Sharks Shut Down The Senate- The San Jose Sharks got their toughest test of the early season Saturday Night against the visiting Ottawa Senators. Brent Burns' third period goal just after a Sharks power play had expired turned out to be the difference as Team Teal edged Ottawa 3-2 before a sold out house at the Shark Tank. The game was the Sharks first true grinder of the season as the Sharks outlasted a very determined Senators team. The victory however did not come without a price as rookie phenom Tomas Hertl left the game near the end of the second period after taking an elbow to the head. The Sharks have given no report on his condition other than to say they are evaluating him. Hertl got the Sharks on the board in the game's opening minute against Ottawa goalie Robin Lehner who started the game in place of regular starter Craig Anderson. Hertl now has seven goals in his first five NHL games. Antti Niemi after a rough end to his first period rebounded nicely and would go on to make 23 saves for the game. The win for the Sharks is their fifth in a row to start the 2013-14 season, including a 4-0 mark at the Shark Tank. For a good portion of the contest the Senators were able to create problems for the Sharks as they were able to frustrate the Sharks in turning away repeated scoring chances. Lehner for Ottawa would end up with 47 saves on the evening.
A Quick Start- Getting to a Sharks game on time is becoming more imperative this season as if you arrive late you may miss something. If you were late to this one, you did miss something. Not even a minute into the contest Hertl deflected a shot on goal from the right point by Dan Boyle that directed the puck into an area that Lehner could not get back to cover. The Sharks had a 1-0 lead just 55 seconds into the game and would hold the lead for the majority of the period. The Sharks would keep the pressure on the Ottawa goalie for most of the period. After Hertl's goal however the Sharks would see Lehner rebound from the early goal and make several strong saves through the period. Lehner would make saves off Sharks quality scoring chances from Matt Irwin, Patrick Marleau and a point blank attempt by Matt Nieto. The Sharks inability to add to their lead would catch up with them late in the period as the Senators would score twice inside the final five minutes of the period to take a 2-1 lead of their own going into the first intermission. Zach Smith was able to score the game tying goal on a puck that rebounded off the boards behind the Sharks goal. Later in the period a high sticking penalty to Andrew Desjardins gave Ottawa the man advantage. Former Anaheim Duck (and Shark nemesis) Bobby Ryan gave the Senators the lead on a power play goal drilling a hard wrister past Niemi.
Sharks Slowly Wrest Control From the Senate- The second period turned out to be harder sledding for the Sharks in the beginning. At one point the Sharks were actually being outshot 8-1 and had to kill off another minor penalty. Despite the numerous opportunities the Senators had to add to their lead the Sharks found a way to neutralize the Ottawa attack and keep it a one goal game. Niemi was spot on as the Sharks last line of defense not only here but as it turned out for the rest of the evening. The Sharks about six minutes into the second period started to quietly build up some momentum and started to tilt the ice in their favor. The best player on the ice for the Senators on the evening turned out to be Lehner who despite the Sharks shifting the momentum was able to turn away several Team Teal scoring chances. One of Lehner's best saves of the evening happened during this Sharks onslaught as he made an incredible double pad save on a Burns break away attempt. Despite Lehner being on top of his game, this did not discourage the Sharks one iota. Team Teal would catch a break with just under five minutes left in the second period when former Shark Milan Michalek was called for tripping. The Sharks on the power play were relentless and had to be as Lehner was almost like a human force field in the net. Late in the power play Matt Irwin would drill a slap shot that bounced off of Lehner's pads which caused the rest of the Sharks on the ice to crash the net all at once, lead by Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski. With the Senators defense coming to the rescue of their goalie, none of them picked up the lose and spinning puck. Seeing the loose puck before anyone else did, Marleau followed up Irwin's rebound backhanding the puck into the empty side of the net for the equalizer that brought down the sold out house. During that sequence Couture took a cross check to get one of the Senators penalty killers out of the play, and it paid off. The Sharks would end up outshooting the Senators 14-10 for the period, which included 13-2 over the last 12 minutes.
Sharks Defense Takes Charge- The Sharks so far in this early season have owned the third period and this game would be no exception. The Sharks defensively held Ottawa to only five shots on goal for the third period and killed off a late penalty. Ottawa meanwhile stood tall in the saddle themselves as they withstood a battery of Sharks scoring opportunities and 23 shots on goal turned away by Lehner. The only problem for the Senators is that the Sharks had 24 shots on goal, not 23. The one that got away for the Senators happened at the end of a Sharks power play. With 12:32 remaining in the period. Marc-Edouard Vlasic drilled a slap shot that Lehner had kicked away. Nieto was able to retrieve the puck towards the corner and pass it to Thornton behind the Ottawa net. The Sharks Captain spotted an incoming Burns and immediately fed him the puck. Burns from about three feet away drilled the puck into the net to give the Sharks the lead. The Sharks had a later opportunity to increase their lead on a double minor penalty but could not. The rest of the game was all about the defense. In the end the Senators played a strong road game to be certain and gave the Sharks all they could handle. The Sharks weathered the early storms and grew stronger as a team as the game went on. In the end, it would be the Sharks would win this debate with the Senators.
Game Notes- The Three Stars of the Game selections had Brent Burns as the game's third star while Joe Thornton received the first star of the evening. The game's second star went to Robin Lehner which was certainly the right call and he absolutely earned it with his 47 saves. If Ottawa won he easily would have been the first star, he was that good. Hopefully Hertl will be okay and that it's nothing serious. The Sharks took him out of the game as a precaution which was a smart move. It's way too early in the season to take any chances especially with a raw talent like his. If it had been anything deliberate on Ottawa's part, the Sharks would have been all over it. It was nothing at all like what Alex Elder did Thursday night in Vancouver.
Next Sharks Game- The Sharks get take to the road for two very tough challenges against two Central Division teams in St Louis and Dallas. Tuesday night the Sharks take on the Blues in St Louis, a place that has been very tough to win at for the last few seasons. The game starts at 5pm PT (7pm on St Louis) and can be seen on Comcast Sports Net in Northern California.
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