SAN JOSE – No, Craig Anderson didn’t see Joonas Donskoi’s slick shootout goal last Thursday against Edmonton, when the Sharks rookie immobilized Cam Talbot before slipping home the puck into a wide open net, helping the Sharks win the skills competition.
But the Ottawa goalie had a feeling that the 23-year-old had some fancy moves up his sleeve, based on the reaction by the crowd when his name was announced as the second shooter on Monday night in the tiebreaker.
“In my head I don’t really know who the guy is. When he had a standing ovation and loud crowd noise I knew he must [have done] something awesome,” Anderson said after the 4-3 Senators win at SAP Center.
“He had way more excitement from the fans than [first shooter Joe] Pavelski did. I knew there was something to be ready for. I knew he wasn’t just going to come down and take a shot, because the fans had too much excitement.”
Donskoi tried the same backhand-to-forehand move that worked so well on Talbot, and earlier on a breakaway on Dec. 20 against Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, who later remarked that Donskoi “deked him out of his jock,” but Anderson stuck out his left pad across the goal line just in time to deny Donskoi.
“Yeah, I thought I could do the same thing,” Donskoi said.
The crowd may have been a little extra excited for Donskoi based on what he did in the third period. On what was arguably the prettiest goal of the year for the Sharks, the Finland native took a pass from Chris Tierney that was a little behind him, played it between his legs, and angled a seam pass through two Ottawa defenders to an attacking Matt Nieto.
Nieto waited for Anderson to flop before sliding it through the goalie to give the Sharks a 3-2 lead at the time.
“I don’t think we could have drawn it up any better,” Nieto said. “[Tierney] made a good play entering the zone. Donskoi found me behind their D, and I was able to open up the legs of the goalie and slide it though.”
Donskoi said: “It just happened really fast.”
The Sharks were attacking the Senators in waves in the third period, apparently sparked by some line shuffling by coach Pete DeBoer, who put the three young Sharks forwards – all of whom have had their ups-and-downs this season – on a line together.
Donskoi’s progression has stood out recently, as he’s found the scoresheet in four of the last six games (2g, 2a). Although they couldn’t hold on to their third period lead on Monday, the Sharks are trending the right way in their last six games thanks in large part to contributions from guys like Donskoi, Tierney (6 points), Nieto (3 points) and Tomas Hertl (7 points).
“We’ve been playing great hockey lately, and we’ll take the point and move on and try to get two next game,” Nieto said.