Perfect Sharks top Oilers in shootout

HP PAVILION — Michael Handzus and Dan Boyle made sure San Jose remained undefeated after both scored shootout goals in the Sharks’ 3-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers Thursday night.

The Sharks are 7-0-0 to start the lockout-shortened season, their best start in franchise history and are now the only unbeaten team left in the NHL.

Head coach Todd McClellan says that the hot start is important for his team.

Post-Game Audio: Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan

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“The schedule’s so compacted…the more you can bank points, the better off you are. We’ll have our share of times where we’re frustrated and maybe not winning, but right now we’ve gotta keep putting them in the bank as much as we possibly can.”

The Oilers played the first period like a team looking to prove themselves. After giving up six goals in the first period to the Sharks in Edmonton’s home opener this season — and going on to lose that game 6-3 — maybe they were.

Edmonton and San Jose traded failed power plays opportunities in the first period before Logan Couture got the Sharks on the board with his fifth goal of the season at 7:32.

Couture followed up his goal with a tribute to the Superbowl-bound 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick – a kiss to the bicep.

Post-Game Audio: Sharks Center Logan Couture

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“It’s a Bay Area team that’s in the Super Bowl, so just showing some support for those guys. Obviously, the team around here, we’re rooting for them.”

Thirty-nine seconds later, Joe Pavelski would extend the Sharks’ lead with a steal that he rifled into the top of the net. The first line for San Jose has now scored in sixteen out of twenty-one periods this season. Pavelski’s goal put the Sharks up 2-0 halfway through the second period.

But the Oilers weren’t ready to quit just yet. Sam Gagner would get his team on the board just a couple minutes later. Edmonton had a chance to tie it on a breakaway a few seconds later, but Antti Niemi made a great save to keep his team in the lead, with the Sharks defense looking a little shaky.

The Sharks’ lead wouldn’t last long. Fifty-one seconds into the third period, the Oilers would tie it up. Taylor Hall would score the goal on an assists by Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

A few minutes later it looked like the Sharks had retaken the lead on a breakaway goal by Ryan Clowe, but Clowe was called for interference, which resulted in no goal and a power play for Edmonton.

The Sharks’ penalty kill — 12th in the league coming into tonight — would remain perfect on the evening, spoiling all three Oilers power plays.

The Sharks, though, were equally unsuccessful on their own four power plays, unable to score on any of them and looking more and more sloppy with their passing as the game wore on.

Despite appearing fatigued while on the power play, continuously kept the puck in the Edmonton zone in the third period, dominating the neutral zone and puck possession. However, they were unable to put one past Devan Dubnyk in goal, and the game headed to overtime.

Niemi, who came into this game sixth in the league with a .933 save percentage, continued to make big saves on Edmonton fast breaks, both in regulation and extra time. And while the Sharks continued to dominate the puck on overtime, it was simply not finding the net.

They ended overtime with a 4-3 power play when Gagner was called for hooking, but once again failed to score, and for the second straight game, the winner was decided by a shootout.

The Sharks elected to shoot first, and Michael Handzus, who scored the first shootout goal for the Sharks on Tuesday, immediately gave the
Sharks a 1-0 lead in the shootout. He’s now a perfect 2-2 when leading off a shootout. Captain Joe Thornton was impressed with Handzus’
shootout abilities:

Post-Game Audio: Sharks Center Joe Thornton

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“I think it’s an easy choice for coach to put him out there as the number one shooter…he’s just so deceptive, I’m not sure why, he just sees his spot, and he hits it every time. It’s fun to watch.”

Niemi would save shots by Gagner and Nugent-Hopkins. Dan Boyle, the final shooter for the Sharks, buried the puck past Dubnyk to give San Jose the win.

Notes

Before this season, the Sharks best start came in 2008-09 when they began the year 4-0-0. … The Sharks have scored the first goal in six of their seven games this season. … San Jose has killed 16 straight penalties dating back to the third period against the Phoenix Coyotes on Jan. 24. … Edmonton was 0-for-3 on the power play. … Defenseman Jason Demers was added to the active roster but did not play.  Demers was injured in Europe during the lockout.

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