Sharks drop the hammer on Edmonton Oilers in 6-1 win, Thornton and Pavelski shine with 3 point nights

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Sunday, October 24, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

The San Jose Sharks (3-2-1, 11th Western Conference) tried to exorcise all of their problems at once against an ill-fated Edmonton Oilers (2-4-0, 15th Western Conference) squad en route to a 6-1 win at Rexall Place on Saturday night. Logan Couture, Ryane Clowe and John McCarthy added even strength goals, Dany Heatley (PP), Joe Pavelski (PP) and Dan Boyle (PP) scored on 3 of 5 power play opportunities, and goaltender Antero Niittymaki looked confident and athletic stopping 21 of 22 shots against in his second straight start, but the game started with a different storyline.

The Oilers exposed the Sharks as a slower team early in the first period. Less than a minute into the game 2007 first round draft pick Sam Gagner exploded down the left wing, executing a quick backhand to forehand move before running over Antero Niittymaki in the crease. He was called for a goaltender interference penalty at 0:53, but the Oilers would keep charging. 2008 first round draft pick Jordan Eberle drove around a flat-footed Patrick Marleau protecting the puck on his backhand before flipping only his second NHL goal by Niittymaki far side. It was the third shorthanded goal the Sharks have allowed in the last 4 games.

Eberle, 2010 first overall selection Taylor Hall, and 2005 first round selection Andrew Cogliano would continue working over the Sharks defense with speed, but there is skill and there is intelligence. The Oilers and their league worst (18-27, 66.7%) penalty kill percentage proceeded to give the Sharks (11-33, 33.3) and their 2nd best power play opportunity after opportunity to take control of the game.

With Gilbert Brule, another first round draft pick in 2005, in the box for hooking the Sharks first power play unit would tie the game at 1. After being boo’d every time he touched the puck on his first few shifts (after turning down Edmonton as a trade destination), Dany Heatley snuck behind the Oilers penalty kill and got a stick on Joe Pavelski’s point shot. The altered trajectory beat goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin. As Heatley’s name was called on the loudspeaker for the goal, he received another healthy round of boos. San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan reunited the top two lines of Marleau-Thornton-Heatley and Clowe-Pavelski-Setoguchi late in the Sharks 4-2 win at Colorado on Thursday night, and those combinations continued Saturday at Edmonton.

The game was part of the national Hockey Night in Canada broadcast on CBC Saturday. During the first intermission, a panel of Ron MacLean, former Sharks goaltender Kelly Hrudey and Glenn Healy discussed whether a rebuilding Oilers team should go with veteran Nikolai Khabibulin in goal while carrying young goaltenders Jeff Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk on the NHL roster. Dubnyk was a healthy scratch for the game along with agitator Theo Peckham and Steve MacIntyre. Defenseman Mike Moore and Frazer McLaren were scratches for San Jose.

Hrudy mentioned that the Oilers were almost doing a disservice to their franchise by starting Khabibulin regularly while not giving room to Deslauriers and Dubnyk to improve. The Sharks made a firm decision to go with Antti Niemi and Antero Niittymaki, assigning goaltender Thomas Greiss to the AHL, then working with him on a move to Brynas of the Swedish Elite League. The Kings made a firm decision on starter Jonathan Quick and AHL standout Jonathan Bernier. Former backup Erik Ersberg was recently assigned to the AHL, then his contract was terminated when he did not report. The Oilers are stuck in a three man goalie rotation 6 games into the regular season.

The second period opened with a huge Scott Nichol check on Andrew Cogliano. As Cogliano turned up ice, Nichol planted his shoulder into the chest, seperating him from his helmet and sending him hurtling into the boards. Nichol earned an interference call on the play. According to the CBC, the Oilers were 2-for-10 on the power play in their previous game against Minnesota, but they took 3 penalties to hurt their own effort. Edmonton would sabotage their second man advantage when Kurtis Foster was called for slashing.

The Sharks were knocking on the door with regularity in the second period. Douglas Murray launched a heavy point shot off the crossbar, Ryane Clowe registered a solid scoring chance in tight on a give-and-go, and defenseman Dan Boyle forced Khabibulin to make a clutch save. Then it was the Sharks young players who finally broke through 5-on-5. Logan Couture challenged defenseman Jim Vandermeer behind his own net. Couture slid a pass to a driving Jamie McGinn at the front of the net. After a point blank McGinn shot, Couture slid to the front of the net and swept in the rebound. On an ensuing play enforcer Zack Stortini ran defenseman Kent Huskins into the end boards, and Jamal Mayers immediately dropped the gloves in retaliation. Mayers earned a 2 minute instigator penalty, 5 minute fighting major, and a 10 minute game misconduct for his efforts.

After scoring two power play goals Thursday against Colorado, center Joe Pavelski added another Saturday against Edmonton. Pavelski punched home a backhand in close at 18:51 for his third power play goal in two games. He would add his second assist of the game in the third period after a solid forecheck by right wing Devin Setoguchi. After Setoguchi worked the puck free in the corner, Pavelski initiated a slick short pass to a driving Ryane Clowe. Clowe buried the shot with Khabibulin out of position. Up 4-1 with the game quickly falling out of reach for the Edmonton Oilers, the Sharks tacked on two more goals by Dan Boyle (PP) and rookie John McCarthy. McCarthy’s first NHL goal came even strength at 14:45, assisted by Torrey Mitchell and Kent Huskins.

“When Eberle went down the wall and scored, maybe that’s what we needed. It woke us up a little bit,” San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan told reporters. “It didn’t look like we were overly prepared to play, then we fell behind one and finally got our game. The power play was effective again tonight and it has been all year. We’re very fortunate to have some very skilled players on more than one unit. We’re lucky that way and it’s going to have to continue to remain hot until we find our 5-on-5 game.”

Notes: HNIC featured several breakaway scoring chances and hits registered by Sharks right wing Devin Setoguchi during the second intermission. Setoguchi finished +2, with 2 shots on goal and only 3 recorded hits. HNIC also featured Oilers forward Jordan Eberle for the After Hours interview segment, Don Cherry on Coaches Corner discussing a WHL fight at the Cow Palace in Daily City/San Francisco (only one corner of the Cow Palace parking lot is in SF), and the Hockey Hotstove segment with MacLean, Francis, LeBrun and Healy. Joe Thornton finished with 3 assists. The Sharks captain has points in 5 of 6 Sharks games this season, but with a -1 Saturday night he has a +/- figure of -8 only 6 games into the NHL season. Antero Niittymaki (2-0-1, .923SV%, 1.99GAA) stopped 21 of 22 shots against in his first back-to-back start for San Jose. Patrick Marleau was held scoreless after registering points in 4 straight games. The Oilers finished 0-12 against the Sharks on the power play in the series matchup last season, on Saturday they finished 0-5. The Sharks finished last year 3-1 against the Oilers, but the 5-1 loss at Edmonton on March 29th capped a grueling 6 game losing streak. With one win for their designated road game in Sweden, San Jose has won their first 3 road games for the first time in franchise history. They can make it 4 tonight at Calgary. Former Minnesota Wild and current Edmonton Oilers defenseman Kurtis Foster faced the Sharks for the first time since suffering a serious broken leg at HP Pavilion in 2008.

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