The Anaheim Ducks ended the five-game winning streak of the San Jose Sharks Monday, Dec. 22. It was their third meeting of the 2014-15 NHL season and the third time a streak of at least four games was ended, but the first won by the two-time defending Pacific Division champions thanks to a little more of the pictured star talent.
The first two times, the Sharks came in with four-game losing streaks and ended them at the expense of the current Pacific Division rival Ducks. This was the first time a 2014-15 NHL season game between the California rivals went to overtime, and it did not even last a minute.
This does not detract from San Jose’s Christmas break. This team is 8-1-1 in its last 10 games, and even the fact that seven of those games were at home is not so diminishing when one considers it went 2-4-2 in the first eight home games.
The big thing is that with those 58 seconds came a point in the 2014-15 NHL season standings. Anaheim can only earn more points in the season series by winning the last two games in regulation.
The Sharks have technically climbed to second place in the Pacific Division, though how the Vancouver Canucks are trailing when needing just one point in two games in a league that averages 1.1 points per team per game is beyond any rationale. Still, having at least the sixth-best record by any measure in the very tough Western Conference is impressive for a young team that has dealt with adversity.
Only three teams have played more road games on the 2014-15 NHL season than San Jose—a team that is winning despite injuries and getting not only valuable development time to its young talent, but getting contributions from them in the meantime. Melker Karlsson scored his first goal Monday and has five points in six games. Barclay Goodrow got his fourth assist on the play to go with his two goals in 19 games.
The Sharks are not just winning but getting better. This was not an escape-with-a-point game but a team effort that fell short on the road against the Pacific Division leaders. They are to be commended for coming away with a point in a game that was as even as the score would indicate: 30-30 faceoffs, 8-8 takeaways and 32-32 shots on goal, with the Ducks having one more block (13-12), three more attempts (59-56) and two more hits (21-19) but also one more giveaway (9-8).
San Jose had more jump in the scoreless first period, but Anaheim struck first before the midpoint of the second: Matt Beleskey took possession of the puck behind the net and left it for Emerson Etem, who skated to the right wing goal line before reversing it back behind the net. It bounced off the boards funny and right out in front of the net, where Rickard Rakell got to it for his first NHL goal before Antti Niemi could react.
The only retaliation to come for some time would be John Scott punching Tim Jackman about a minute later, knocking him out of the game. The act did not draw a penalty, but did get a four-game suspension from the NHL Wednesday.
Other than that fluke goal, both Niemi and Frederik Andersen were impregnable past the second intermission. However, a power play allowed the Sharks to tie the game just two minutes into the third: Joe Thornton fed Brent Burns above the right-wing circle, who shot it toward the net where Joe Pavelski was again captain clutch by deflecting it home.
Monday’s other premier goal came about six minutes later, and San Jose play-by-play man Randy Hahn pointed out that none of the three involved in the scoring were on the team at the start of the 2014-15 NHL season: Brenden Dillon advanced the puck into the neutral zone for Goodrow who found Karlsson entering the attack zone. His snap-shot, five-hole goal trickled through Andersen from above the right-wing circle.
After continuing a barrage of shots, the Ducks finally got the defensive mistake they were waiting for: Devante Smith-Pelly took possession behind the goal line and found Ryan Getzlaf just in the corner along on the left-wing boards. No one picked up Cam Fowler pinching down through the slot, and he danced toward the glove side and put in a backhand Niemi couldn’t get in position for.
When Burns took a penalty with 67 seconds left in regulation, the potential the Sharks would walk away with nothing arose. By the time the score happened in overtime, he was back in the defensive zone but a second or two from defending anyone. Ryan Kesler had retrieved a Getzlaf shot and fed it to Patrick Maroon before getting it back and wiring a partially-screened shot into the far corner for the win.
San Jose’s next three games are also against Pacific Division teams—at the Los Angeles Kings Saturday, back home for a visit from Vancouver Tuesday and a New Year’s Eve contest back in Anaheim. Getting at least three points in that tough stretch could be an indication that the roller-coaster ride that has been the 2014-15 NHL season is beginning to level out.