Sharks fall short of a comeback, the Penguins scored six goals in the first period and Zach Sawchenko makes highlight-reel saves in his first-ever NHL game.
In the past two games at the Tank, fans were treated to a goals contest against the Arizona Coyotes, which set the bar for most goals in a game this season and required a shootout. Although the defense has definitely been sacrificed, the Sharks have shown signs of the offensive juggernauts they are capable of being. Days later, and an overtime period was needed to decide who was the better hockey club: the Philadelphia Flyers or the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks won 3-2. San Jose entered the PPG Paints Arena with a 2 game winning streak and a sense that the tide was finally turning for the club who is actively hunting a Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.
The Sharks started 2022 on the road against the Penguins, who were on their own winning streak of 7 games, and Pittsburgh wasted no time salting the wounds of Sharks fans who are still scorned by the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. The Penguins scored the fastest 4 goals against San Jose in the Sharks' franchise history and ended the first 20 minutes with 6 goals against. The Penguins ended the game with 8 goals against and celebrated 2 hat-tricks.
San Jose remained resilient and chipped away at the lead when most thought the game was over in the first period. The Sharks scored back-to-back-to-back goals early in the 3rd period to bring the score closer and closer until it was 6-5. With less than 3 minutes in regulation, as the Sharks were on the tails of the Penguins, the final penalty of the game came against San Jose. The Pens took advantage of the power play, and eventually the empty netter, to win 8-5. Whether the penalty helped them escape the potential comeback by the Sharks or the Sharks simply lost the game in the first period would make for a good debate.
The real story is in the San Jose goal crease and not James Reimer's 6 goals against that led to him being benched after the 1st period. Zach Sawchenko got his first taste of NHL action when he subbed in for Reimer. Sawchenko made 20 saves on 21 shots in the 40 minutes of his NHL career and most of them were highlight caliber hockey plays. Sawchenko's performance undoubtedly gave the team the spark it needed but it also calmed the storm in Pittsburgh as Sawchenko seemed unsolvable by the Penguins, that was until the last penalty led to the goal with the man advantage. Sawchenko was awarded the third star of the game and his two periods gave Sharks fans a glimpse of what may come in the next 2 seasons.
Sawchenko plays in the minors with the Barracuda, so Sharks fans have and can continue to watch him play in the American Hockey League once Adin Hill clears protocol and is healthy to return. Reimer is the starting goalie for the Sharks (and will not be held responsible for the atrocious defense that lead to the pucks piling up in the net) and Hill is being groomed for the future starting position, but it sure was exciting seeing another keeper in the ranks who is capable of owning the crease at the NHL level. So it is obvious, the Sharks have the goaltending depth and offense to win games. The biggest struggle that needs to be addressed now is the defense. The Sharks have scored 16 goals and won a shootout in the past 3 games. The Sharks have also allowed 17 goals against in their last 3 games. The upside is that in the last 3 games, the Sharks are 2-1-0. Hopefully, the Sharks can figure things out quickly to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot.