in,” said Heatley. “We had some good chances the two previous shifts.”
Dany Heatley potted his 30th goal of the season. He is now tied for fourth in the NHL with Ilya Kovalchuk.
Just 18 seconds into the third period, the Sharks penalty killing streak came to an end. The Sharks PK unit let up its first PP goal in nine games snapping a streak of 34 consecutive penalties killed. The St. Louis Blues were the last to convert a PP against the Sharks on January 6, 2010.
2 AT A TIME
Jed Ortmeyer scored twice on the night, including a pretty one-timer and an empty-netter.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had two,” said Ortmeyer.
Ortmeyer’s two goals give him seven on the season, a new career single-season high. Ortmeyer now has points in three of his last four games (3-3=6).
10 different Sharks recorded points.
Rob Blake extended his point streak to four games with an assist (2-3=5).
BUFFALO SABRES HEAD COACH LINDY RUFF:
“We didn’t put away our opportunities. On the five-on-three we hit three crossbars. If you don’t put away those opportunities and let the other team hang around; they didn’t miss on their opportunities.”
“We are disappointed that we didn’t take advantage of some of our chances. We made a couple of mistakes. Our one defenseman had a pretty rough night and they took advantage of that.”
“We shouldn’t be happy when we don’t win. Be happy with the effort but don’t be happy if you don’t win. That’s the message. We want to keep getting better, and getting better means winning.”
“We battled hard in the faceoff circle. I thought our puck movement was really good, and that usually leads to a lot of speed and I think we had a lot of speed tonight.”
The Sharks will host Chicago on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The game can be found on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.