SAN JOSE – It wasn’t exactly a cross-ice pass through a pair of defenders to the stick of an open teammate, but defenseman Matt Tennyson’s assist on Joe Thornton’s second period goal gave the 22-year-old rookie a point in his first NHL game.
The Sharks were ahead 1-0 when Tennyson found the puck in the neutral zone. He advanced it towards the offensive zone, where Canucks defenseman Chris Tanev booted it a couple of times and it ended up on Thornton’s tape. The Sharks’ captain’s wrist shot beat Cory Schneider on a puck that should have been stopped.
If it was cool seeing his name on the scoresheet next to that of a potential future Hall of Famer, Tennyson wasn’t letting on after the 3-2 win over Vancouver on Monday night at HP Pavilion.
[RECAP: Sharks 3, Canucks 2]
“You look at it, but it doesn’t mean much if you don’t play good,” Tennyson said. “I played pretty simple, and kept everything in front of me, so I felt pretty good out there.”
Along with the assist, Tennyson skated for 15 minutes and 55 seconds paired with veteran Brad Stuart. He had one shot on goal, and all of his 21 shifts came during even strength play (the Sharks were never shorthanded).
Tennyson could certainly do worse than the 33-year-old Stuart, who offers a steady presence on the ice and advice on the bench.
“Defense is a tough position as a younger player to come into this league. I think it’s my job to make sure he’s comfortable and knows he can go out and play his game,” Stuart said on Monday morning. “I have to just be aware of what he’s doing, and make sure he feels comfortable enough to be making plays, and he should have the same confidence he has up here that he has down [in the AHL].”
Stuart was true to his word, Tennyson revealed after the game.
“We talked, just little details on faceoffs, and stuff like that. If something happened on the shift, we’d talk it out when we got back to the bench. He’s a veteran guy, and helped me out tonight.”
Tennyson had about 10 friends in the stands for the game, by his count. His parents, who live in Los Angeles, didn’t make it, as his father was away. He expects them later this week.
The Sharks signed four prospects to entry-level contracts on Tuesday, three of which are their draft picks.
Matt Nieto and center Chris Tierney were chosen in the second round of the 2011 draft. Nieto, a native of Long Beach, just finished his junior year at Boston University, and led the team with 18 goals. He had 37 points in 39 games, and 42 points in 37 games as a sophomore.
Tierney, 18, inked a three-year deal after a solid season in the Ontario Hockey League, with 18 goals and 39 assists for 57 points with the London Knights. He’s currently competing in the OHL playoffs for London, which finished with the best record in the league. He has 102 points in 180 career games with the Knights over three seasons.
Chris Crane, a right wing, was drafted in the seventh round of the 2010 draft and recently completed his junior year at Ohio State. The 21-year-old had nine points and 69 penalty minutes in 38 games.
Tarasov, 21, has split the season between Sharks affiliates in Worcester (AHL) and San Francisco (ECHL). In 32 games with Worcester, the Moscow native has nine goals and 12 assists for 21 points. He signed a minor league deal with Worcester on June 1, 2012, after three seasons in the USHL.
Beating the Canucks
The Sharks swept the three-game season series with Vancouver, a team they could conceivably face in the postseason.
How did they do it? Friend of the blog Darin Stephens (@SharksStats) threw out a few numbers on Twitter this morning:
- Faceoffs: The Sharks won 59.7 percent of their faceoffs in the season series.
- Penatly killing: The Sharks were 12-for-12 against Vancouver, and weren’t shorthanded for the duration of Monday’s game, the first time that’s happened this season.
- Goaltending: Antti Niemi finished 3-0-0 with a 1.63 goals-against average and .943 save percentage against Vancouver.
- Secondary scoring: Vancouver goalie Cory Schneider allowed goals to Adam Burish (his first in 45 games); Andrew Desjardins (first in 35) and Scott Gomez (first in 24).
The Sharks (18-11-6, sixth place in the Western Conference) trail the fourth place Canucks by just two points in the standings, with a game in hand. They've won five in a row.
“We’re trying to catch teams now," Thornton said.