One For The Record Books- When the San Jose Sharks drafted Thomas Hertl 16 months ago, they had an idea that he may be pretty good. However, they may have had no earthly idea he would be this good. In a performance that was truly one for the ages, Hertl scored four goals as the San Jose Sharks ran the New York Rangers right out of the Shark Tank 9-2 Tuesday Night. Hertl's performance punctuated a night where the Sharks outside of a early first period miscue as a team played probably one of their best overall games since the franchise started 22 years ago. In addition to Hertl's four goals, the Sharks also got contributions from a number of players including Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Dan Boyle, Matt Nieto, Logan Couture and Justin Braun all of who got pucks in the net. For Nieto, his tally was his first NHL career goal and it ultimately proved to be the game winning goal for the Sharks. Vlasic scored his first career short-handed goal of his career as well as the Sharks first shorty of the season.
The Sharks second period explosion was something you could almost see coming from about as far away as five minutes into the game. The Sharks kept hammering pucks on the New York Rangers goal all evening long and this made it a long night not only for Rangers starting goalie Henrik Lundqvist, but also for relief goalie Martin Biron. By the time the game has mercifully ended for the Rangers, it was Biron who actually gave up more goals than Lundqvist ( 5-4). The last Shark to score four goals in a game before Tuesday Night was Owen Nolan who scored four on the Anaheim Ducks back in the 1994-95 season. This was a night to remember not only for the Sharks but for the sold-out house at the Shark Tank who certainly got more than their moneys worth.
Sharks Make Good On Early Error, The Take Over- The Sharks start to the game actually may not have been what they had drawn up when Brad Stuart found his way to the penalty box just 2:32 into the game after he elbowed the Rangers' Rick Nash (who would soon leave the game afterward). Just 34 into the Sharks penalty killing effort, Team Teal was then whistled for a too many men on the ice giving New York a five on three man advantage. From there it only took the Rangers 24 seconds to take the lead as Brad Richards drilled in a slap shot that beat Niemi five hole giving New York what turned out to be a very brief 1-0 lead. The Sharks still a man down then somehow were still able to over power the Rangers and gain control of the puck in the New York zone. Joe Pavelski, who had three assist on the evening, found himself with the puck on his stick after a fortuitous bounce off of the official and was able to pass the puck to Vlasic at the point. From their Vlasic drilled a slap shot that ricocheted off the leg of the Rangers Marc Staal and past Lundqvist into the net to tie the game. Three and a half minutes later the Sharks would take the lead when Pavelski won a face off in the Rangers zone and the draw went across ice to Boyle, who then drilled a slap shot past Lundqvist to make it 2-1 in favor of Team Teal. The Sharks outshot the Rangers 15-7 in the first period.
The Teal Irruption- The first period was only the warmup act as things turned out. The Sharks started out the period killing off 1:12 of a penalty to Pavelski, then exchanged scoring chances with New York for about seven minutes. Then it happened. On a Rangers neutral zone turnover, Pavelski was able to carry the rubber biscuit into the Rangers zone and fed Tommy Wingles who had trouble getting a wrist shot off. Wingles however spotted Nieto charging the net and fed him the puck. Nieto took the feed pass and drilled the puck past a diving Lunqvist to give the Sharks a 3-1 lead. Then the Thomas Hertl show began. 63 seconds after Nieto's goal, Andrew Desjardins carried another puck into the Rangers zone and fed Hertl with a perfect pass. Hertl got the puck and did hockey's version of a "slam dunk" as he jammed the puck past a bewildered Lundqvist for a 4-1 Sharks lead. The Rangers would then place a call to the bullpen and bring on Biron to replace Lundqvist, however things would get no better for the Ranger Blue. Logan Couture just 20 seconds later introduced Biron to the festivities batting in the puck from off the top of a net to make it 5-1. The Sharks had three goals in 83 seconds, and they weren't even done there. Hertl would get his second goal of the period just under three minutes later thanks in part to a broken stick from the Rangers that was left on the ice. The puck would bounce off of the broken stick shaft and Joe Thornton would carry the hot biscuit back into the New York zone. Once across the blue line Thornton saw Hertl splitting two defenders and fed him perfectly. Hertl then showed some of his puck handling skills before getting it past Biron for a 6-1 Sharks lead.
The Hertl Hat Trick- By the time this period was over, the Rangers were still trying to see if anyone had gotten the license number of what had just hit them. Hertl still red hot would bring the Shark Tank crowd to their feet again...and again... and again still. The third period for about the first eight minutes and change was an exchange of possessions with not much really happening. With 12:38 left Derek Dorsett was able to sneak a puck past Niemi to cut the Sharks lead to four. However that would not be near enough to prevent yet another teal onslaught. After the Rangers Brian Boyle got a double minor for roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct for strong language (yes, that did happen), the Sharks had a double minor advantage to work with. The Sharks would not waste too much time to regain a five goal lead when Hertl wristed a pass from Tyler Kennedy past Biron to secure the hat trick. However Hertl still wasn't finished. Just barely three minutes later Hertl took a feed pass across the blue line from Jason Demers and then had a breakaway towards Biron. When Hertl arrived near the goal crease he flicked a back handed writer that went top shelf over the helpless Hertl. Moments later Braun would cap the evening with the Sharks second power play goal of the evening.
A Night To Remember- The Sharks just missed tying a franchise mark of 10 goals in one game, however outside of the early misstep on the early penalty did everything else as well as a team could do it. There is a long season ahead, 79 regular season games over a six month span to be exact. However this Sharks team has something about it that seems to be just starting to brew. This is a team that in three games has shown they come to play and have the sheer ability to bring it every night. The Sharks in three home games have outscored Vancouver, Phoenix and the New York Rangers 17-4. As for Tuesday's game, the Sharks got what could be a real encouraging look at their youth and the next generation of Sharks to come along. These players are fast, fearless and have dealt with early game adversity in the best way possible. The Sharks were not phased and stepped up their game to the point the opponent was barely able to cope with it. It may be a little early to say "Hertl for Calder", however if he keeps going like he is now he will be tough to deny. The best thing about Hertl is that this is a player who is still a raw and green talent and has his best years way ahead of him. As for the rest of the team, it was a complete performance. Antti Niemi who quietly made 18 saves also had an assist on a goal. So far, so good. The season has only begun, however Sharks fans cannot complain about what they have seen so far...
Next Game- The Sharks will play their first road game of the season Thursday Night as they take on the Canucks in Vancouver. The puck drops at 7pm (Pacific Time) in British Columbia. The Sharks return to the Shark Tank this Saturday Night versus Ottawa.
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