The off-season acquisitions of general manager Doug Wilson led the San Jose Sharks out of their three-game losing streak Saturday, Oct. 24. The three biggest hold the majority of atombash.com’s pictured stars of the game in the home win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
Blue-line free agent Paul Martin returned to the lineup after missing all three San Jose losses of the 2015-16 NHL season and his steadying presence was immediately felt. Yet he was the least impressive of those three acquisitions, as forward Joel Ward scored his second career hat trick and goalie Martin Jones stopped 32 of 34 (.941 save percentage) for the win.
The real difference in the game may have been in the other net: Eddie Lack allowed four goals on 13 shots before Cam Ward came in and stopped all seven shots he faced. The event summary is representative of Carolina’s desperation from that point, as it led most statistical categories: 20-27 faceoffs and 2-4 takeaways but 12-18 giveaways, 18-17 hits, 34-21 shots and a whopping 65-38 in attempts.
The Sharks did not seem overly concerned about the shot differential. Captain Joe Pavelski said he did not think they sagged but noted that cleaner play in the neutral zone was needed because “their ‘D’ was so aggressive” and head coach Peter DeBoer went into greater detail:
I don’t know that it’s a problem. Their (method of operation) is pucks to the net…we did a good job keeping them on the perimeter.
They also did a great job of blocking shots, holding a 24-6 edge over the Hurricanes. When asked about it, Pavelski said “guys were committed” and noted that it “has to be a nightly thing.”
Despite the blocks, San Jose surrendered 23 shots over the final 30:51 after taking a 4-1 lead. Jones had to make some very good saves down the stretch to hang on.
The first score came just 1:21 in to the game: Lack failed to control a rebound of a Tomas Hertl backhand, Patrick Marleau got a whack at it and Ward stuffed it home to give the Sharks a lead they would never relinquish.
Just over seven minutes later, Brent Burns found Ward for an odd-man rush. Using line-mate Marleau as a decoy, the veteran ripped a snap shot from the right-wing circle past Lack.
Brenden Dillon’s tripping penalty let Carolina back in early in the second period. Eric Staal retrieved the puck in the corner and sent it around the boards. Victor Fask held it at the point and backhanded it to Nathan Gerbe in the right-wing circle, whose backhand sent it inside the other point. From there, Justin Faulk ripped a shot through a little traffic and past Jones just 30 seconds into the penalty.
It was San Jose’s first failed penalty kill with Martin in the lineup. The captain answered just under three minutes later after Joe Thornton won a faceoff back to Marc-Edouard Vlasic for a shot wide of the net that bounced back to Lack; Pavelski poked it home through the five hole.
Tommy Wingels made it three goals in six minutes when he took a beautiful saucer pass from Chris Tierney and slipped a slot under Lack’s glove before going to the net to clean it up, giving Martin a secondary assist. The Hurricanes made the switch in net, with Cam Ward playing the final half of the game.
Carolina fought back quickly. Riley Nash put a shot on goal from the right point to start the attack and tucked a shot off Jones from behind the net after some nifty skating to finish it. In between, Kris Versteeg retrieved the puck along the left-wing boards and sent it to the left point for Noah Hanifin’s shot-pass wide to the boards.
However, the Hurricanes could not get any closer. Ward got the empty-net goal in the final minute when at least Burns—who got the only assist—and Pavelski passed up on an opportunity to shoot so they could feed the power forward.
Ward leads the Sharks in goals and points, and his line has remained strong this 2015-16 NHL season through the transition from Logan Couture to Tomas Hertl. Asked about the fast-developing chemistry, he deflected credit:
The key word is fast, and Patty (Marleau) is. …Hertl is a big body and we use each other’s strengths.
DeBoer acknowledged they were the best line Saturday, but hesitated to call them San Jose’s best so far in the 2015-16 NHL season: “Every night we are getting some different contributions…depth goals from guys like Wingels,” before adding that balanced scoring is the key to any good team.
As for the play of the off-season acquisition trio, Wilson was complimentary of the players but did not acknowledge his role: “They’re great guys—they play the right way.” If they play this way the entire 2015-16 NHL season, the calls for firing the general manager will go from a rare to non-existent occurrence.