A twist on a familiar theme surfaced when the Philadelphia Flyers visited the San Jose Sharks Wednesday, Dec. 30. The hosts were 4-10-0 at home on the 2015-16 NHL season with just 23 wins in 57 games since their Arbor Day win in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, but the guests had just one head-to-head win in 17 games since a tie in 2002.
You could say it was the resistible force against the movable object. In the end, San Jose had more pictured stars to bring about a victory than Philadelphia.
The Sharks opened the game with an incredible first period that saw a 9-3 edge in shots, but made just enough sloppy plays that the broadcast had the scoring chances even at the first intermission. Both goalies were up to the task as they were when the Flyers hosted the 1-0 overtime game six weeks earlier, leaving this game scoreless almost halfway through the second period.
San Jose’s third power play of the game changed that. Logan Couture got his first assist of his first game back from a second injury already on the 2015-16 NHL season when Patrick Marleau got the puck to Joe Thornton uncovered in front of the crease, who lifted the puck over the shoulder of Steve Mason to score the all-important first goal.
Wednesday would become the 15th time in 15 games of the 2015-16 NHL season at the SAP Center that the team scoring first won. Philadelphia’s goals just over four minutes away from either side of the second intermission put that in jeopardy.
First Claude Giroux surprised Martin Jones by slapping the puck on net in the midst of a faceoff battle with Thornton at 15:49 of the second period. Then Brent Burns was stripped of the puck by Wayne Simmonds in the offensive zone and Sean Couturier was left to go in on a breakaway in which he had time to deke open one side of the net and bury a backhand to put the Sharks down 2-1 at 4:19 of the third.
Both San Jose skaters made amends of sorts 95 seconds later just before the midpoint of a power play. Thornton got the puck to Couture for a between-the-legs, behind-the-back feed for Burns to snap home in the open side of the cage.
That play was started with an offensive zone hit by captain Joe Pavelski to keep the Sharks on the attack, and he was the one passing the puck to Thornton. It was not until the final seven minutes that evidence of his offensive work resulted in an official score.
As a power play was ending, Tomas Hertl passed to Justin Braun on the wing entering the attacking zone. Pavelski one-timed home the cross-ice feed for what would be his seventh game-winning goal—most on the 2015-16 NHL season.
Shayne Gostisbehere took a desperation slashing penalty with 74 seconds to go to pretty much clinch the loss for the Flyers. They never got Mason out of the net before Marleau moved the puck from Marc-Edouard Vlasic to Pavelski in front of the net to lift a backhand to the top shelf 25 second later with the same motion he may have used rowing a canoe down a Wisconsin river as a child.
Philadelphia actually held the edge in the event summary possession statistics: 32-28 faceoffs and 12-21 giveaways with only a 9-16 disadvantage in takeaways. However San Jose had a 30-23 edge in hits leading to a 51-50 advantage in attempts that turned into a 33-19 edge in shots thanks to getting almost twice as many blocks (19-10).
The rare home win moved the Sharks into second place in the Pacific Division so far this 2015-16 NHL season. They will resume their West Side Story rivalry with the Winnipeg Jets for what will mark the midpoint of a five-game home stand on Saturday, Jan. 2.