Sidney Crosby

Sharks not surprised by late-game tussles in blowout win over Penguins

Sharks not surprised by late-game tussles in blowout win over Penguins

Even though the Sharks and Penguins only play each other twice a season, things tend to get a bit chippy when they meet up on the ice. The bad blood no doubt stems from when these teams faced off in the Stanley Cup Final in 2016. And boy, did the fists fly in the third period of Thursday’s game in Pittsburgh.

Fans watching at home almost missed the line brawl that took place in front of Pittsburgh’s bench during a TV timeout in the last four-plus minutes of regulation. Evander Kane, Brenden Dillon, and newly-reacquired forward Micheal Haley began pushing and shoving with members of the Penguins, and things quickly escalated. The ordeal ended with Haley coming to Dillon’s defense and shoving Penguins’ captain Sidney Crosby down onto the ice. 

Haley -- known for his physicality and holding opposing players accountable for their actions -- chuckled about the scuffle afterward.

“It seems to happen whenever I’m on the ice, which is a good thing I guess,” he told the press after the game. “I have no idea actually how (it started). I saw Kane over there with one of their guys and came over, and it doesn’t take long for things to ignite. And then you’re in the box.”

Haley may not have known how the debacle he was part of got started, but Kane admitted in his postgame interview that he might have gotten the scuffle going when he went by Pittsburgh’s bench.

“I was just checking out the play they were running because I could see the board pretty clearly,” he answered honestly. “I guess they didn’t like that very much and wanted to take exception -- and I was happy to oblige.” 

Whatever the reason was for the escalated incident, Sharks’ head coach Peter DeBoer admitted afterward that he could understand where the Penguins were coming from.

“We’ve been on the other end of those,” DeBoer said. “You’re down three-or-four-nothing and there’s frustration. Those things happen.”

[RELATED: What we learned in Sharks' shutout victory over Penguins]

The fisticuffs ended with four skaters leaving the ice with game misconduct penalties and Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan getting tossed for inflammatory language. Seconds after the next faceoff, the Sharks drew a penalty and Brent Burns scored the nail-in-the-coffin power-play goal that put the finishing touches on San Jose's 4-0 victory. While the Sharks likely don’t want to be getting in full-on line brawls every evening, at least things went in their favor in the end. 

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in dominant 4-0 win vs. Penguins

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in dominant 4-0 win vs. Penguins

The Sharks were looking to rebound from a disappointing loss earlier in the week, and they did just that on Thursday evening. San Jose rallied behind Tomas Hertl’s two-goal effort and held on through some late-game fisticuffs to shut out the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-0.

Here are three takeaways from Thursday’s game:

San Jose’s special teams deserved a star on the evening

Both the power play and penalty kill played a huge role in San Jose’s victory, helping to keep the momentum in their favor for the duration of the game. The Sharks started off the game getting a ton of offensive zone time and they doubled down on keeping it that way, thanks to Hertl’s two power-play markers in the first frame.

The penalty kill seemed to get more impressive as the game went on. While Evander Kane’s short-handed goal was a highlight, Martin Jones deserves a lot of credit for standing tall when the Sharks were shorthanded. His stop on Sidney Crosby at the end of the second period helped to keep Pittsburgh frustrated and off the board.

Burns and Simek were on top of their game

The duo was absolutely nails against Pittsburgh. They did a standout job breaking up plays in the Sharks’ defensive zone to help stop the Penguins from creating any momentum and capitalizing. Burns having a three-point night with a late power-play goal and two assists didn’t hurt either.

In doing good work in San Jose territory, Burns also helped set up Kane’s breakaway on the penalty kill that resulted in a short-handed goal. His mix of both offensive and defensive play on Thursday was a perfect example of why he’s in the Norris Trophy discussion.

Thornton has wheels

Jumbo Joe didn’t tally another hat trick, but boy did he put on a show by preventing a goal for the opposition. He easily had the most memorable play of the night, speeding up to prevent Evgeni Malkin from having an opportunity to score on a breakaway coming out of the penalty box.

A lot of attention is given to the milestones Thornton has been reaching, and rightfully so, but plays like that are equally impressive. Considering Thornton missed a few games at the start of the season with knee issues, being able to keep pace with a faster, younger skater like Malkin is a sight to see.

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.”