Only thing wrong with ending of Sharks-Oilers Game 5 was that it ended

Only thing wrong with ending of Sharks-Oilers Game 5 was that it ended

The beauty and the problem with Thursday night’s Stanley Cup first round game between Edmonton and San Jose is that as indisputably and manically entertaining as it was, it disappears almost immediately as the audience searches for a better overtime game, and the sooner it happens, the better.

And before anyone starts getting snippy about the outcome, Edmonton winning was the right outcome based on the state of play and especially the state of the overtime. David Desharnais’ winner 105 seconds from the beginning of a second overtime ended a period in which the Oilers outshot the Sharks, 14-2, won twice as many faceoffs, spent almost the entire time in the San Jose end of the rink and made Sharks goalie Martin Jones work like a rented mule. What should have happened, did.

The only thing that was wrong with the ending was, well, that it ended. This deserved multiple overtimes. This deserved, well, a minimum of three . . . oh, the hell with it, five. And then Desharnais could finish it off.

The difference, of course, is that people talk about five-overtime games the next day, and the day after that. Maybe it’s mostly pretending to be torqued off that they couldn’t stay up for all of it because of anemic excuses like needing sleep or working the next day or getting to the hospital for the birth of their first child.

They’ll forget this one, as indisputably good as it was, because there’s usually another one right down the road.

This was the 13th overtime game of the playoffs, in only nine days and 35 games. It’s the most in any first round since 2001, and there are still six series and a potential 13 more games still to play if those series all go seven.

Which I grant you is unlikely.

Still, the gentlemen are well on their way to breaking the single-season OT record of 28, set in 1993, and since we can agree that Stanley Cup hockey is among the finest forms of entertainment ever granted us by the Watchers of the Universe, this can only be good, right?

We-e-e-l-l-l-l-l-l-l . . .

Only one of the 13 games, Toronto-Washington 2, has gone to a second overtime. That’s simply insufficient because, as we know from our research, tension builds exponentially with the onset of exhaustion. There’s a mathematical formula for this; trust us on this, or go ask a math major, or make up one of your own.

But the point of an overtime is that it takes something good and makes it better by making it last an excruciatingly long time. Conversely, a game like Boston-Ottawa 2, when Dion Phaneuf scored for the Senators after only 1:59, seems hardly worth the trouble of the Zamboni ride.

The fact that we haven’t had more than one multiple-overtime game with so many candidates from which to choose is frankly a disappointment for which there is no real recourse. I mean, you know NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s not going to do anything about it, what with being too busy trying to convince people that hockey in Phoenix can work and pretending there’s no brain trauma issue in the sport and all.

So we’re simply going to have to hope that the players can take matters into their own gloves and provide what we all know we really want – hockey all night. Even if it means Mike Emrick’s larynx shoots out of his mouth from sheer exhaustion, or Sidney Crosby gets stuck trying to climb over the boards because his leg muscles have cramped from overuse. It’s the price they must be ready to pay for our late-night/early-morning amusement.

As for those folks who worry about things like deadlines – you know, those creepy media types we all hate – pipe down. You signed on for this. If you want to be home early, go cover golf. You should want to serve the higher and more noble purpose of the game that never ends. Let baseball worry about pace of play; hockey has all the pace it can possibly handle. It just needs more play.

So it is that there are a minimum of six games this weekend. Surely one of them can go deep for us, if only so we can say “We stuck out that Canadiens-Rangers game that went until 2 a.m. in the east (which is 11 p.m. in the civilized world).”

And even if the multi-multi-multiple overtime game is Oilers-Sharks 6, which begins at 7:30 Pacific, well, laissez le bon temps roulet. Because here’s the real secret about long hockey games that nobody, whether they be players, coaches, officials or fans, really wants to admit.=

It isn’t like you have anything better to do.

Paul Martin rewarding Peter DeBoer's faith in NHL return


Paul Martin rewarding Peter DeBoer's faith in NHL return

When Sharks defenseman Paul Martin confirmed reports in January that he was willing to go elsewhere for more playing time, his head coach was insistent that the team would need the veteran blueliner. 

"I really believe we need eight NHL defenseman here," DeBoer told reporters in January (via The Mercury News). "If it happens that he isn't here, then that'll be disappointing for us. I'm not hoping that's where this goes. I'm hoping this goes to a place where he can maybe go down, play some games and keep himself ready, because I know we're going to need eight defensemen."

That's pretty much exactly what's happened.

After clearing waivers in January and playing with the AHL's San Jose Barracuda, Martin was called up ahead of the Sharks' four-game road trip at the end of February. He did not play until last Saturday in Vancouver, when an upper-body injury to rookie defenseman Joakim Ryan, whose play pushed Martin down the depth chart in the first place, created an opening alongside Brent Burns. 

Martin's now played three straight games with Burns, his defensive partner for the vast majority of the previous two seasons. It's the first time Martin's played in three consecutive NHL games all season, and although he hasn't played much (11:53 in average time-on-ice), he's acquitted himself nicely in a sheltered role.

His five-on-five possession numbers (52.78 percent corsi-for; 53.33 percent fenwick-for) are the second-best marks among Sharks defensemen over the last three games. Burns, too, has posted better possession numbers with Martin (47.62 percent corsi-for; 50 percent fenwick-for) during the last three contests than without his longtime partner (43.40 percent corsi-for; 41.67 percent fenwick-for). 

The Sharks have also outscored (3-0) and outchanced (17-16) opponents with Martin on the ice, neither of which was the case in Martin's first three appearances earlier this season. The former is owed to a decent amount of puck luck, as the Sharks have converted on 17.65 percent of their shots with him on the ice, but the latter is an extension of his solid underlying numbers. 

Martin's played the least amount of total minutes among Sharks defensemen since coming back, even as Marc-Edouard Vlasic missed time in two of the last three games, and has barely been used in special teams. His days of averaging 20-or-more minutes a night are likely behind him, but the 37-year-old has played well in a limited role. 

Considering Martin's NHL days appeared to be behind him as recently as last month, his play has been a pleasant surprise. With the exception of his head coach, that is. 

Couture scores in OT, helps Sharks make up ground on Golden Knights

Couture scores in OT, helps Sharks make up ground on Golden Knights


SAN JOSE -- Seconds after almost costing the San Jose Sharks a game with a turnover, Logan Couture ended it with his backhand.

Couture scored 39 seconds into overtime after getting bailed out by goalie Martin Jones and the San Jose Sharks won their season-high sixth straight game, 2-1 over the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night.

"I was able to make a move on their guy," Couture said. "(Marc-Edouard Vlasic) did a good job of driving their backchecker back and I was able to go far side."

Couture's goal came at the end of an opening shift of the overtime that started with him losing the puck in his own zone, giving Jonathan Marchessault a chance alone in front. Jones got enough of the shot to stop it, and then Vlasic sent the puck ahead to Couture for the winning goal that moved San Jose within seven points of first-place Vegas with eight games remaining in the regular season.

Brent Burns also scored and Jones made 24 saves to help the Sharks open a four-point lead over third-place Los Angeles in the Pacific Division with a game in hand as the Sharks close in on home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

"For us to get a win tonight was important," captain Joe Pavelski said. "Plus, just plant that seed. If we stay hot, you never know, we might be able to catch them and get home ice. We took care of business tonight and we'll try to keep playing well."

Tomas Tatar scored the lone goal for the Golden Knights, who were kept in the game by a sterling performance by goalie Malcolm Subban. He stopped 42 shots but it wasn't enough for Vegas to come up with the win, although he helped earn a point that gave the expansion team 100 this season.

"It's impressive," forward James Neal said. "It's a great season for our guys. Guys came together real quick. A great job so far but we're not done yet."

The Golden Knights struck first on a pretty passing play early in the first period that ended when Marchessault found Tatar cutting through the slot ahead of Justin Braun. Tatar skated past Jones and backhanded the puck into the open net.

Vegas has been dominant when getting off to a lead, posting an NHL-best 31-5-1 record when scoring first heading into this game. But the Sharks carried the play in the second period, outshooting the Golden Knights 18-4 and getting the equalizer on a blast by Burns from the point after another strong shift by San Jose's fourth line.

"We want to be playing really good hockey this time of year and heading into the playoffs. I think that's the goal," coach Peter DeBoer said. "Whether we would have won tonight or lost, I like how we played for most of the game, so that's what I'm concentrating on."

Vegas managed to keep it tied despite the lopsided shot totals, killing off a four-minute penalty to Colin Miller and another late power play that started late in the second.

That penalty carried over until the third period and the Sharks got 25 seconds of a two-man advantage after Brayden McNabb was called for throwing his stick but still couldn't get anything past Subban.

The Golden Knights squandered a power-play chance later in the period when Miller was called for cross checking with the man advantage. That nearly led to a power-play goal for San Jose but Subban appeared to get a piece of a shot from in close to Joe Pavelski to keep the game tied at 1.

"He's the main reason we got the point," coach Gerard Gallant said. "He looked comfortable."

NOTES: Vegas G Marc-Andre Fleury didn't make the trip to San Jose with an undisclosed injury but is expected to join the team for Saturday's game in Colorado. ... Burns became the 15th player to play 500 career games with the Sharks.

Golden Knights: Visit Colorado on Saturday.

Sharks: Host Calgary on Saturday.