Sidney Crosby, Sharks' rivals take San Jose's NHL All-Star Game boos in stride

Sidney Crosby, Sharks' rivals take San Jose's NHL All-Star Game boos in stride

SAN JOSE -- The boos followed John Tavares throughout the NHL’s All-Star Weekend.

The Toronto Maple Leafs center heard them when he was introduced at Media Day on Thursday in front of a few hundred fans. He heard them again when he was introduced in front of thousands more at SAP Center before Friday’s skills competition, and then again ahead of Saturday’s All-Star Game.

Tavares, of course, opted not to sign with the 2019 NHL All-Star Game's hosts in free agency last summer.

“I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but [they’re] obviously a very proud fan base,” he said after the Atlantic Division was eliminated in Saturday’s All-Star semifinal. “They love their Sharks, and they always create a great environment … when you come to play here on the road.

“I wasn’t the only one, so I wasn’t too lonely.”

A collection of Pacific Division rivals and San Jose’s playoff tormentors kept Tavares company. 

Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty smiled and waved to the crowd when his name was booed ahead of the skills competition. He was treated to more boos Saturday, as was John Gibson.

The Anaheim Ducks goaltender brought out the boo-birds, then the Bronx cheers after giving up seven goals to the Central Division in Saturday’s other semifinal. The Pacific Division, headlined by Sharks All-Stars Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and Joe Pavelski, was headed for an early elimination, and the home crowd was not happy.

They chanted for Marc-Andre Fleury to come into the game as the first period wound down ... minutes after they also booed the Vegas Golden Knights goaltender’s introduction.

“Big emotions, right? Ups and downs,” Fleury joked. “I’ve been in John’s shoes. I think Columbus had the [2015 NHL All-Star Game], and I got booed and people were yelling to get me out of there. It’s not an easy place to be in.”

[RELATED: Karlsson stays mum on injury status, Sharks contract talks]

Fleury relied on his experience as an All-Star with the Pittsburgh Penguins playing in hostile territory, and embraced SAP Center's icy reception Saturday. When he received his own Bronx cheer after he made his first save, Fleury waved to the crowd with his glove hand.

“[I] just wanted to say thank you to the fans,” he quipped.

[RELATED: Matthews reveals plan for Marleau All-Star jersey he wore]

And then there was Sidney Crosby.

The Penguins superstar was absent with an illness Friday, but the announcement of that absence was booed. He was booed in the building Saturday, and opened the scoring for the Metropolitan Division 15 seconds in against the Atlantic. 

Crosby scored three more goals across two games, and was booed (at least) three more times. The Metropolitan All-Stars emerged victorious, and Crosby was booed one last time when he was voted All-Star Game MVP. 

He won another MVP award on the SAP Center ice about 18 months prior, receiving the Conn Smythe Trophy after his Penguins eliminated the Sharks on home ice in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. After seeing the reception Pittsburgh teammate Kris Letang received Friday, Crosby said he knew what he was in for the next day. 

Not that he didn’t understand why.

“They’re great fans here,” Crosby said. “Playing in playoffs here and even during the regular season over the years, it’s a tough place to play, and they love their team here. … Obviously you’d rather get cheered than booed. But at the same time, I know they’re passionate fans and they’ve got a good memory.”

Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle played alongside Tavares and against Crosby on Saturday. He said he had to be filled in about San Jose’s displeasure with Tavares, and a reporter told him during his press conference about the Sharks’ playoff history with the Penguins.

With that in mind, was he surprised Sharks fans were in regular-season mode during a trio of midseason exhibitions? 

“There’s no nights off for the fans,” Yandle said. “They’re ready.”

Aaron Dell leads Sharks to 'gutsy' win against rival Golden Knights


Aaron Dell leads Sharks to 'gutsy' win against rival Golden Knights

The word "gutsy" was used a few times by the Sharks after Thursday's win in Vegas, and it's easy to understand why.

The odds certainly were not in San Jose's favor heading into the third battle of the season with the Golden Knights. The Sharks were without one of their best forwards in Tomas Hertl and heading into a tough building to play a team that had dominated them twice back in October. But instead of letting the rival Vegas squad get into their heads, the Sharks put a mean product out on the ice and played one of their most complete games on the season, winning 2-1 in overtime.

So, yes, gutsy is a good way to categorize the victory.

"Huge win for the boys," Timo Meier told reporters after the game. "We knew it was a good challenge coming into this game and some guys stepped up. We had everybody chipping in, we had all guys on board. And that's what we need."

Aaron Dell agreed. "I think it was just a great character win," the netminder said. "I think it showed it doesn't matter who's in or who's out, that we can get the job done."

San Jose was short-handed heading into the game with Hertl out of the lineup with an injury he sustained in Tuesday's loss to the Oilers. Then the Sharks lost more bodies as the game went on, with Radim Simek and Melker Karlsson missing time towards the end of the contest. 

Still, San Jose found a way to buckle down and come out on top.

"We were short by the end there," captain Logan Couture told Sharks' play-by-play announcer Randy Hahn after the game. "We only dressed 11 up front, and then Melker went down and Simek went down on the back end. Just a really gutsy performance from us."

Even with bodies missing, the rest of San Jose's arsenal was able to pick up the slack, from Meier's big hits to Couture's persistence on the game-winner in overtime. Perhaps the biggest standout of the night, though, was Dell. The backup goalie rebounded magnificently from his previous bad starts, locking down the crease and limiting Vegas to one goal on the evening.

Not bad for a guy who hadn't started a game in nearly three weeks.

"Dell was huge all night," Couture complimented. "He played unbelievable. He hadn't played in 10 or 11 days and for him to come in, in this environment, against a team that shoots a lot, he stood on his head for us and gave us a chance to win it."

Dell attributed his success to getting lots of practice time in between his starts, but ultimately turned the focus to how the team in front of him was playing.

"We played solid defensively the whole game and waited for our chances," he said. "We stuck to our game plan and we really didn't give them a whole lot."

Now, the Sharks are going to have to keep that push going. Head coach Peter DeBoer told reporters after the game that both Karlsson and Simek were banged up, leaving questions as to what San Jose's lineup might look like Saturday against the red-hot New York Islanders. 

Regardless of whether or not Karlsson and Simek are able to play, the Sharks might want to have another gutsy effort on deck.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 2-1 overtime win vs. Golden Knights


Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 2-1 overtime win vs. Golden Knights


To say the first two games this season between the Sharks and Golden Knights were heavily tilted in Vegas’ favor is a major understatement. But San Jose didn’t sit back the third time around Thursday Night at T-Mobile Arena.

The Sharks put on a playoff-type performance in the desert, which ended with a big overtime goal from captain Logan Couture to give San Jose a 2-1 victory.

Here are three takeaways from Thursday's game in Sin City.

It starts with a good ... start 

Sharks fans likely were pleased that San Jose didn't give up the first goal in the first five minutes of the game -- something that has happened all too often against Vegas. But the Sharks didn't just keep the game scoreless through five minutes -- they kept Vegas off the board through two and a half periods.

It all stemmed from San Jose starting off the game the right way. Granted, the Sharks took their foot off of the gas late in the third period which allowed Vegas to tie it up, but if they can harness the same physicality and play like that against other teams, more victories will come. 

Dell saves the day ... and his job?

It's fair to say that Dell's job was on the line heading into Thursday's game. He hadn't started in almost three weeks after a couple of very bad outings. But boy, did he come to play against the Golden Knights in a difficult atmosphere. Vegas constantly peppered Dell and outshot the Sharks in the contest, but San Jose's netminder made a couple of huge saves to halt the attack, especially on the penalty kill.

After Thursday's performance, Dell surely has earned himself another start in the near future. Since the Sharks have a back-to-back coming up next week, he will likely get back in there pretty quickly, perhaps next Saturday against the Arizona Coyotes.

Welcome back, Timo 

Timo Meier has sat atop the list of Sharks' players needing to bust out of a slump, but he broke through Thursday and easily was one of the most noticeable players on the ice. His second-period goal was an absolute thing of beauty as he made a huge power move to drag the puck to the net and slid it under Marc-Andre Fleury.

The biggest change in Meier's game was that he was playing a much heavier, more physical style than he previously had been. And, as we saw with Meier last season, he has the most success when he imposes his size and physicality on the opponent. If he can keep up that trend, his season could really turn around.