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Homecoming sweet for Sharks and fans
Alex Ovechkin makes only Bay Area visit
2/17/11 - By Mike Lee -

Last seeing a live hockey game 14 days ago, San Jose fans were primed to explode in the Sharks first home game since February 1st. To make things a little more interesting Alexander Ovechkin would make his only regular season appearance in San Jose this season, but his goal and an assist would fall short to the delight of a sellout HP Pavilion crowd on Thursday night. The Sharks would treat their fans to a pair of 3rd period goals to grab a nice lead, then teased them a little by letting the Capitals crawl back into the game late. Antti Nimemi's 23 saves would hold up, as the Sharks upended the Capitals 3-2.

Having played 24 hours earlier in a goal-fest in Anaheim Ovechkin and his teammates looked anything but flat early in the contest as they opened with a flurry right off the opening faceoff, led by Ovechkin. Niemi would weather the storm and allow his defense to tighten the defensive zone down a bit.

The Capitals would outshoot San Jose 9-6 in the opening period, but outside of that opening salvo, it was San Jose that had better looks at the opposing net.

Both teams would feel out the opposing defenses, but Niemi and Washington goaltender Michael Neuvirth would maintain control in front of their respective nets. Jason Demers would miss a wide open net with 8 to play in the period after the Sharks began to open things up.

Ovechkin would earn a trip to the penalty box 14 minutes into the contest after his blind side hit on Douglas Murray was called an interference penalty. San Jose would do little with the power play chance, burning half the penalty mucking the puck along the boards.

Ovechkin would turn the tables and draw a tripping penalty on Ben Eager with 1:20 to play in the period after the two mixed it up in front of the Capitals bench.

It was Washington with the man-advantage, but it would be San Jose that would strike first. Patrick Marleau would strip Capitals defenseman John Carlson of the puck then setup a short-handed goal by Joe Pavelski. Marleau would race up the left wing boards with the puck before sliding a pass to Pavelski in the slot. Pavelski would take one stride before firing a shot over Neuvirth's left shoulder for his 13th goal of the season.

The Capitals shook off the goal and went right back to work with the remaining time on the power play. Ovechkin would answer with his 23rd goal of the season right off the ensuing faceoff, firing a shot from the high slot past Niemi.

Washington would hold a one shot edge over San Jose in the middle period, but neither team would generate any scoring. Kyle Wellwood was denied with a shot from 12 feet out after taking a feed from the right side as he cut through the slot midway through the period. Neuvirth got a pad on the shot to keep the game tied.

Demers would setup a Capitals breakaway with 3 min remaining in the period when his pass attempt along the Capitals blueline was intercepted by Alexander Semin. Luckily for Demers, it came at the end of Semin's shift, which allowed the Sharks to track him down and deny a shot on goal. The offense would finally open up in the 3rd period, which started with a nice goal by Ryane Clowe.

Wellwood fired a shot on goal from the outside of the left circle, that Neuvirth stopped with a pad save, but the rebound bounced right to Clowe who was lurking at the top of the crease. With his stick on the ice, Clowe easily gathered up the rebound and slipped the puck around Neuvirth who was seated in the crease. The tally was Clowe's 15th of the season.

Neuvirth would make a big stop on Logan Couture three minutes later after the Sharks rookie took a feed from Clowe in the slot and had an unimpeded look at the net from 10 feet out. His shot caught Neuvirth in the chest, where it was sucked up by the Capitals goaltender.

John Erskine would be sent off for interference at 10:27 to give San Jose their second power play of the night and it would prove costly for the Capitals. Dany Heatley would tip a Dan Boyle shot past Neuvirth, after Boyle sent a puck in on net right off a faceoff win. The puck appeared to change directions on Neuvirth twice as Pavelski touched it before Heatley's defelction. Neuvirth could only watch it pass over his shoulder for Heatley's 20th goal of the season.

Boyle wasn't even credited with an assist on the goal, as the offical score keeper gave helpers to Pavelski and Joe Thornton. The goal was San Jose's first on the power play in five games.

With the two-goal lead, San Jose was content to simply dump the puck out of their zone and kill clock for the remainder of the game, rather than try and pad their lead. That would bite them when a Niklas Backstrom shot from the slot would find twine. Backstrom took a feed from Carlson near the right wing boards, before cutting between the circles and whipping his 25 foot shot. Traffic in front of Niemi prevented the Sharks netminder from seeing the shot, as it cut the Sharks lead to a single goal with 1:55 to play.

The goal was a wake up call for the Sharks, who kicked it into gear and kept the puck away from Niemi over the final two minutes. Washington couldn't get Neuvirth off the ice until the final 29 seconds of the game because San Jose kept the puck pinned on Washington's side of center ice.

Game Notes:

The win pushed the Sharks back into the 5th spot in the Western Conference standings and just a point out of the Pacific Division lead. As of the close of business on Thursday night, all five Pacific Division teams held playoff spots.



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Scoring
1 2 3 T
WAS 1 0 1 2
SJ 1 0 2 3
1st period - 1, SJ, Pavelski 13 (Marleau), 18:49, (sh). 2, WAS, Ovechkin 23 (Carlson, Semin), 19:11, (pp).
2nd period - None.
3rd period - 3, SJ, Clowe 15 (Wellwood, Couture), 4:27. 4, SJ, Heatley 20 (Thornton, Pavelski), 10:49, (pp). 5, WAS, Backstrom 15 (Carlson, Ovechkin), 18:05.
Penalties
1st period - Ovechkin, WAS (interference), 13:56; Eager, SJ (tripping), 18:40.
2nd period - None.
3rd period - Erskine, WAS (interference), 10:27.
Goaltending
Shots Saves
WAS - Neuvirth 28 25
SJ - Niemi 25 23
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
WAS 9 9 7 25
SJ 6 8 14 28
Power Play Conversion
WAS 1 of 1
SJ 1 of 2
3 Stars of the Game
Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe
Dan Boyle
Attendence
17,562
Officials
Referees: Leggo, StLaurent. Linesmen: Henderson, Sharrers.
Holiday Gifts at BustedTees

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