Sharks overcome 3-goal third period deficit and near-OT game winner by Mike Richards in 5-4 shootout win over Philadelphia Flyers

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Thursday, December 9, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

San Jose Sharks Philadelphia Flyers Mike Richards OT goal time expired

Versus Hockey Central host Bill Patrick asked if the Sharks-Flyers contest on Wednesday was the game of the year? The stunning 3-goal third period comeback that lead to San Jose’s 5-4 OT shootout win over Philadelphia was close, but it may not even be the game of the week for the Sharks. Dominant offensive displays and spectacular defeats has been the norm for the NHL’s most volatile franchise in 2010-11. The Sharks were looking for stability after a late comeback over Detroit, but it looks like that consistency may still be a work in progress.

The first period at the Wells Fargo Center was a tight checking, physical affair. In a mirror of the Detroit game on Monday, the Philadelphia Flyer fourth line of Shelley-Betts-Powe made an impact on both sides of the ice early. San Jose head coach Todd McLellan has called out all of his offensive line combinations to have more polish in their game, save for the Clowe-Couture-Ferriero line that has been effective on both sides of the ice. The “FCC line”, as dubbed by Comcast’s Brodie Brazil, has put up 9 goals in their 6 games together. That trend would continue on Wednesday. The Sharks could not set up in their customary areas in front of either net in the first. With Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley pulling up at the top of the zone, Torrey Mitchell was left to drive the net and he was forced wide. In their own zone, a solid Philly cycle forced Douglas Murray and Dan Boyle to come out too far from in front of the net.

The Sharks snuck out of the first period with a set play on a faceoff. A clean Thornton backhand win against Jeff Carter drew the puck back to his left for Jason Demers. Demers had inched up to the faceoff circle for the draw, and he quickly moved the puck to his right for Niclas Wallin. Wallin’s point shot deflected off traffic, then deflected off Ryane Clowe’s skate to register the first goal of the game with 4.1 seconds remaining.

Something changed after the first intermission, whether it was a matter of confidence or simply converting offensive opportunities, the Flyers started to take control of the game. A point shot by defenseman Braydon Coburn was deflected by Jeff Carter on net, and goaltender Antero Niittymaki could not cover up the rebound. Right wing Claude Giroux beat the Sharks defense to the rebound and deposited it in the back of the net. Long before the Chris Pronger fiasco in Edmonton, the Stanley Cup in Anaheim, and the Finals appearance with Philadelphia, there was Pronger and his meltdown against the Sharks in the playoffs with the St. Louis Blues. Not only is Pronger able to deal with the public enemy #1 persona in many arenas, he has noted several times that he feeds off of it. Wednesday night he had 7 blocked shots through the first 30 minutes of the game, he would finish with 8.

After a faceoff win deep in the offensive zone, this time it was the Flyers who would capitalize on a set play. As multiple bodies crashed the net and screened Antero Niittymaki, left wing Ville Leino spun around and fired a shot from the circle that deflected off the post and in. Less than 50 seconds later, Nikolay Zherdev would add another goal to make the score 3-1. A point shot/pass by Matt Carle was batted out of the air and banked off of Niittymaki by Zherdev from behind the net. The Sharks apparently answered on a goal by John McCarthy, but the puck that deflected off his skate was ruled invalid via “a distinct kicking motion”. On a scale of 1-10, it would be a strain to label that McCarthy kicking motion a 2.

The Sharks comeback would not start in the third period. Instead the Sharks had to kill off a Jason Demers hooking penalty before Flyers left wing Scott Hartnell would score his first goal in 11 games 5-on-5. Second year defenseman Jason Demers sparked the comeback with a drive around James Van Riemsdyk. Demers fired a quick wrist shot with Joe Thornton setting a screen in front of rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. The puck deflected off of Matt Carle, and then off the crossbar and in. A Jeff Carter cross check on Logan Couture behind his own net put the Flyers on their heels. They would kill the man advantage, and finish 5-for-5 on the kill, but the Sharks were still buzzing. The line of Logan Couture, Ryane Clowe and Worcester Sharks (AHL) leading goal scorer Benn Ferriero pinned the puck deep in the zone. The third generated scoring chance on the sequence was the charm as Couture dumped the puck low to Ryane Clowe. Clowe punched two quick shots on goal, before Couture skated to the far side to bury an open rebound. Score 4-3, as the Sharks scored a pair of goals less than 3 and a half minutes apart.

Sharks head coach Todd McLellan called a timeout early in the first period after an icing call forced his line to remain on the ice after a long shift. With his team reeling in the third period, Philadelphia Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette called a timeout to settle down his troops. It did not have the desired effect, as Daniel Briere was called for a tripping penalty.

The Sharks would tie the game on a set faceoff play in the offsensive zone. San Jose EVP/GM Doug Wilson has said the NHL is more of a read and react league, but crucial sequences after a faceoff win or loss can create scoring chances or time of possession that can influences games. The clean faceoff win by Thornton this time did not draw the puck back to the defense, this time he drew it to his right towards a surging Dany Heatley and Joe Pavelski. The puck skipped Heatley, and Pavelski loaded up on a shot that he lifted over the glove of Bobrovsky. The Sharks had scored twice in 37 seconds to tie the game.

The game got a little out of control physically, and had to be reigned in by referees Frederick L’Ecuyer and Dan O’Rourke. Pavelski was given a hooking call on the first of three third period flops by Claude Giroux. On the rush the Sharks defense was forced to block a big point shot by Daniel Briere. Flyers penalties would open the door slightly for San Jose. “We opened the door and they barged through it,” a terse Philadelphia head coach Peter Laviolette said after the game. Briere was given 4 minutes for high sticking after drawing blood from Scott Nichol. Puck possession behind the net by Ryane Clowe set up Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau in front, but they could not put up the game winner in regulation. Instead it was Mike Richards nearly ending the game in the final 30 seconds, driving the puck deep, setting up the defense, and working hard to gain rebounds and crash the net.

In overtime, Justin Braun and Jason Demers contributed solid defensive plays early, but a lazy dump-in 4-on-4 by Joe Pavelski ceded nearly 30 seconds of possession time to Philadelphia. The physical hostilities did not completely die down from late in the third period. Mike Richards checked Douglas Murray up against the glass as he moved the puck out of his zone. Then after a dump-in, Murray tried to fight his way around defenseman Kimmo Timonen with the NFL offensive lineman swim technique. Both were sent to the box leaving their teams to skate 3-on-3 in OT.

Again it was Mike Richards who nearly ended the game. He stepped up to a puck carrying Dany Heatley at the blueline, and was knocked to the ice in the process. Richards forced Heatley to turn the puck over, and they broke in the other direction. As Heatley and Briere battled for position in front of Niittymaki, Richards pulled up high and wristed a shot on goal with time expiring. The puck deflected off of the skate of Heatley to beat Niittymaki 5-hole for the apparent game winner. As the Flyers poured onto the ice to celebrate the last second goal in OT, the Sharks remained on their bench. A slo-mo replay of the Richards shot showed the puck up on edge, but not crossing the goal line, with 0.0 seconds remaining. The officials waived off the goal and ruled that there would be a shootout.

There were no soccer riots or flares lit off in the Philadelphia stands, more of a stunned silence. Daniel Briere skated in slow and tried multiple dekes, but his attempt up high was smothered by Niittymaki. Logan Couture on Sergei Bobrovsky, in a matchup of possibly the two leading Calder Trophy contenders, was up next. Couture tried a hard fake to his forehand, before pulling it to his backhand and sliding it between Bob’s pads. A weak Claude Giroux attempt was followed by another forehand-to-backhand move, this time roofed by Clowe up high.

The Sharks completed the comeback, the first time in the 20 year franchise history they have come back from a 3-goal deficit in the third period. The Flyers remained winless against the Sharks over the last 10 years, with San Jose holding a dominant 10-0-2 record over the Stanley Cup Finalists. This was the only regular season meeting between these two teams on the schedule.

[Update] Flyers suffer tough shootout loss to Sharks – Tim Panaccio for

Peter Laviolette said it twice. “This one stings.” That’s one way of looking at coughing up a 4-1 third-period lead.

Things like that defy the odds in hockey, but that’s exactly what unfolded Wednesday at Wells Fargo Center as the Flyers kissed away an extra point, losing 5-4 to the San Jose Sharks in a shootout.

[Update2] Is Flyers goalie Bobrovsky the real deal? – Sam Donnellon for

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