They were exhorting Bobby Ryan to shoot from every section of Honda Center except for two – sections 408 and 409, which were occupied by enough teal-clad Sharks fans to have filled six buses on a round-trip tour to and from San Jose.
Ryan dangled the puck on his stick from the left wall, through the left faceoff circle, through the slot, and through the right circle, before he finally released a shot at 14:29 of the second period. It was worth the wait for Ryan and for the fans (except those sitting in sections 408 and 409). The wrist shot sneaked through a scrum including Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle, Ducks forwards Joffrey Lupul and Brandon McMillan, and of course goalie Antti Niemi, for the only goal on Sunday.
“Their defenseman (Marc-Edouard Vlasic) made a good play and followed me,” Ryan said. “I kept trying to wait for him to stop and he never did. So I finally hit the brakes. There was so much traffic in front, Lupul and McMillan were creating a stir, so I just tried to put it through the traffic. They haven’t found holes in the past month. I’m glad they are finding them right now and I’ll try to continue to do it.”
Ryan has scored four goals in the last five games, all in the absence of injured center Ryan Getzlaf. Before that he had gone seven games without a goal. Ryan’s 18th goal of the season puts him three behind Corey Perry for the team lead.
It also spoiled an otherwise perfect night for Niemi, who had the unfortunate task of being opposed by Jonas Hiller, who recorded his second shutout in as many games.
Plenty more on him in tomorrow’s editions. Here are a few notes that won’t make the paper:
There have now been four back-to-back shutouts by a single goalie in team history. Jean-Sebastien Giguere had three straight in Dec. 2002 and two straight in March 2001. Guy Hebert had two straight in Dec. 1998. Hiller hasn’t allowed a goal in 154 minutes, 50 seconds, going back to the second period of Wednesday’s loss to Nashville. Since then, he’s stopped 80 straight shots.
Sharks captain Joe Thornton talked about his team’s lack of luck of late. The Sharks missed the net 16 times and had another 21 blocked by Ducks skaters, in addition to their 37 shots on goal. Doing the math, that’s 74 times they took aim at the net and didn’t score. Ouch.
Saku Koivu talked about his success in the circle against Thornton (he took 10 of the 13 head-to-head draws in the circle). Indeed, luck came into play here, too: “There were 3 or 4 pucks just laying at our feet,” Koivu said. “On those, you never know if our D-men or wingers are going to come grab it and tonight I got help on those plays and we were able to get the pucks out.” Still, the Ducks won 54 percent (32 of 59) of their faceoffs against San Jose, the second-best faceoff team in the NHL (53.5%). That’s no small feat.
Speaking of doing the math, the last word goes to Sharks head coach Todd McLellan: “We can do one of two things: We can pout and feel sorry for ourselves,
we can hang our heads, or we can continue to work at it.”