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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Another Close One, But No Two Points

Islanders 3: Sharks 5

The Sharks are scarily good.

That doesn't sound like a professional assessment, but this blogger speaks the truth. Undefeated this season (18-0-2) and outscoring opponents 77-39 at home coming into this game, you would have expected a thorough skateover against the Islanders, the team with the lowest point total in the league. They didn't expect a late comeback, one that the Islanders seem to be making a habit.

After two full periods of San Jose domination, the Isles scored two quick goals before getting buried by an empty-netter, losing 5-3 to the best team in the league and dropping their 12th straight on the road. The Sharks got away from their game plan late, and didn't get the pretty win they'd want, but ultimately got the victory anyway off of Mike Grier's two goals and 21 saves by Evgeni Nabokov.

Ryan Clowe started off the scoring with his 16th goal of the year after eleven minutes, twenty seconds of San Jose's offensive prowess- incredible aggression, shooting the puck from anywhere and everywhere, and testing Joey MacDonald very often. They utilize all five skaters very well on offense with passing from low in the zone back up to the point, and making the D chase the play. Meanwhile, the Isles were in their zone for much of the first two periods, and when they did get an offensive breakout, they were spread out too far to get anything really going. The period was also pretty feisty- both Tim Jackman and Doug Weight got into the mix with Alexei Semenov and Christian Ehrhoff, respectively. Grier also got his first of the night late in the period, on a flukey shot that went off Blake Comeau and past MacDonald on the inside post.

The Sharks carried their lead over into the second period and added to it at 7:51, as Dan Boyle scored his 12th of the year (32 points, 2nd in points for all NHL defensemen). The offense started to show for the Islanders bit by bit, with great work by Kyle Okposo, Sean Bergenheim and Jackman. Finally, Richard Park (who also had a good night) put the puck past Nabokov (no easy feat) for his third goal in two games. Streit assisted, stretching his points streak to five games and maintaining his lead in the league among all defensemen. (Imagine that!) Doug Weight would have tied it at two were it not for the stick of Nabokov, who stuck his arm out at the last second to stop the puck and clear it out for the amazing save.

The third period saw more great goalie stuff on both ends- MacDonald showed as much athleticism as Nabby did, although he allowed more goals (on more shots- 47 total to the Isles 24, and he would tie his career high with 42 saves). He kept better control of his rebounds and stayed equal to the monumental task laid out for him in dealing with a hungry San Jose offense. However, Grier scored again at 12:22 after a breakaway attempt for the Islanders, Hunter to Park, was suspiciously called offside. With the score 4-1, things looked grim once more, until Jackman sped down the wing and scored shorthanded on a Brendan Witt penalty. Then Thomas Pock, who's showed good offense lately, scored his first to pull the score to 4-3 with 1:03 left, and you began to get that feeling again- that "Are they going to do it again???!!!" feeling. But with MacDonald on the bench, San Jose managed, on their third try, to score the empty netter off of the stick of Patrick Marleau, and the Sharks kept their record intact.

Truth be told, you would hope that the Isles would have at least gotten a point after their hard work late in the third, capitalizing on some lazy plays by the Sharks. But in the end, you have to remember that working from behind is tough stuff, and this is no easy team to beat, as their record, of course, suggests. So all that is left is to look forward to Edmonton on Monday night. Rick DiPietro was backup for last night's game; he may play tomorrow. Only the pregame will tell.

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