– San Jose’s Sharks are five weeks away from completing the
regular season. Holding a ten-point edge over Phoenix in the
Pacific Division, a fifth division title is within striking
distance in the 18th season of the franchise.
SAN JOSE – San Jose’s Sharks are five weeks away from completing the regular season. Holding a ten-point edge over Phoenix in the Pacific Division, a fifth division title is within striking distance in the 18th season of the franchise.
Montreal threatened to hand the Sharks a third consecutive loss Thursday night, which would have been the club’s first three-regulation loss streak since Feb. 14-20, 2008. Trailing 2-1 with eight minutes to play, San Jose called on goals from Dany Heatley and Manny Malhotra to upend the Canadiens 3-2. The loss dropped Montreal into ninth place in the Eastern Conference.
The Sharks have eight games left at home, including the next three. Columbus comes to HP Pavilion Saturday night. Nashville, currently seventh in the Western Conference and a potential first-round matchup for San Jose, visits Thursday, while Florida shows up Saturday March 11 for a 1pm contest.
Montreal picked up the lone goal of the first period when Brian Gionta whipped a 20-footer from the slot inside the left post at 10:20 of the opening period.
Benoit Pouliot stole the puck from Patrick Marleau at the sideboards in the Sharks zone. Pouliot dropped the puck to Scott Gomez, who quickly found the unmarked Gionta in the high slot.
Joe Thornton’s tripping penalty eight seconds into the second period set up a pair of special team goals.
San Jose drew even at 1-1 when Marleau, on the penalty kill, redirected Rob Blake’s slapshot from the right point over the left shoulder of Montreal goalie Carey Price. Marleau set a new personal best with his 39th goal.
Gomez pushed the Canadiens ahead 2-1 at 2:06 of the second. Gomez sent a centering pass from a tough angle toward the front of the net toward Gionta, only to have the puck bound off defenseman Douglas Murray’s stick blade at the edge of the crease and past goalie Evgeni Nabokov for his 11th goal of the year.
Dan Boyle was awarded a penalty shot when Montreal’s Hal Gill was whistled for throwing his stick. Boyle’s snapshot clanked off the crossbar and out at 13:31 of the second period.
Heatley earned his 33rd goal of the campaign as San Jose drew even at 2-2 with 12:32 elapsed in the third on the power play.
Boyle stroked a hard shot from the top of the left circle that Heatley was able to redirect from the top of the crease. Marleau earned the secondary assist for his 66th point of the year.
San Jose grabbed its first lead of the game at 15:06 of the third. Defenseman Kent Huskins faked a shot before passing to Torey Mitchell on the left boards. Malhotra set up in the high slot, received Mitchell’s crisp pass and one-timed the shot past a screened Price.
“I don’t think Price saw the puck,” Malhotra said of the timely screen.
Boyle, who picked up his 35th assist on the year, noted the intensity throughout the game.
“(Montreal’s) fighting for their playoff lives and we’re fighting to get our game back intact.”
San Jose finished with a 40-30 edge in shots on net.