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Game 77 Recap: Sharks Win Battle of the Backups 5-1

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These two teams, likely outside the playoffs if not mathematically out, seemed relatively evenly matched until the third period. Then the Avs pulled a Dallas Stars.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Neither team was coming into this game feeling great. Frustration has been the order of the day for much of the year in San Jose. And as we at MHH all know, Colorado have had their fair share of disappointment, too. Despite all of this, NBCSN was still trying to bill the game as a DESPERATE PUSH FOR THE PLAYOFFS! but they weren't foolin' anybody.

It's not a crime to say the Avs are well and truly out of the playoff picture even if they haven't been mathematically eliminated. The Sharks are in a similar position, though perhaps slightly better off as the Pacific Division is a bit more forgiving.

That being said, there's still plenty of hockey to enjoy this season. Enjoy is the right word, right? Guys? Right?

Period 1

The first period was a sloppy joe for both teams, save for a couple nice chances at either end of the ice. San Jose's Tomas Hertl came out ready to play, shining both offensively and on the backcheck. He got an early scoring chance, but Reto Berra was competent in net and dare I say it, even made a couple of really standout saves.

The usual suspects looked active and hungry: Matt Duchene, Alex Tanguay, and Ryan O'Reilly showcased some strong skating and stickwork but it didn't amount to many shots. O'Reilly got the first shot on goal for the Avs, but Sharks backup Alex Stalock gobbled it up in his glove.

Neither side's special teams got a lot of work, with Duchene taking the only penalty, a tripping minor that couldn't have been softer if it was manufactured in the Charmin factory. Fortunately the penalty kill--or perhaps just the lack of power play aggression on the Sharks' part--held San Jose to a single shot on goal.

Both teams just looked ever so slightly discombobulated, throwing centering passes that whizzed past their targets, chucking the puck up into the air, and turning passes into neutral zone turnovers.

In contrast to that, both goaltenders looked solid in net. Stalock and Berra competently turned aside everything thrown at them, and by the end of the first, I wasn't even holding my breath every time the puck came within restraining order distance of Berra.

Period 1 ended nil-nil, shots 10-8 in favour of the Sharks.

Period 2

According to the shot counter, the second period gave only the slightest advantage to the Sharks (8-7), but it sure didn't feel that way sometimes. Early on in the period, Matt Nieto got what was at that point San Jose's best scoring opportunity of the game. Nieto, a strong and skilled skater, absolutely burned Zach Redmond en route to the net, but he whiffed on the shot and Berra was paying attention.

At 13:50, Dennis Everberg got a good solo look on a play that could have been a 2-on-1, but San Jose's Taylor Fedun smartly broke up the rush. Stalock kept Everberg off the scoresheet and continued to play well all period

The shots and zone time were tilted in the Sharks' favour for most of the first ten minutes, although Landeskog and O'Reilly both had impressive moments, though only O'Reilly's evolved into a scoring chance.

At the halfway mark, we were treated to a rare treat in the form of a one-timer from Matt Duchene, but Stalock gloved it.

Berra had to make a good save on Patrick Marleau after a quick breakout turnover. Duchene carried the puck up ice for a nice solo effort and again was denied by Stalock. Then Berra denied Brendon Dillon. You might begin to notice a pattern emerging. Though both teams got some chances, both goaltenders were airtight right up until the dying minutes of the period.

The Sharks finally got on the scoreboard when Brent Burns slammed one of his signature shots toward Berra, who seemed positioned well to make the initial save. However, former Avalanche Scott Hannan was waiting below the dots. He redirected the shot in. Berra never had a chance.

Former Avs always score first, 1-0 SJS:

Burns continued to pad his fantasy hockey statsheet by finishing the period in the penalty box. Alex Tanguay got what looked like a beauty of a solo breakaway developing, but Burns tripped him up and the period ended with San Jose on the penalty kill.

Period ended 1-0 San Jose with a minute of penalty kill remaining for the Sharks.

Period 3

Despite beginning the period with a minute of power play, the Avalanche didn't even manage to register a shot on goal. The first good opportunity the Avs had in the third came to Marc-Andre Cliche, who almost got a piece of a wide open net. Unfortunately for Cliche and those watching at home, Dillon saved Stalock's bacon when he was caught out of position. (And since it was Cliche, would he have really been that dangerous with an open net anyhow? The world will never know.)

The Avalanche looked tired this period, not much else to say about it.

The Sharks suffered a couple noteworthy setbacks as well this period, with Joe Pavelski taking a high stick to the mouth when teammate Joe Thornton skated past him. Pavs stayed in the game however. Later on, Scott Hannan suffered a dangerous-looking injury when he took a puck directly to the face. This is why visors are important, guys. Hannan didn't make a huge impact on the Avs, but he was well-liked and MHH's best wishes are with him.

At 13:59, Reto Berra finally remembered he was Reto Berra and goofed around trying to catch his own rebounds, leading to a goal from San Jose's Chris Tierney. Granted, Berra didn't get a lot of help defensively.

Tierney pokes it up and over, 2-0 Sharks:

The Avalanche got another chance on the power play shortly afterward, as Justin Braun suffered the dumbest penalty in hockey for maybe-possibly deflecting the puck out of play kinda-sorta-maybe-maybe-not-on-purpose.

The power play was fortuitous to the Avs this time, though: Joe Pavelski snapped his stick on the faceoff, leading to the setup of a pretty Avalanche goal.

Zach Redmond made up for his earlier defensive lapse by slipping a pretty pass to Matt Duchene, who whipped it past Stalock to open the scoring for the visitors.

Duchene makes it 2-1 courtesy of Redmond and Mitchell:

A comeback was within sight... for about ten seconds.

Then this happened:

Logan Couture with the slick steal, slicker pass, and Marleau with the tip makes it 3-1 Sharks:

Defensively, there's a lot wrong with that goal: two defenders covering the same man, a forward covering nobody.

The game just fell apart from there. To their credit, the Avs kept trying, but it was never good enough and the game was an explosion of empty net goals after that.

Couture empty netter makes it 4-1 Sharks:

And then, because it wasn't enough to be scored on by Scott Hannan, the Avs also gave up an empty netter to John Scott:

John Scott finds the empty net from his own end, 5-1 Sharks:

Berra went back in goal for the end of the game--and heck, to his credit he even made one more really nice save--but this game was already over.

Final score: 5-1 San Jose.

MHH Three Stars

1. Matt Duchene had a goal and put in a tremendous effort. He's had a rough year, but he never stops trying.

2. Scott Hannan had a great game prior to his injury. We have yet to receive any updates on his condition and we're just hoping he's okay. A damn shame, since he was playing fantastic hockey.

3. MHH's Steve House for this tweet, which sums up this game perfectly:

Next up

The race toward the bottom is officially on! The Avalanche continue their California road trip and hope to lose against the Anaheim Ducks. Game time is 8:00pm and the match will air on Altitude and SN1.