For the San Jose Sharks, they are having a start to the season like never before. They currently stand at 8-2-0 and have won eight of their first ten games for the first time ever. Team Teal hit the impressive mark in impressive fashion Tuesday night, limiting the high-powered Pittsburgh Penguins to a Sharks franchise record low goals-against of 11. The previous best of 12 shots against came on Nov. 11, 2007 in a 3-1 loss to Dallas.
This was not the first time the Sharks had severely limited a club offensively this season, as they previously held Los Angeles to only 13 shots. San Jose may have had a temporary breakdown defensively on the road, but they are clearly on the right track now, allowing just one tally in the last two games.
“I am proud of the way our team played defensively,” said Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan. “We’ve had to look at ourselves in the mirror when it comes to our defense and it’s nice to see how we’ve have responded.”
Offensively, San Jose was able to keep Pittsburgh at bay by forcing them to defend. Team Teal posted 34 shots on the night, including 19 in the second period. Ironically that was the one period the Sharks did not post a goal on the night. San Jose also limited the vaunted Penguins power play by only providing the Penguins with two power plays that totaled just 2:26 of ice time. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin combined for just three shots.
“They’ve got some good players and were pressing hard,” said Pavelski. “We just showed the way we can play when we’re all on the same page.”
“It was a team effort,” said Evgeni Nabokov. “The forwards helped the D and the D helped the forwards.”
McLellan challenged Thornton’s line to match wits with Crosby’s early on and then found success tabbing Pavelski’s unit.
“We started the game against him and at the end of the game it was Pavelski’s line,” said Marleau.
For the Sharks, they did not deny that the battles with Pittsburgh and Detroit this week, the two Stanley Cup finalists from last season, were measuring sticks.
“We talked about them being a couple of big games,” said Pavelski.
The Sharks know their early tear in collecting points can be very beneficial when the regular season concludes.
“As a group we’ve played well,” said Mike Grier. “(Not playing well early) probably cost us first overall season last year.”
San Jose did not score a power play goal on the night, but their special teams were important again as Pavelski’s shorthander gave San Jose five shorties on the season, good for first place in the NHL. The tally also provided Pavelski his fifth point in the last five games.
“We’ll take them where we can get them,” said Pavelski. “We’re pressuring down low and scoring a few goals.”
On the opening score, Milan Michalek locked in on the Pittsburgh puck movers and Pavelski chipped the puck forward at the blueline for his speedy winger. Michalek’s initial shot failed in part to a penalty that had the referee’s hand raised, but Pavelski swooped in to knock in the rebound.
“Milan was hunting the puck down low and I was on the other side,” said Pavelski. “I had the easy job.”
San Jose had control of the contest in the third, but was still clinging to a one-goal lead when Mike Grier popped in his first of the season during four-on-four play. On the previous shift, Joe Thornton
(past Hart Trophy winner), Jonathan Cheechoo (past Rocket Richard winner), Sidney Crosby (past Hart Trophy winner) and Evgeni Malkin (the NHL’s current scoring leader) were on the ice. However, it was Grier potting his first of the year that proved the winner. It may have been his first goal, but he has been on the stat sheet as the tally extended his point streak to five games.
“Patty made a great play and carried the puck with a lot of speed,” said Grier. “Christian made it look like he was going to shoot it.”
While Evgeni Nabokov may not have faced much rubber on the night, he was definitely challenged. One turnover gave the puck to Malkin unattended in the high slot. Nabokov did his job on the high risk encounter. However, his best save may have been a glove nab of a Pascal Dupuis blast during an odd-man break.
“When Malkin and Crosby are on the ice, you have to be focused,” said Nabokov. “I just have to be ready.”
“For 11 shots, he made some pretty good saves,” said McLellan.
Both Dan Boyle
and Christian Ehrhoff extended their point streaks to five games as they both assisted on Grier’s goal.
San Jose’s Jamie McGinn made his NHL debut, playing 5:35 and was even for the night. He sported number 64 in his first NHL contest.
PLAY IT AGAIN
The Penguins are one of three Eastern Conference clubs the Sharks will face twice this year and the rematch will be Feb. 11 in the Steel City.
PENGUINS HEAD COACH, MICHEL THERRIEN
“We need production from different players and we don’t have it. The transition game is really hurting us and we are having a hard time moving the puck. It’s tough to generate offense when it’s always a broken play.”
San Jose will host Detroit on Thursday in a 7:30 p.m. start and the game will be carried on CSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com. Tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com.