SAP CENTER — If you needed proof of how bipolar the Sharks have been this season, look no further than their 6-4 victory over the Anaheim Ducks Saturday night.
The Sharks first built a 5-1 lead late in the second period before holding off a ferocious rally by the Ducks. Two goals by Corey Perry and another by Ryan Getzlaf less than five minutes into the third period closed the gap to 5-4.
The San Jose win snapped a four-game losing streak suffered to the likes of the Sabres, Panthers and Coyotes, and proved the Sharks remain capable of competing with the best in the NHL.
When asked about what changed in this game from previous games, Patrick Marleau cited the rivalry:
“I don’t know what it is … probably, just because we’re in the same division and we see them a lot. There’s a lot of bad blood when we see each other, so we get up for these games. You know they’re going to be tough games. We need to bottle that up and use it against other teams.”
Indeed, the Sharks played with an extra spring in their step, and SAP Center was as intense and loud as it has been all season.
Antti Niemi (W, 30-34 saves, 8-7-3, 2.57 GAA) was phenomenal, making several huge saves to prevent the Ducks from completing the late comeback.
A Ducks’ power play midway through the final period was negated when Matt Nieto drew an interference penalty on Ryan Kesler, then a late hooking penalty on Josh Manson with 2:24 left prevented the Ducks from generating a final attack. Nieto scored an empty-net goal in the final minute to conclude matters.
The hot start followed by a near-collapse frustrated Sharks’ head coach Todd McLellan:
“Tonight epitomizes our team …We get a lead and now we want to play a different game. We want to play a softer, cuter game, if you will. We started turning pucks over, we weren’t playing as physical, we weren’t playing north-south, and we weren’t shooting.”
Logan Couture felt ill this morning and didn’t participate in the morning skate, though he wound up playing and scoring two first period goals.
Couture capped the strong start by scoring on a fortuitous bounce in front off a slap shot by Marleau that careened off Tommy Wingels right onto Couture’s stick. Couture put it into a gaping net for a 1-0 Sharks midway through the first.
Couture responded with a shorthanded goal, taking away a misplayed puck by Hampus Lindholm at the Ducks’ blue line, skating into the zone unimpeded and beating Frederik Andersen (L, 14-19 saves, 2.37 GAA) on the breakaway.
Near the end of the first period, the Sharks’ special teams delivered yet again, this time on the power play as Joe Thornton threaded the needle to Joe Pavelski right in front down low for a 3-1 Sharks lead.
Wingels scored on a tip off another shot by Marleau less than three minutes into the period, then Hertl scored his fifth goal of the season on a steal in the offensive zone, followed by a nifty backhand goal top-shelf past Andersen. That gave the Sharks a 5-1 lead as the Ducks pulled Andersen for Jason LaBarbera.
Said McLellan on building an early lead:
“We came out with exactly what we wanted to do – straight-forward mentality, no turnovers, hard forecheck, physical on the puck, special teams were sharp.”
The Sharks have two more games on this homestand, the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday and Boston Bruins on Thursday.
The Sharks snapped a four game skid, avoiding their longest losing streak since the 2010-2011 season of six games. … The last time the Sharks and Ducks met, they combined for 165 penalty minutes. Tonight, there were no fights and just 32 penalty minutes combined, but there were seven roughing penalties. … Prior to the game, Tyler Kennedy was placed on injured reserve and Mike Brown was activated after missing 20 games with a broken hand. … Matt Tennyson, Mirco Mueller, and Barclay Goodrow were scratched tonight for the Sharks. … The Sharks have won six straight against the Ducks at home. They are now 62-47-4-7 all-time against Anaheim. … Joe Thornton has 65 points in 67 career games against the Ducks. … Todd McLellan and Bruce Boudreau, the two head coaches, were roommates when they played for the Springfield Indians of the AHL from 1987-1989. … The Sharks are 4-0-0 against Ducks’ goaltender Frederik Andersen. … Antti Niemi is 12-9-0 in his career against the Ducks … Tonight’s attendance was 17,352, a non-sellout at SAP Center for the fourth game in a row.