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Lerg provides a small silver lining
Rookie bags game winner in NHL debut
4/9/15 - By Mike Lee -

After all the failure this season, a 29 year-old rookie who's wallowed in the minors for the past 7 years provided one of the few feel-good stories of the year for the Sharks on Thursday night. Making his NHL debut for the Sharks in Edmonton, Bryan Lerg slipped on a glass slipper then banged home the game winning goal in San Jose's 3-1 win over the Oilers at Rexall Place. Lerg upstaged the 49 save performance by goaltender Laurent Brossoit, who made his NHL debut for the Oilers.

Brossoit was the story for most of the evening, shutting out the Sharks for 50 minutes before Patrick Marleau cashed in on a turnover midway through the 3rd period. The Oilers goaltender was recalled from Oklahoma City on Wednesday, skating on NHL ice for the first time in his professional career.

The netminder stopped all 33 shots he faced through the first 40 minutes of the game, which included a 5 minute stretch in the 1st period that required his teammates to kill off a major penalty after Curtis Hamilton was sent off for boarding Lerg.

The Sharks hero was lucky to escape with only a bruise across his cheek after Hamilton hit him from behind, forcing his face into the lip of the boards. The Sharks forward was able to skate away from the injury and continue, but Hamilton created a precarious position for his Oilers teammates.

Backed by Brossoit, Edmonton killed off the penalty and got through the period unscathed after the sharks threw 19 pucks Brossoit's way. That was instrumental in allowing the Oilers to grab the lead in the 2nd period, when Nail Yakupov scored his 13th goal of the season 12:30 into the 2nd period.

Yakupov was the beneficiary of a horrendous turnover by Sharks defenseman Justin Braun right in front of his own net. The Oilers tried carrying the puck into the Sharks zone, but Teddy Purcell lost the handle on it. Braun was back-skating as he tried passing the puck up ice, but didn't get enough on the pass as Yakupov stepped in front of it. The Oilers forward immediately snapped a shot on net, catching Antti Niemi flat footed for the 1-0 Oilers lead.

The Sharks capitalized on a similar miscue by the Oilers defensive corps midway through the 3rd peirod. Justin Schultz tried picking up a loose puck in his own zone, but lost an edge as Marleau collapsed on him. The Sharks forward pounced on the puck before deeking Brossoit with a nasty move to his right and sliding through the slot and lifting a shot over the Oilers netminder.

Lerg's Cinderella moment would come with 2:52 left in regulation after the Sharks peppered Brossoit with another 19 shots in the period. Logan Couture setup the goal by taking a Tayler fedun pass up the left wing boards before and undressing Keith Aulie with a move to his left before cutting back toward the slot. Couture saw Lerg on the right wing, hitting him with a pass as the rush collapsed on Brossoit. Lerg collected Couture's pass and whipped a shot that Bossoit lunged at and missed.

The journeyman forward almost caught an edge as the puck hit the back of the twine, but he recovered in time to pop up and bounce off the end board glass in celebration. Lerg's smile extended from ear to ear, accented by the missing front tooth that undeniably identifies the forward as a hockey player.

After toiling in the minor leagues for so long, it was a storybook ending for Lerg. The goal turned out to be the game winner after Matt Nieto capped the game's scoring with an empty net goal late to seal the victory.

Lerg's parents and younger brother were in attendance to experience the thrilling day. He led all players with 8 shots on goal, which came in only 11:32 of ice time on 18 shifts. Lerg finished with a +1, 2 hits, and was a perfect 4-for-4 in faceoffs.

When asked what he expected to do for an encore on Saturday afternoon when the Sharks close out the 2014-15 season with their regular season finale against the Kings. The rookie just shrugged his shoulders, trying to take it all in. He was caught in the moment, trying to absorb all the positives that marked his first game as an NHLer.

The Sharks won't get the satisfaction of eliminating the Kings from the playoffs on Saturday. The Calgary Flames had that honor on Thursday night, as they beat the Kings 3-1 to eliminate the defending Stanley Cup Champions from the playoff race.





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Scoring
1 2 3 T
SJ 0 0 3 3
EDM 0 1 0 1
1st period - None.
2nd period - 1, EDM, Yakupov 13 (unassisted), 12:30.
3rd period - 2, SJ, Marleau 19 (unassisted), 10:32. 3, SJ, Lerg 1 (Couture, Fedun), 17:08. 4, SJ, Nieto 10 (Wingels, Tierney), 19:31, (en).
Penalties
1st period - Hamilton, EDM (boarding major), 2:08.
2nd period - Irwin, SJ (tripping), 4:34.
3rd period - Stollery, SJ (tripping), 4:05.
Goaltending
Shots Saves
SJ - Niemi 27 26
EDM - Brossoit 51 49
EDM - empty net 1 0
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
SJ 19 14 19 51
EDM 7 14 6 27
Power Play Conversion
SJ 0 of 1
EDM 0 of 2
3 Stars of the Game
Laurent Brossoit
Bryan Lerg
Nail Yakupov
Attendance
16,839
Officials
Referees: Pochmara, Rehman. Linesmen: Murchison, Shewchyk.
Holiday Gifts at BustedTees

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