Sunday, December 7, 2008

Kharma Bites Back at San Jose in the Form of Dwayne Freaking Roloson

In Thursday's win, the Columbus Blue Jackets out-played the Sharks and lost 3-2, primarily because of Evgeni Nabokov's stellar net-minding. Saturday, Dwayne Roloson stole a game back, in the process reminding everyone of why the Edmonton Oilers beat San Jose in the playoffs in 2006.

Okay, there was no un-penalized high elbow to the face from Raffi Torres (who ironically is now in Columbus) taking away the Sharks most dynamic scorer (Milan Michalek). This team doesn't fold at first sign of facing physical play, either, so all Edmonton had left from that blueprint was Roloson; he was at least close to as much of a factor in those playoffs as the Sharks' spinelessness.

From the outset the Sharks controlled play, pounding Roloson with shots. San Jose had eight shots before Edmonton got its first and only shot of the period; unfortunately for Nabokov, that shot went in.

Just under nine minutes into the game, Tom Gilbert got the puck out of the Edmonton defensive zone to Dustin Penner, who got it to Ales Hemsky. Hemsky skated to the middle of the ice with it, about half-way between the blueline and the circles, and wired a wrist-shot to the corner on Nabby's stick side.

The Sharks added eight more shots before the period ended. After Patrick Marleau drew a double-minor on Penner because his stick drew blood on Patty, the Sharks power play struggled to even control play in the offensive end.

However, with about five seconds left, defenceman Dan Boyle back-handed a pass along the goalline to get it in front of the crease. Instead of creating a scoring chance, it created a score, bouncing off Roloson's thigh and then skate before going in. Assists were credited to Michalek and Joe Pavelski.

The irony in the first period was thick:

1. The Sharks were unable to score with great shot after great shot and then scoring on a fluke.
2. Nabby went an entire period without a save.
3. San Jose had a 16-1 edge in shots and the score was tied 1-1.
4. San Jose had the sixth-ranked power play and Edmonton the 29th-ranked penalty kill, and the only time the Sharks weren't getting shots was on the one Oilers penalty.

The second was a little more even, with the Sharks only garnering a 15-9 edge in shots, helped greatly by being whistled for four penalties to Edmonton's one. San Jose got on the scoreboard first when Jody Shelley and Tom Cavanagh banged away at a loose puck in front of Roloson until Cavanagh was able to kick it over to Jeremy Roenick uncovered at the side of the net for a backhand score.

But then the penalties caught up to San Jose, as with Rob Blake in the box, a shot broke Michalek's stick. He tried to clear the puck with the shaft; by rule, only a goalie can employ a broken stick, so a delayed penalty was called. With the extra attacker on the ice, Edmonton centre Shawn Horcoff passed the puck to Sheldon Souray on the point, whose shot was tipped in by Penner to tie the game.

The third period saw more furious action by San Jose, who out-shot Edmonton 12-5 and drew the only penalty, but neither team scored. In the extra period, Marleau was called for hooking, and with 30 seconds left on the four-on-three, Kyle Brodziak fired a puck across the crease off Christian Ehrhoff's skate and into the net. (Gilbert and Horcoff got the assists.)

Final tally, Edmonton three goals on 17 shots, San Jose two on 43 shots. Hockey is a funny game sometimes, but if the Sharks had needed this one, I wouldn't be laughing. For now, the Sharks are still the only team in the NHL to have no regulation losses at home, increasing the streak to 16 games this season.

The last team to beat San Jose at home in regulation? Edmonton, Feb. 14, 2008. San Jose puts that streak to the test again Thursday against the Anaheim Ducks.

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