The Winnipeg Jets entered their tilt against the San Jose Sharks eleven points back of eighth placed Phoenix who had already downed the New Jersey Devils earlier in the night. Al Montoya was making his 6th straight start in what was Joe Thornton’s 1200th career NHL Game. The Jets were hoping for a win on a night that was also Big Dustin Byfuglien’s birthday, in hopes of keeping themselves alive in the Western Conference Playoff Race.
The first period was opened with a lot of San Jose pressuring the Jets. Dan Boyle scored on what was San Jose’s second shot of the game. The goal was scored on a pinch by Boyle, whereas Sheppard cycled up the boards he easily found Boyle heading towards the net for an easy tap in.
Just as quickly, the Jets equalized on a goal by their captain who had just returned from the birth of his second child. Andrew Ladd scored on a rebound in which he out waited an outstretched Antii Niemi. Frolik notched the only assist.
With 11 minutes remaining in the first period the Sharks took to the powerplay. With heavy pressure being sustained the Jets looked un-organized and got a couple of huge saves out of Al Montoya. That and Trouba made a beautiful defensive play to save a sure goal about half way through the penalty kill. The Jets managed to kill it off to remain deadlocked.
The pressure was broken during the Sharks second powerplay of the period, but with about a minute left in the powerplay, Burns chipped the puck up to Joe Pavelski along the boards who quickly returned it to complete the give and go and Burns (while on his backhand) put it underneath the glove of a shaky looking Al Montoya for the Sharks second of the game, 2 – 1 San Jose.
The Sharks had a flurry of activity towards the end of the period and nearly meshed another – but the horn sounded. The first period was largely dominated by the Sharks as the Jets didn’t manage to gather any momentum or build any time on attack consistently in the first period. It was quite evident that the second place Sharks were playing a team outside of the playoff picture.
A minute into the second period, Trouba with such poise – circled back to his own zone and evaded a check from Logan Couture. He then took it up ice on a very nice rush for about a minute of sustained offensive pressure until it was turned over to San Jose.
Upon Wingels turning the puck back over to Winnipeg, Blake Wheeler picked up the puck and skated end to end wristing a soft shot along the ice that squeaked underneath the pad of Sharks Goaltender, Antii Niemi on one that no doubt – he wishes he could have back. 2 -2 half way through the second at the SAP Center.
With 17:00 left in the second and the Jets on the powerplay, Al Montoya went to play the puck and turned it over to the Sharks Logan Couture. Montoya managed to scramble back and make the save. The Jets powerplay only mustered one shot and did not score on their only attempt with the man advantage to this point in the game.
Shortly after the Jets powerplay, with the Sharks now at even strength – they returned to their dominance of the play down low, cycling the puck and owning the perimeter of the Jets zone for the duration of the shift. Montoya made a key save and the Jets managed to clear the puck on a mad scramble just in front of Montoya’s crease.
Later on, Paul Postma took a hold of one of the Sharks players and went to the box. Within the first minute of that Sharks powerplay, Joe Thornton got called on a questionable trip, maybe as an even up call.
After Postma had hopped out of the box the Jets quickly put out their powerplay unit to capitalize on Thornton’s misfortune. They got to work and Wheeler thread the needle cross ice to Dustin Byfuglien who on the one-timer notched a goal with Frolik also tallying an assist. Immediately after the goal, the referee’s made it evident that the whistles weren’t going to be put away any time soon and called Trouba for a slash.
On the ensuing San Jose powerplay, the Jets countered with a couple of shorthanded chances. Never the less, Couture while battling Enstrom in front of the net had the shot go off of him and behind Montoya with 8:37 remaining in the period, tying the game 3 – 3. Havlat and Sheppard tallied their second assists respectively on the powerplay goal.
The Jets managed some good even strength cycle work with about 6:30 left in the second, with Marc Stuart firing a shot onto Niemi who made a routine save. What had been a high paced game up to this point slowed until Logan Couture went 1 on 1 with Adam Pardy, who did a good job tying him up and evading any potential threat.
Directly after that Andrew Ladd chipped the puck to Michael Frolik who had garnered speed wide and beat the San Jose defenceman. In what was a beautiful scoring chance, Frolik tried his best to tuck it underneath a sprawled Antii Niemi who ultimately ended up making the save. The Jets looked to be playing with San Jose through most of the second period.
With 4:05 left in the second Jacob Trouba hit Evander Kane with a pass as he was streaking up the middle and splitting the San Jose defence. Dan Boyle had no choice but to hook the crafty winger and the Jets went back to the powerplay. It was debatable whether or not a penalty shot could have been called but it didn’t look to me as though Kane managed to get two steps in front of him.
The Jets managed very minimal pressure on what was a mundane powerplay. The Sharks killed it off and with two minutes remaining in the period the score remained tied. Dan Boyle fanned on the puck and took an absolute muffin towards the net with about 1:20 left and it nearly beat Montoya along the far post. Montoya appeared as though he had no idea the puck had ever been shot. A scrum ensued in front of Montoya with 53 seconds remaining and Stuart and Sheppard were sent off with penalties. Sheppard to the Sharks Dressing Room and Stuart to the box to put the teams at four skaters a side. The score remained tied at 3 a piece going into the second intermission.
The third period started 4 on 4 with the Jets and Sharks battling back and forth in what looked like a stalemate early on. San Jose managed to maintain control in the Winnipeg zone and get a couple shots on Montoya early with the Jets equalling that effort and Stuart walking in with a wrister from the high slot. Niemi calmly gloved that down.
San Jose was doing a good job of generally controlling the play early in the third and it felt like the ice had tilted towards the Jets defensive zone. The Jets were having significant trouble clearing the puck and ended up turning it over to Brown who had a glorious opportunity. With the puck bouncing, the Jets managed to clear it and narrowly escaped falling victim to an early third period deficit.
Byfuglien, with 15:00 remaining turned the puck over blatantly in the neutral zone to Joe Pavelski who came blazing into the Jets zone and turned back to find his defenceman teeing up for a one timer that missed by inches and the puck bounced off the end boards into a Winnipeg Jets offensive transition.
The Jets had done an fantastic job of keeping with the Sharks to this point in the game. Though it looked to me like through the early portion of the third the Jets play was deteriorating. The Jets stood the course and Andrew Ladd tried a stretch pass to Brian Little who looked like he had snuck past the Sharks defenceman Demers. On the replay it looked like Demers had a hold on Little’s stick. There was no call on the play.
Upon clearing the puck with about 10:00 left in the third, Desjardins of the Sharks absolutely ran over the Jets Stuart sending him flying backwards behind his own goal line. Stuart was visibly shaken up and quite obviously in discomfort. At the commercial break it looked as though Stuart was trying to skate off the pain as he hopped the boards onto the ice. This is an injury to potentially keep your eye on as Stuart was not very prevalent for the remainder of the game – though he did later return.
The Jets seemed to wake up around that point and the boys had the Sharks hemmed in their own zone with Ladd batting the puck out of the air during a “tip drill” and putting it behind Niemi, off the post and out.
With 6:00 left in the third Stuart made his way back to the ice and Trouba came down the ice on a 2 on 1 with a delayed penalty coming to Brad Stuart of the Sharks. Niemi made the save (although Trouba made it easy on him) and the Jets headed back to the powerplay.
The powerplay started with the Jets struggling to set up shop. That held true for the majority of the powerplay with the #5 ranked penalty kill of the Sharks killing another. Though at the end of the penalty, Couture unintentionally cleared the puck straight over the glass for a delay of game penalty.
The Jets took to the powerplay once again with a 5 on 3 advantage for ten seconds, but the Sharks cleared off the defensive zone face off win. But upon the Jets entering the zone for a second set up, Tobi Enstrom put one past Niemi on well-timed cross crease pass from Wheeler, Little getting the second assist. The Jets had the lead 4 -3 with just over 2:00 remaining.
The Sharks started pressing in the dying minutes. Desperation was in the air, for both teams. The Jets were doing their best to escape with two points. Niemi left the net with 1:12 remaining and the Sharks had control of the puck in the Jets zone. Holding the puck along the perimeter, the Sharks got the puck to Boyle along the point. He managed a wrister stopped by Montoya before the Jets cleared the puck. It was a high paced last minute, but the Jets managed to hold on.
The Jets outshot the Sharks in the game 31 – 30. The Jets went 2/5 on the powerplay, with the Sharks powerplay hitting on 2/4 attempts. The Sharks out hit the Jets by one going 24 – 23. The Jets earned a much needed two points and mathematically speaking, stay alive in the playoff race. They will play on Saturday night against another playoff bound Western Conference opponent in the L.A. Kings.