Programming note: Canadiens-Sharks coverage starts Saturday at 6:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California
SAN JOSE – It was the most stunning goal scored by a Sharks player on SAP Center ice since Tomas Hertl’s between-the-legs effort back in October.
Moments before Patrick Marleau’s third period shorthanded goal, the speedy winger nearly broke in alone on goalie Jeff Zatkoff before Evgeni Malkin quickly closed the gap and poked the puck away. A similar situation developed about 30 seconds later, with the Sharks still trying to kill off Matt Nieto’s double-minor.
This time, Marleau quickly moved from his left to his right in getting past Malkin and into shooting position, and his soft backhander beat Zatkoff to the far side to tie it at 2-2. Marleau’s emphatic fist pump was as demonstrative as the winger gets in celebrating what was surely one of the fanciest goals of his impressive career.
“The first one I tried pulling back, but [Malkin] had a good stick,” Marleau said. “The second time I was able to get a step and get around him and put a nice backhand on the goal.”
“It’s a nice feeling to score goals like that.”
Joe Thornton took a little jab at Malkin in describing Marleau’s marker.
“One of the prettiest goals I’ve ever seen, especially against arguably one of the best centers in the league, even though he doesn’t play defense much,” Thornton said. ”It was something else to watch.”
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Jason Demers’ strong game was overshadowed a bit by some of the other events in the game, but the defenseman continues to impress in what is his best season in the NHL to date.
Demers drilled Chris Kunitz in the second period, in what was one of the hits mentioned by Thornton after the game as helping to get the team going. His pass up to Marleau on the aforementioned goal, intercepting Sidney Crosby no less, helped tie the game.
“I think both teams played great games, and we came out on top,” Demers said. “It was just one of those games they are just great to play. You love playing those games and I’m sure it was great to watch, too.”
Demers was one of several players that mentioned Raffi Torres’ big hits in the second period helping to energize the team when it was playing well, but missing that little extra something.
“When we start hitting I think everyone responds well. We just kind of turned on the switch after that, especially after Raffi’s,” Demers said. “After that, I think we started to get going, and it’s nice to see us play like that and play with that grit.”
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The Sharks again failed to score on the power play, taking an 0-for-4 in the 5-3 win over Pittsburgh. Still, it moved the puck well and found some shooting lanes, particularly the top unit.
“I really liked our power play, yet you go 0-for-4,” Todd McLellan said. “Very dangerous. Very on our toes and not passive at all, and that was a good thing as well."
McLellan deemed the two power play goals against by the Penguins as preventable, but the Sharks were the better team five-on-five.
“We knew we'd have to play them hard five-on-five. They're going to get their share of power play goals. Other than that, our penalty kill was OK for the most part.”
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Penguins coach Dan Bylsma was impressed with the Sharks’ ability to play a skilled game while using their big bodies to wreak havoc.
“They play not only a physical game, but a fast game,” Bylsma said. “They counter quickly, got to the offensive zone and played that type of game. I think in the second half of that game we just weren’t able to negate that by playing back in the other end.
“We saw them come at us with that speed and that size, and they’re maybe the best team in the league at getting pucks and bodies to the cage.”