Vlasic, Sharks roll over Red Wings 5-2


Vlasic, Sharks roll over Red Wings 5-2


SAN JOSE When youre a team like the Sharks, and you've made it a habit recently of beating the mighty Detroit Red Wings in the regular season and playoffs, you probably need to find an unusual way to win one of those games every once in awhile.A four-point night from Marc-Edouard Vlasic and a pair of goals generated from the fourth line? That certainly qualifies as unconventional, as the Sharks beat the Red Wings for the fifth straight time in the regular season.
The Sharks scored five unanswered goals to cruise to a victory over the Red Wings their fifth straight regular season win over Detroit in a 5-2 victory at HP Pavilion on Thursday night. San Jose concluded its homestand with nine of a possible 12 points (4-1-1).Antti Niemi made a season-high 40 saves in earning his seventh win (7-2-1).

Its a good team. We want to get up for a good team, said Vlasic, who finished with a goal and three assists and whose club has eliminated Detroit from the postseason the last two years. We have elite players, and I think guys like to play against Detroit.The Sharks fourth line, which hadnt found the scoreboard since Andrew Desjardins two goals on opening night, managed to score twice and create havoc on the forecheck for the duration.Desjardins, Andrew Murray and Brad Winchester were on the ice for Vlasics goal in the second period while Winchesters first goal as a Shark midway through the third period put the game away, making it 5-1.They were very good defensively, through the neutral zone, and probably were our best forechecking line, said Todd McLellan. They created a number of opportunities in the offensive zone, and buried themselves in and around the blue paint and scored some goals. It was really nice to see for that group of three that has worked pretty hard lately.Winchester admitted that it was nice to see some results on the scoreboard. Desjardins and Murray each finished the night with an assist, while Winchester had a helper to go with his goal.There are a lot of ways to contribute in terms of the offensive side of things. It was nice to chip in as far as that goes, he said. Well continue to build on it.It took Vlasic less than 40 minutes to double his scoring output through the first 15 games. He factored in the first four Sharks goals as San Jose led 4-1 at the second intermission.With the game tied at 1-1 entering the second, San Jose took its first lead midway through regulation. Joe Thornton and Vlasic broke up a would-be one-timer by Henrik Zetterberg, leading to a rush the other way. Logan Couture faked a shot before sending a perfect cross-ice pass back to Thornton, who fired it past Jimmy Howard.Just backcheck hard. Thats what we try to do, said Thornton. Pickles and Logan made some nice plays and I pretty much just had an open net.Less than three minutes later, it was Vlasic who tallied his second goal of the season. A strong shift by the fourth line resulted in Vlasic controlling the puck behind the net and then wrapping it around at 12:48 when Howard could not recover.Vlasic mentioned that it was probably his first wraparound goal since junior.San Jose made it a three-goal cushion with 1:42 left in the second. After Jamie McGinns wrist shot snuck through Howard, Vlasic sped to the loose puck behind the net and threw it towards the slot. There, it met the stick of an open Torrey Mitchell, who lifted it over Howard for his second of the year.The Sharks were fortunate to be tied with Detroit after the first period after the Red Wings outshot San Jose 17-6, and dominated territorially. Niklas Kronwalls power play goal at 17:23 opened the scoring, when his shot deflected in off of Dan Boyle.San Jose got a gift in tying the game on a shorthanded goal with just 11.2 seconds left in the first. Vlasic threw the puck down the ice after a defensive zone faceoff win, and Howard went behind the net to retrieve it. Kronwall, thinking Howard would play it, peeled off while the puck stopped just outside the trapezoid. Thornton picked it up and had all day to find Joe Pavelski in the slot for his 10th of the season.We didnt play well up to that point, and that probably changed the whole outlook of the game, said Thornton of the Sharks second shorthanded goal of the year. We got some momentum off of that, had a great second period and the game was over.McLellan agreed that Pavelskis goal helped to give the Sharks momentum for a second period that saw them score three more.We probably turned it around on the shorthanded goal, he said. That worked in our favor.In what may have been his best game of the season, Niemi made some key stops, none more important than a sequence early in the second period. With the game tied at 1-1 and Detroit on the power play, Niemi made two saves on Danny Cleary to give the Sharks an opportunity to take the lead later in the frame.Our goaltender earned his paycheck, said McLellan.Even so, it was Vlasics night in the spotlight.Four points for Marc-Edouard is a real nice thing, said McLellan. It doesnt happen often, but he jumped into the play and made some great passes. Heck of a night from him.Odds and ends: The Red Wings came into the game with just two power play goals on the road, but equaled that going 2-for-3 with the man advantage. Four of the five Sharks goals were even strength. Howard was pulled for Ty Conklin at the start of the third period. Jason Demers returned to the Sharks lineup in favor of Justin Braun. Demers took two minor penalties in the first period, and finished with an even rating in 18:48 of ice time. The Sharks won 60 percent of the faceoffs. San Jose has scored the first goal of the game five times this year, and just twice at home. Overall, the team is 5-5-1 when falling behind, 1-0.

All-Star Jones a model of consistency for Sharks: 'He solidifies our team'

All-Star Jones a model of consistency for Sharks: 'He solidifies our team'

SAN JOSE – Like a handful of NHL goaltenders, Martin Jones prefers not to speak to the media on the morning of nights he’s playing. So when the 27-year-old Sharks netminder was named as an All-Star before a game in Edmonton on Tuesday, the media in attendance respected his typical game day routine.

His friends and family, though, may not have been aware of his preference for limited interaction. Congratulations were in order for Jones, who will be a part of the Pacific Division team in Los Angeles for All-Star weekend from Jan. 27-29.

“I was trying to push it to the next day, obviously we had a game that night,” Jones said. “Lots of texts from family and friends. Everyone was pretty excited.”

Jones knew it was a possibility that he might be named. In his second season as the Sharks’ primary starter, and coming off of a brilliant playoff run, he’s tied for fifth in the NHL with 21 wins and his 2.26 goals-against average is ninth. He’ll return to the venue where he started his NHL career as a backup to Jonathan Quick from 2013-15.

Asked for his reaction when he got the news Tuesday morning, which was also his birthday, he said: “I was excited, it’s going to be a fun event. Just going to be really cool to play with all those guys, and it’s kind of fun that it’s in L.A., as well.”

Other than Brent Burns, a case can be made that Jones’ is the Sharks’ most valuable player through the first half. The club hasn’t been scoring goals at its typical rate; rather, it’s been relying on its defensive structure to keep the other team from getting on the board.

That, of course, includes Jones. Although he doesn’t often see many shots, as the Sharks are give up the third-fewest at 27.0, he usually has to make a handful of difficult saves on a nightly basis. That’s a result of Pete DeBoer wanting his club to play an aggressive style, in which defensemen are encouraged to get involved in the offensive end.

“I’d like to think that we’re aggressive and we still don’t give up a lot of chances, but there’s no doubt we give up a handful of quality chances a night,” DeBoer said. “That’s the difference in the games, and [Jones] knows that. He might not get 40 or 50 shots, but he’s going to get 25 and a handful of quality chances. If he can make a couple big saves a night for us, that’s usually the difference.”

Paul Martin said: “I think he solidifies our team in general. When you have him back there to make the easy consistent saves, and stand on his head and make big saves – you need those in critical parts of the game. I think he’s continued just to get better, as well.”

Jones has been much more consistent than the start of last season, when he got off to a scorching start, cooled off in November and December, but was a rock over the second half and in the playoffs.

This season, he posted a 2.15 GAA and .916 SP in October, followed by a 1.96 GAA and .924 SP in November, followed by a 2.24 GAA and .916 SP in December.

That’s consistency, and it’s all an NHL team wants from it’s goaltender. The knowledge that he will be there to make the routine saves with some spectacular ones mixed in gives confidence to the group to just play its game. Jones is doing that.

DeBoer said: “The guys just want to know what to expect every night, and that he’s going to stop the ones that he should stop. That’s all anyone’s looking for, and I think he does that as well as anyone in the league.”

There’s another part of it, too, according to the coach. It’s something that can’t be measured on scoresheets.

“The guys like him,” DeBoer said. “That’s the other part about goaltending that you have to remember, is the guys have to want to play hard for you. He’s a great teammate, and a real popular guy, and the guys want to go the extra mile when he’s in there because of that.”

That’s why on that morning in Edmonton, while Jones was in game-prep mode, his teammates were happy to comment on their goaltender, who they will need to continue to play well over the next three months and beyond. The All-Star nod is the latest evidence that Jones is well on his way to establishing himself as one of the NHL’s best.

“This year with the year he’s had and getting the All-Star nod, it’s nice to see that he’s become a star in this league now,” Joe Thornton said on that chilly morning in Alberta, while Jones was sitting in the corner, unstrapping his pads.

Three takeaways: Sharks' power outage continues vs Blues

Three takeaways: Sharks' power outage continues vs Blues

SAN JOSE – The Sharks’ suffered one of their worst defeats of the season, getting shut out by a Blues club that had been having tremendous difficulty keeping the puck out of its own net lately. The three main takeaways from the ugly 4-0 loss…

1 – Thornton awaiting punishment?
It’s difficult to say whether the NHL will further punish Thornton for spearing Paul Stastny. Perhaps the five-minute major and game misconduct midway through regulation was plenty for the transgression. Marc-Edouard Vlasic was fined for a similar play in a December game Ottawa in on Erik Karlsson, though, and it wouldn’t completely shock me if Thornton gets Monday’s game off against Winnipeg as those kinds of stick infractions are frowned upon. We’ll see.

The bigger issue though is just how confused the Sharks looked without their top line center. They managed just 11 shots over the final 29 minutes when Thornton was kicked out, and never really looked like they were into the game after that. Perhaps that was partly due to St. Louis turning up the intensity, but signing Thornton to an extension only looks that much more important after witnessing how the team played without him – even if he is slowing down a bit, and looking for that first goal into a manned net.

2 – Still powerless
It’s baffling just how bad the Sharks power play looks on most nights. Saturday was no different. Sure, Joe Pavelski should have converted on that five-on-three, but that was really their only dangerous chance on that advantage. Then, after the Blues gifted them a four-on-three power play after Thornton’s major, they didn’t get any good looks on that one, either.

This was a Blues penalty killing unit that had been brutal lately, too, allowing at least one power play goal against in eight of its last nine games. The Sharks got just three shots on goal in 3:20 of power play time, while allowing Colton Parayko to score on a brief St. Louis advantage.

“The power play could have been a turning point for is in a positive way for us, and wasn’t,” Pete DeBoer said.

Brenden Dillon said: “Special teams are huge. It can win and lose games, and tonight unfortunately we were on the opposite side of that.”

The Sharks are now just 15-for-106 on the power play since Nov. 1 (14.1 percent). On this team, that’s inexcusable.

3 – Sinking in the standings
The Ducks, Kings and Oilers all won on Saturday night, making the division as tightly packed as it’s been in some time. San Jose has dropped to third place, four points behind the Ducks and one point behind Edmonton, although the Sharks have played two fewer games than each. They’re also just three points ahead of Calgary, whom they lost to on Wednesday, with three games in hand.

The Sharks continue to give up points to Western Conference opponents, too. While they’ve feasted on the east, going 15-6-0, they are just 10-10-2 against the west. Nine of their next 10 are in the Western Conference, too, so that had better start changing.