Opening Day Success- The Sharks got two clutch goals from Patrick Marleau and Tommy Wingles late in the third period to blow open a close game a take their season opener over the Vancouver Canucks 4-1. The Sharks before another full house at the Shark Tank once again gave the Canucks another frustrating night at the rink as Antti Niemi made 21 saves. Logan Couture starts his season with two assists and rookie Thomas Hertl makes his NHL debut at 19 years age, getting his first NHL point (an assist). In all the Sharks launched 35 pucks at Canucks veteran goalie Roberto Luongo who after a stellar first period dropped off as the Sharks kept the pressure on him most of the evening. The win gives the Sharks their eighth straight win over their new Pacific Division rival counting last years' lockout shortened regular season and first round of the post season. Brent Burns and Justin Braun scored the Sharks first two goals of the new season in the second period to erase a first period deficit.
First Period Jitters- In the first period the Sharks despite giving up the only goal of the period was clearly the more aggressive team out of chute. Team Teal put 16 pucks on net with a few being close calls, however Luongo was up to the task snagging shots out of the air early on and throughout the opening period. The Sharks despite being the more aggressive seemed to have some first period jitters too that took about half of the period to overcome. The Sharks penalty kill failed their first test of the season as the Canucks opened the scoring with a power play goal from Jason Garrison 34 seconds after Burns was called for a slashing penalty. Garrison launched a shot taking a feed pass from Daniel Sedin who was heading towards Niemi. The pass caught the Sharks by surprise as Couture's diving attempt to block it was just a split second too late. The Sharks shortly there after seemed to start to move the puck well and had ample opportunities to tie the game but just had no "puck luck" against Luongo. The Sharks defensively held Vancouver to seven shots in the opening period.
Burns Redeems Himself, Lifts Sharks- The Sharks in the opening five minutes of the second period could not get a shot on the Canucks net. Niemi made three saves during this time, the biggest one being a hard slap shot from Henrik Sedin that Niemi was able to corral with some help from Dan Boyle. The Sharks would soon see the fortunes of the evening start to turn their way thanks to a Canucks neutral zone turnover. Hertl being in the right place at the right time was able to capture the puck off the Vancouver turnover and feed it to Burns. From there Burns did the rest as he carried the rubber biscuit across the blue line before launching a 20 foot wrister that cleanly beat Luongo to tie the game at the 5:53 mark. The Sharks would seize the game momentum from this point and give the Canucks all they could handle. Late in the period the Sharks would take a 2-1 lead on a goal that team teal put more than enough work into. With the Canucks not able to clear the puck out of their zone with just under two minutes before the intermission, Couture was able to retrieve a loose puck from a Braun shot on goal deep in the Canucks zone and kick it out back to Braun. From there, Braun would pass the puck out to Mark Edouard Vlasic who saw he did not have a clear lane. Vlasic then passed the puck back to Braun who launched another shot on goal only this time drilling it past a shocked Luongo.
Tight Game Brakes Open Late- The third period was a challenge for the Sharks as they knew they had to tighten up even more defensively against the Canucks attack. Team teal here rose to the challenge and put the clamps on Vancouver allowing only five shots on goal for the period. The Sharks penalty kill after a tough start on the evening came through when it needed to most and frustrated the Canucks who had a hard time getting any rubber towards Niemi. With under 5 1/2 minutes remaining, the Sharks were able to get the puck deep into the Vancouver zone. As the Canucks tried to clear the rubber biscuit Couture had other plans for the vulcanized disc. Couture was able to disrupt the Canucks clearing attempt before steeling the puck from Chris Higgins. Once in control of the puck Couture fed Marleau who immediately drilled a wrister that beat Luongo to his left to increase the Team Teal lead to two. Just over a minute later the Sharks put the game away when Andrew Dejardins and Wingles took off on a two on one. It would be Wingles who would stuff the puck into an open area of the net after Luongo stuffed Dejardins scoring attempt.
What Worked For The Sharks Tonight- Team Teal did not play a perfect game yet did more than enough things well enough for the win. The main thing the Sharks did was keep Luongo under the gun and just simply kept him very busy. The Canucks seemed to be the team that got the better end of the opportunities early however that momentum had well shifted by about a quarter of the way into the second period. The Sharks had a decent forecheck tonight and kept the Canucks on the defensive for a good portion of the game. The Sharks had their defensive challenges too as Niemi had to make some close range saves in the first two periods. After a bad start for the penalty kill things picked up considerably and they never gave the Canucks a good look at the goal for the rest of the evening.
What Needs Work- The Sharks Power Play did not have a good night. Statistically they were a whopping 0 for 8 on the evening. To be fair, you can throw out the one power play that lasted only 12 seconds and the garbage time penalty on Vancouver in the final two minutes of play. The Sharks power play after the first period just looked out of sinc in the last two periods. Most notably was the Sharks having a two minute five on three opportunity where it seemed they were too busy looking for the perfect shot that never happened instead of crashing the net and creating a swarm of traffic around Luongo. The Sharks second goal of the evening from Braun was a full strength goal however it bears mention here because in the sequence that led up to the score Couture was able to create a screen that blocked out Luongo. This is what the Sharks need to do going forward to have success on the man (or two) advantage, create havoc and chaos for the opposing goalie rather than just play keep away while looking for "the perfect shot".
Next Game- The Sharks return to the Shark Tank Saturday Night for their second game of the new season, facing Mike Smith and the Phoenix Coyotes. The Coyotes seemed to be an improved team and won their first game of the season knocking off the New York Rangers in the desert 4-1 Thursday Night. With Smith in net, goals are at a premium so the Sharks need to bring their A-Game and hard hats to The Shark Tank Saturday Night. The Puck Drops at 7:30pm (PT).
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