On Tuesday night, the San Jose Sharks won for the first time since they beat the Ottawa Senators on October 27th. The winning goaltender for both games—Alex Stalock. Making his second NHL start, Stalock again played well, but was not tested nearly as much as in his first start. Two weeks ago the Senators peppered 40 shots at Stalock, but last night the Calgary Flames managed only 13. Either way, Stalock will take the win. In fact, Stalock is in the unique position of winning more games than he has started in his career. He won his NHL debut in relief against the Phoenix Coyotes in 2011, and has won both of his starts this year.
For this win however, he definitely has his teammates to thank. The Sharks outshout the Flames 17-3 in the first period, and 11-3 in the second period. As the shot discrepancy shows, the Sharks were completely outplaying the Flames through 40 minutes. The only problem was Tuukka Rask, no wait, Mike Smith. I meant Reto Berra…Reto Berra?! Sorry, it can be tough to remember which goalie played like Patrick Roy against the Sharks, because it seems to happen every other game.
While the Sharks dominated play in the first two periods, the third was a different story. The Sharks stopped skating, and seemed to be chasing the puck in the defensive zone. If they won the puck in their zone, only one or two players would leave the zone, making it impossible to generate scoring chances. In periods one and two, they broke out of their zone as a team and moved the puck up ice with ease. They effortlessly cycled the puck in the offensive zone, and made crisp passes. In the third period however, they appeared afraid to blow yet another two goal lead, and as a result they did just that. Calgary capitalized on the Sharks tentativeness by scoring two goals in three and a half minutes.
The positive for the Sharks is that instead of bowing their heads and accepting a sixth straight defeat, they continued to battle. Calgary is a tough place to play, and the crowd was rocking after the Flames tied the game. Unlike the previous five games however, the Sharks found a way to win. In fact, they finally won a game in overtime in which they scored a goal! Against Buffalo they pushed the puck into the net, but were left dumfounded when the officials on the ice and in Toronto, failed to notice the puck crossing the line before the whistle (intent to blow the whistle) occurred. In Winnipeg they had a goal in the extra period disallowed because of contact with the goalie. In Calgary it took a rare shot from Thornton, bouncing off of the elbow of the most unlikely goal scorer, Brad Stuart, to end the Sharks five game skid. It was Stuart’s first goal of the year, and first as a Shark since 2005.
It’s November, so this obviously was not a must win game for the Sharks. It was however, a huge win. Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture broke out of their slumps, and the team did just enough to grab the all important two points. While we haven’t reached a goalie controversy yet, a poor outing from Antti Niemi tonight in Vancouver could start to raise those questions. They drop the puck at 7pm, as the Sharks look to win their fifth straight on the road against the Canucks.