By Daniel Reedy
A span of just over 11 minutes of game time made all the difference for San Jose Tuesday night.
The Sharks fired four goals past Calgary’s backup netminder Chad Johnson in the second period on their way to a 4-1 victory to even the season series at 1-1. It was the second half of a back-to-back for the Flames who were in Arizona the previous night.
San Jose was shutout in its five power-play chances — none of which occurred in the eventful second period — but Calgary’s penalty kill went unsung in defeat.
The first goal was backhanded in by forward Patrick Marleau who found the rebound off defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s shot from the point. Both Marleau and linemate Joe Pavelski finished the game plus-3.
Less than four minutes later, Paul Martin’s shot from the blueline bounced into the goal as Pavelski, who assisted on the goal, blocked Johnson’s view in front of the net.
Pavelski wasn’t finished.
The captain’s pass to Tommy Wingels led the Sharks into the zone about five minutes later. Wingels then skated around the net and passed to a wide open Joonas Donskoi who wristed in the puck to make it 3-0.
“It’s only a matter of time he gets his opportunity,” Martin said postgame. “Sometimes he just has to put it to the net and good things happen.”
That goal was Donskoi’s first in 22 games and just two minutes later, he came flying in to steal the puck and flicked a backhand shot past Johnson for the Sharks’ fourth.
Calgary returned to the ice with a little more fire following the second intermission and immediately pressured the Sharks. The surge resulted in a couple unsuccessful attempts but a nice pass from Matthew Tkachuk (who scored two goals in first matchup of the two teams on Nov. 3) fed Sam Bennett who notched the Flames’ only goal of the game.
It was a monumental night for center Joe Thornton who assisted on the first two of the Sharks’ goals, recording helpers numbers 983 and 984 of his career. The game was his 1,400th in the NHL. By taking the ice with Marleau, the duo became the third pairing to play together while totaling that many games (the previous two pairs were Detroit’s Nicklas Lindstrom and Mike Modano in 2010-11 and Steve Yzerman and Chris Chelios in 2005-06).
Sharks’ goalie Martin Jones wasn’t tested often, turning away 20 of the 21 shots he faced but he was the solid netminder the Sharks have come to expect.
Also noteworthy was the play of two of the Sharks’ rookie forwards, Kevin Lebanc and Timo Meier. Both created offensive chances and contributed defensively.
Meier still needs grow physically and improve his balance, but he recorded multiple hits and looked strong and smooth with the puck. Lebanc played well 1-v-1 with good stick skills and spent time on the Sharks’ sole, but successful, penalty kill.
It wasn’t all glory for San Jose’s attack.
They struggled to connect passes in the first period and turned the puck over several times. The second period was obviously when the Sharks were most successful, but the unraveling of the Calgary defense is partially to blame.With each goal, the energy seemed to be getting further sapped from the heavy-legged Flames.
The biggest factor was that the Flames couldn’t gain possession as the Sharks pelted Calgary’s defense with 14 shots during the second frame. Not only did San Jose take an abundance of shots, the Sharks snatched several rebounds and were able to multiple scoring opportunities off of outside shots; mostly from the likes of blueliners Brent Burns and Vlasic.
Apart from the almost meaningless goal from Bennett (who was just 4-11 in the faceoff circle), the third period was more or less an afterthought. Calgary took three, unnecessary penalties but killed each with relative ease against a San Jose power-play that ranks just 20th in the league. Each team took their lowest shot totals of the game and it was clear the the game was essentially over before the final period.
San Jose will hope to continue its success against teams from Alberta, as it hosts the Edmonton Oilers Friday at 7:30.