Sharks Drop Wild Game to Panthers

February 16, 2017
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By: Sam Lubman

The Florida Panther made their lone visit of the year at SAP Center Wednesday night and did all they could to make the trip count in a 6-5 overtime victory over the San Jose Sharks. Sharks fans were treated to one of the more wild games of the season that saw: The Sharks overcome not one, but two 2-goal deficits, Joe Pavelski put the team on his back in the last four minutes of regulation, four goals in the opening 8 minutes and Jaromir Jagr celebrate his 45th birthday with his 1,900th NHL point.

The first period gave us every indication that we were about to witness a fiery shootout barn- burner, as both teams combined for four goals in the first 7:12 of play. The first goal was a rather routine goal. Panthers winger Reilly Smith found Jussi Jokinen in front of the Sharks net for the easy put in past Martin Jones.

Before you even had a chance to blink, however, Joe Pavelski stole the puck in the Panthers zone and dished it to Brent Burns above the right circle. Using his mighty Wookie strength, Burnsie fired a slap shot from deep that got past Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo to tie the game at a goal each 4:51 into the game.

A full 44 seconds would pass before the Panthers took the lead back. Aaron Ekbald found Nick Bjugstad on a deep stretch pass in the Sharks zone. A blown coverage on defense by Brenden Dillon gave Bjugstad and an easy one-on-one matchup with Jones that Bjugstad had not trouble winning. At 5:35 in the first, Timo Meier failed to clear the puck from the Sharks zone (which is bad) and had the puck stolen from him (also bad) by Jonothan Huberdeau, who tapped it to Keith Yandle (getting worse) who then fed the biscuit to Aleksander Barkov who had no trouble putting the puck through the Sharks sieve-like defense and Martin Jones for a 3-1 lead (that’s the worst part).

For those counting at home, that was four goals in a span of 2:52, something that I like to call ‘blink and you miss it” hockey. That kind of hockey is fun, but it is even more fun when your team is the one scoring three times and the other team scores once. Alas, that was not the case for the Sharks tonight.

Joe Thornton provided the first milestone of the night at the 15:25 mark, taking a redirected shot from Brent Burns and sending it to Joel Ward who scored the Sharks second goal. It was Jumbos 33rd assist on the season, but more importantly, his 997th in his illustrious career, leaving him 3 assists shy of becoming the 13th player in NHL history to achieve 1,000 assists.

Fans expecting more fireworks in the second period instead got a more traditional tug and pull period between these two teams. The good news was that the Sharks provided most of the headlines in the second. The bad news is there were not that many headlines to provide. The Sharks got the momentum back on their side (so it seemed) when Kevin Labanc found Marc Edouard-Vlassic between the circled for an easy game-tying goal 6:27 into the period. Three minutes later, the hockey gods looked to be showering their blessings on the Sharks when Jason Demers (hey we remember him!) held onto Joe Pavelski on a breakaway chance, setting up a penalty shot for Captain America. But the hockey gods are fickle beings, not afraid to taketh what they giveth. Pavelski tried to pull a few dekes on Luongo, but Luongo has been in this league for a long time and is one of the best at what he does, which is not allowing goals. Luongo was able to get his stick in just as Pavs tried to pull off his last deke, a move he said he needed to do if he wanted to score.

A tie game is what we had going into the third period, despite several sloppy turnovers and that sieve-like defense I mentioned earlier. There was still some hope at 2:15 in the third, when the Panthers went up 4-3 on another goal from Bjugstad. That hope seemed to vanish at the 16:39 mark, however, when the Panthers again went up by two goals courtesy of Barkovs 13th goal of the year. But Barkovs goal was extra special because it was assisted by the ageless wonder Jagr, giving the NHL’s second all-time leading scorer 1,900 points on his illustrious career.

Point of interest, Jagr mad his debut in the league 27 years ago in the 1990-91 season. To put that in perspective, Tomas Hertl was three years away from being born. Heck, I was two years away from being born. And yet Jagr, at 45 years young, on his birthday no less, was still showing plenty of life in his career, mullet and all.

That put the Sharks at a 5-3 disadvantage that Pavelski took upon himself to erase. Pavs pulled the Sharks within one after finding a Schlemko pass and firing it into the net from the left circle. Then with 38 seconds left on the clock and an extra man on the ice, Pavs fired the game-tying goal past Luongo, who suffered a rather nasty cramp in the process. Luongo was down on the ice for a few minutes before slowly skating off the ice.

Being forced to go to their back-up goalie James Reimer for overtime, you would think that the Sharks would have somewhat of an edge, right? Wrong. Instead, Barkov took a bounce off the boards behind the Sharks net, sent the puck to Huberdeau, who flipped the puck past Jones for a rather anti-climactic finish.

And thus, the Sharks were able to salvage a point, but after a miserable road trip like the one they just had, a bad loss like this is not what you want to come home too. The defense has been lax, which has negated some rather good offensive outputs of late for the Sharks. Costly turnovers are not helping, and neither is going 0-3 on the power play here in a stretch when the Sharks have gone 2 for their last 21 power play attempts.

Looking ahead, the good news is the Sharks get to take on the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday, who have not been good this year. The bad news is the Coyotes have been extremely physical with the Sharks this year, and no win has come easy against the desert dogs. On Sunday, the Sharks welcome the Boston Bruins for some primetime, national TV action. Just what this team needs before going on a bye week that seems like its coming at the perfect time.

This was a nutty, crazy game that at times had a chance to send us home happy, but instead we Sharks fans trudge out of SAP with a consolation point, which is better than no points, but still. When Pavs tied the game up with 38 seconds left and the Panthers were bringing in their backup goalie, the laws of in-game momentum seemed to dictate that fate would be on the Sharks side tonight. It wasn’t.

But let’s end this long recap with a highlight shall we? Before the game, Patrick Marleau was honored for becoming the 45th player in the long history of the NHL to reach 500 goals. In a nice pregame ceremony that saw #12 joined on the ice by his family, the Sharks brass presented Patty with an engraved three liter bottle of wine. Yes, a big bottle of wine. Like really big. A well earned big bottle of wine if I might add.