SAP CENTER — When the Sharks fell into a 2-0 hole against the Penguins Thursday night, the home team didn’t look like it had the energy to score a goal let alone put up a decent fight.
Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay
San Jose proved that notion wrong by emerging in the second frame with big hits and enough offensive firepower to emerge victorious over Pittsburgh 5-3.
Head coach Todd McLellan said of the come-from-behind victory:
“I thought that’s as physical as we’ve played in a while. We were really engaged. And it’s not about running out of position and big hits. It’s about body position, playing on the inside… Playing around the opposition’s net, even in front of the net.”
McLellan didn’t attribute the victory to those “big hits,” but they was certainly a significant part of the team’s momentum shift in the second stanza. Jason Demers, one of the night’s heavy hitters, described the nature of the game:
“It’s fun to come to the rink to play a game like that. It was playoff hockey. It was hard. It was dirty. It was everything.”
Antti Niemi (19 saves) was on his toes, having his most dominant first period in quite some time. Until about 15 minutes into the frame, when he lost control of a rebound off his shin and Penguin Olli Maatta got his tape on the puck for a wrist shot that put Pittsburgh on the board 1-0.
The Penguins added to their lead on their first power play attempt of the evening with a goal by Chris Kunitz to put the home team down 2-0 before the first intermission.
San Jose turned up the intensity in the second act, as Demers and Raffi Torres led by example racking up hits. Although when asked about his contributions post-game, Torres wouldn’t take full credit:
“I think tonight was a solid team effort. This is how you become a team; this is how you start knowing that you can win these kind of games against teams like that. “
San Jose was checking hard and running up the shots on goal, though getting the puck past Pittsburgh backup goalie Jeff Zatkoff (42 saves) proved to be no easy feat.
Justin Braun put the Sharks on the board — at least we think it was Braun, given that the official scorer changed which player got credit for the goal multiple times — with a shot that deflected through a cluster of bodies in the blue paint.
Zatkoff missed the puck completely as it inched past his left skate. Tommy Wingels and Andrew Desjardins tallied assists as the Sharks cut the visitors lead in half 2-1.
San Jose neutralized Pittsburgh’s league-leading power play in the third. With Matt Nieto in the box for a double-minor, Jason Demers snagged the puck in San Jose’s defensive zone and fed it to Patrick Marleau, who coasted up center ice and launched it into the back of Pitt’s net.
The highlight-reel-worthy shorthanded goal knotted the game for the first time at 2-2.
Maatta ended the tie quickly with his second goal of the night to put the Penguins back on top 3-2.
Then, with the puck back in enemy territory, Joe Pavelski set up Brent Burns alone in front of the net, who took a knee as he beat Zatkoff to tie the match back up at 3-3.
Joe Thornton broke the Sharks through with a long shot past Zatkoff to put the Sharks on top 4-3.
Burns notched his second goal of the evening with 2 seconds left on the clock to solidify the 5-3 victory.
Marleau echoed how the whole dressing room felt after the big win:
“It feels good when you play that way. You want to bottle it up and keep playing that way. It’s a hard way to play, but we go get some rest, take care of ourselves, and keep replicating it.”
The Sharks will have the opportunity to replicate that success on Saturday, March 8 when the Montreal Canadiens come to town. Puck drop for that game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
The Sharks have not lost to Pittsburgh at home since October 22nd, 1997… The Sharks registered 47 shots, the 11th time this season they have put 45 or more shots on net… This is the 9th straight full-season in which the Sharks have won 40 or more games… Justin Braun scored his fourth goal of the season. Braun has scored three of his four goals against Eastern Conference opponents… Andrew Desjardins tied his career-high assist total of 13 on the Braun goal… Patrick Marleau notched his 26th goal of the season and 430th of his career. He is now tied with Alexei Kovalev for 68th place amongst all-time NHL goal leaders. It was his 16th career short-handed goal. He currently ranks first in Sharks franchise history for short-handed goals... Brent Burns registered his 16th and 17th goals of the season, matching his career-high of 17… Joe Thornton’s 2-point night tied him with Sergei Federov for 47th place on the NHL’s all-time points list.