Capitals winless at the Tank for 16th season, Dany Heatley scores game winner on triple tipped shot in Sharks 3-2 win over Washington

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Friday, February 18, 2011 - Save & Share - One Comment

Washington Capitals Alexander Ovechkin first period goal San Jose Sharks

Washington Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth prepares for Devin Setoguchi shot San Jose Sharks

San Jose Sharks right wing Dany Heatley celebrates game winning goal over Washington Capitals

President Obama landed at SF International Airport Thursday night just as the San Jose Sharks and Washington Capitals took the ice for their brief pre-game shootaround. As Obama headed northward for an informal technology summit in San Francisco, legions of Sharks and casual sports fans made the waterlogged journey southward to HP Pavilion. The Washington Capitals and HBO stars Alexander Ovechkin and Bruce Boudreau made a rare appearance in San Jose.

There were ready made excuses on both sides of the ice. The Sharks were coming off a season long 7 game road trip, and had struggled mightily on the power play with an 0-12 stretch heading into Thursday night. After failing to convert a first period interference call on Alex Ovechkin, one Shark slammed his stick on the ice and cursed in frustration. The Capitals were coming off a wild 7-6 win in Anaheim one night earlier, an unsual game with 4 late lead changes and 7 even strength goals for the Caps. Missing offensive defenseman Mike Green and Tom Poti, as well as RW Eric Fehr, the Ted Leonsis owned club was also staring down a 15 season run of futility at the Tank.

Neither team used any excuses, instead they chose to put their heads down and battle through a very tight checking game. San Jose put forth a more disciplined 60 minutes, and utilized third period goals by Ryane Clowe and Dany Heatley (PP) to seal the 3-2 win. Heatley’s goal, his first in 7 games and 20th on the season, came on a Dan Boyle shot that may or may not have been deflected by Caps defenseman John Carlson and Sharks forwards Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Heatley. Pavelski offered plausible deniability when asked if his stick touched the puck after the game, but more impressive was Patrick Marleau’s rink-wide backhand saucer pass to Boyle that set the play in motion.

Heatley’s power play goal was the first for San Jose in 13 opportunities. “We haven’t had a (PP goal) in a long time,” defenseman Dan Boyle said after the game. “It seems like we only get 1 or 2 chances a night. We have been stressing getting more opportunities. We have 1 crack at it, sometimes it is tough. We came through with a big goal.” In a morning press conference, Sharks head coach Todd McLellan had stressed movement, competitiveness and puck retrevial as keys to turn the power play around.

Washington’s bench and locker room was shown to be an emotional one on HBO’s popular 24-7 reality show leading up to the Winter Classic. Captain Alexander Ovechkin wasted all of 17 seconds setting the tone for this game with a series of checks against behemoth defenseman Douglas Murray. Murray can play an entire season and count on one hand the number of times he has been knocked down to the ice. Ovechkin nearly lost his footing on the first Murray check in front of the boards, but a second mauling dropped the Sharks defenseman to one knee. On his way out, #8 tried to line up Joe Thornton as he passed by.

Both teams, crippled by respective 6-game and 8-game losing streaks earlier in the season, were making the slow crawl back up the standings with responsible defensive play and a more fundamental offensive approach. Still, the pressure of how close the playoff picture is, and how easy it would be for either of the 3-time consecutive division winners to miss the playoff window, weighed heavily. “It is hard to play when you are under pressure,” Mclellan said. “We have experienced that a lot this year. I have been told more than 100 times that it is going to help us later on, but you never like to be in that situation.”

The Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble and Chimera-Perreault-Bradley lines generated scoring chances down low early, but the Sharks started leveling out the play on the ice as the period progressed. Late in the first period after Ovechkin knocked down Heatley in the slot, Eager retaliated and drew 2 minutes for tripping. On the subsequent Caps power play, Carlson mishandled the puck at the point and Patrick Marleau ignited an oddman rush shorthanded. Marleau hit Joe Pavelski with a wire of a pass, and Pavelski wristed a clean goal up over the glove of 23 year old Michal Neuvirth.

Pavelski, who registered a goal and an assist and was named first star of the game, discussed how tight the games are on the ice and in the standings. “It is how we have been playing, you saw it. Everyone realizes the standings and how tight the West is,” Pavelski said. “Every game has got a little playoff atmosphere. We are trying to get there. You think you make up a little ground, but you don’t make any. These games against the East, they are two points. It is a competitive game out there.”

Clowe-Couture, and Mitchell-Pavelski-Heatley lines generated scoring chances early in the second period, but the pace of the game slowed and became more of a positional neutral zone battle. Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic was injured in the first period, and it fell on the remaining five blueliners to eat up his minutes and responsibility for the remainder of the game. “It happened very early in the game,” McLellan said of the Vlasic upper body injury. “I think that effected us early. We were still trying to find our legs and we were down to five. The five that did play (played well), and the forwards came back hard. It was rewarding to see them work as hard as they did.”

Second year defenseman Jason Demers was piling up workhorse minutes to start the third period. On his first shift he created a turnover and started a quick breakout out of the defensive zone. On his next shift he ripped a heavy point shot on Neuvirth. The Sharks gained a little seperation when Kyle Wellwood carried the puck along the half boards, then wristed a shot to the front of the net. The puck deflected off traffic, possibly off Neuvirth, a defenseman, or Clowe himself, and the Newfoundland native buried the rebound opportunity for his 15th goal of the season.

How leading and trailing teams respond the shift after a goal is scored can be a critical turning point in games. Sharks head coach Todd McLellan iced veterans Ben Eager, Scott Nichol and Jamal Mayers to provide the shutdown third period shift. The line’s debut was delayed with Nichol’s suspension and Eager’s offensive contributions moving him up the food chain, but it could be a critical defensive weapon in McLellan’s arsenal. Not quite worthy of the ‘Rock Line’ moniker as of yet, if they can provide situational awareness, win defensive zone faceoffs, and use a physical element to wear down opponents, they will be a key factor down the stretch. Also needed, the ability not to take penalties when you are dealing with a 1-goal lead.

Dany Heatley drove the zone, stopped inside the blueline and set up a huge point shot for Jason Demers. San Jose could have sagged back with the lead, but instead they were pressing the Capitals. Washington was starting to slow down and feel the weight of their legs for their second Pacific Division game in 24 hours. They did not put their first shot on Antti Niemi until 6:51 of the third, while San Jose put up 7 shots and blocked 3 in that span. The Sharks finished with a 14-7 edge in the third, and a 28-25 shot margin for the game. “We played hard, but we played against a good team and lost by one,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said after the game.

After Heatley’s power play goal built a 3-1 lead, the Sharks continued pressing. Devin Setoguchi found an extra gear to slash through the offensive zone on one shift, and narrowly miss a deflection with his stick on another. Joe Thornton made a pair of quality defensive plays in the final minutes. Creating a turnover in the neutral zone, then hitting Marleau with a behind the back pass up the right wing. Later he harrassed young defenseman John Carlson, stick checking him 4 times before stealing the puck. Carlson had his off hand wrapped around Thornton, so no calls were made in either direction.

Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray lost an edge late in the third, and Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom cut to the center of the ice from the right wing and wristed a shot that beat Antti Niemi far side. It gave the Caps a spark of life and a 1-goal deficit to overcome late in the game, and #8 was front and center. Alexander Ovechkin tried a desperation diving shot attempt in the waning seconds. The Capitals had a chance with less than 3 seconds remaining, but Murray blocked John Carlson’s final shot of the game.

GAME NOTES: The Capitals have not won at HP Pavilion in 16 seasons, registering a 0-10-1 record in that span. It was the Sharks first win in the alternate black third jerseys in 5 games. Defenseman Nick Petrecki and Tommy Wingels were announced as callups from Worcester prior to the start of the game. Goaltender Antero Niittymaki was placed on IR prior to the game as well. With an early first period injury to defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Dan Boyle registered a game high 29:54 of ice time. The Sharks third period power play goal by Dany Heatley broke a 0-13 drought with the man advantage. Joe Pavelski, Ryane Clowe and Dan Boyle were named three stars of the game. With 70 points, the Sharks are tied with the Nashville Predators for 4th place in the Western Conference. Nashville has one game in hand, but they are also projected to finish with twice as many shootout wins by the end of the season (9 to 4). Teams tied in points at the end of the year will use regulation and overtime wins as the first tiebreak, not shootout wins. San Jose is 1 point behind Phoenix for first place in the Pacific Division.

A photo gallery from the game is available here.

[Update] Recap: Sharks 3, Caps 2 – Japers Rink.

- The top line of Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble came to play right from the start tonight, with Ovechkin in particular firing on all cylinders and getting the Caps on the board with a huge power play goal. The way they were playing, the fact that they accounted for all the scoring and over half of the shots on goal (14 of 25 total) is hardly a surprise – and neither is the fact that, when the captain shows up, usually his team does, too. Would have liked to see Backstrom win that final draw, though…or not take it at all.

– Not that Alex Ovechkin’s style ever gets particularly old, but there’s something fresh and entertaining about watching him play in front of fans that don’t get to see him that often. Instead of boos, everything Ovechkin did seemed to be followed by murmurs as the San Jose fans experienced what so many of us take for granted. Nice to know that even well into his sixth season, Ovechkin can still turn heads.

[Update2] Quote of the night from Sharks’ 3-2 win over the Capitals – Washington Post.

[Update3] Sharks beat Capitals with two third-period goals – San Jose Mercury News.

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One Response to “Capitals winless at the Tank for 16th season, Dany Heatley scores game winner on triple tipped shot in Sharks 3-2 win over Washington”

Pingback from Lights go out in Pittsburgh, Patrick Marleau provides red light game winning goal illumination in 3-2 victory over HBO Penguins | SHARKSPAGE
Time February 24, 2011 at 11:55 AM

[...] number of significant injuries. The new-look, defensively responsible Washington Capitals dropped a 3-2 game at San Jose last Thursday. The game was not as close as the scoreboard suggests, and in the third [...]