The first 11 minutes, 15 seconds of hockey at Honda Center rendered the next 48:45 moot. Almost.
At least, it made for fairly easy writing on deadline. Seeing Jonas Hiller allow three goals in that early span, before heading to the bench, was a rare sight. Just as rare were the nature of the goals – each a little less excusable than the one before. Hiller said he didn’t see Jason Demers’ shot from just inside the blue line until it was in the back of the net. A few seconds later, Hiller was on the bench, and the Western Conference standings were guaranteed to be a gnarled mess.
The Sharks (27-19-6) and Ducks (28-21-4) each have 60 points now, cosmetically tied for fifth place in the standings but San Jose has the advantage of having one game in hand. Clearly, playing the Phoenix Coyotes the night before was a tremendous advantage, as the Sharks’ quick start was too much for Hiller and the Ducks.
“I think when they scored on the first shift it should have been a wake-up call,” said Bobby Ryan, who had one of the Ducks’ three goals. “We let them build off it. I don’t think you can discredit Jonas. He stood in there and some of the goals were tough to see, especially the third one. You don’t see it much.”
Cam Fowler and Joffrey Lupul also scored goals, with Lupul netting his first since Dec. 28. Curtis McElhinney made 17 saves – 10 more than Hiller – allowing only a power-play putback by Ryane Clowe at 15:39 of the second period.
More details in tomorrow’s editions. A few more notes:
The third line of Dan Sexton, Maxim Lapierre and Lupul played perhaps their best game since Lapierre arrived in a trade with Montreal on Dec. 31. Lapierre and Sexton were rewarded with assists on Lupul’s second-period goal. Sexton was nearly rewarded with a goal of his own in the third period, when he blew past Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle up the right wing, then put a late forehand-to-backhand move on Antti Niemi, who was forced to make a tough save. “I thought they were on the puck. I thought Lapierre was involved in the game. I thought Sexton, after the first period and a half, got his speed going. … I just didn’t think they had enough early enough and often enough.”
Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley haven’t been linemates on a regular basis this season. But they were reunited for parts of Tuesday’s game and all of Wednesday’s. In addition to combining for the first goal of the game, they cycled the puck so well in the final minute that Randy Carlyle couldn’t pull McElhinney for an extra attacker until the final 10 seconds.
The main reason for Thornton, Marleau and Heatley’s reunion? Logan Couture missed his second straight game with the flu. The rookie forward made the road trip, but the Ducks couldn’t take advantage with Couture and his team-leading 22 goals sitting the game out.
The Ducks’ power play was hit-or-miss, but mostly hit. In 9:16 spanning five shifts, they put 11 shots on Niemi, but converted only when Fowler had a wide-open net in which to deposit Perry’s rebound at 17:52 of the second period.
The game featured a pair of career-milestone assists – Saku Koivu’s 500th (on Fowler’s goal) and McElhinney’s 1st (on Ryan’s goal).
Sheldon Brookbank, Paul Mara and Andreas Lilja were the healthy scratches. After being activated from IR on Monday, Aaron Voros made his first appearance since fracturing an orbital bone on Dec. 8, playing 4:42 on the fourth line (with Todd Marchant and George Parros), putting one shot on goal and applying two hits.