VANCOUVER, British Columbia--Two offseason acquisitions who hadn't found the back of the net did just that Tuesday night, getting the San Joese Sharks to a shootout where goals by two of the usual suspects--Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski--gave San Jose a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
Goals by Scott Gomez and Adam Burish had staked the Sharks to a 2-0 lead at one point, but the Canucks had tied the game by the end of the second period on tallies by Henrik Sedin and Jannik Hansen.
After a furiously played, but scoreless overtime that saw the Sharks kill off a questionable goalie interference penalty to Gomez, goalie Antti Niemi surrendered a goal to Chris Higgins, then stopped the next three shots by Alex Edler, Hasen and Alex Burrows. Couture and Pavelski scored in the third and fourth rounds after Canucks goalie Cory Schneider stopped Michal Handzus and Dan Boyle.
Looking to generate offense from a Sharks team that had not scored more than two goals in regulation for the past 10 games, Sharks coach Todd McLellan added a pair of prospects from Worcester--Tim Kennedy and Bracken Kearns--to the top two lines.
That didn't produce the desired result among the team's leading scorers, but it may have inspired forwards on the bottom two lines to question why they weren't getting the opportunity given Kennedy and Kearns.
The Sharks took a chance on Gomez in January when the Montreal Canadiens bought out his $7 million contract and San Jose was able to sign him to a one-year, $700,000 deal. Even at that price, the fact he hadn't scored a goal in his first 13 games had to grate.
But the rebound of a shot by Marc-Edouard Vlasic ended up on Gomez's stick in the high slot and his slap shot beat Canucks goalie Cory Schneider on the stick side to give San Jose a 1-0 lead at 7:42 of the first period.
Burish, too, was an offseason pickup. Although he was signed to a four-year, $7.4 million deal more for his grit and energy than scoring ability, his lack of production also was noticeable.
However, less than 30 seconds after Michal Handzus was sent to the penalty box at 4:19 of the second period for holding Henrik Sedin, Burish took a perfect outlet pass from Brad Stuart, skated in on Schneider and fired a 24-foot wrist shot that Schneider missed on the glove side.
Vancouver showed its resilience by bouncing back to tie the game before the second period ended.
The Sedins combined on the first goal with Daniel centering the puck from along the left sideboards. It ended up ricocheting through the Sharks crease to Henrik who fired it past Niemi before he could get into position at 13:23.
The Canucks continued to apply pressure. Late in the period a neutral zone turnover by Clowe and several breakdowns gave Vancouver multiple chances to tie the game and a wrist shot through traffic by Hansen did just that with 24.4 seconds left.
--The latest Sharks prospect getting a chance to show what he can do may be an unknown to most Sharks fans, but Kearns got the full celebrity treatment before the game.
The son of longtime Canucks defenseman Dennis Kearns, San Jose's 31-year-old rookie has kicked around the minors for almost a decade before getting the chance to play an NHL game in his hometown on a line with Joe Thornton and Logan Couture. Tuesday morning, he was surrounded by more than a dozen microphones and cameras eager to tell his legacy story.
Kearns was born the same year his dad retired after 677 games with the Canucks. But he said he still had a good sense of who he was as a player.
"I never got to see him play, but I have a lot of respect for the way he played. He was a real smart defenseman," said Bracken, whose five-game stint with the Florida Panthers last season was his NHL debut.
When the Vancouver Province learned from the Mercury News hockey blog, Working the Corners, that Kearns' parents were vacationing in Southern California and not coming back to Vancouver for the game, they tracked down Dennis, who explained the $500 fee for changing flights was too pricey.
"It doesn't surprise me one bit," Bracken said. "I actually just heard that a couple minutes ago and had a good chuckle with that one. He'd probably be a nervous wreck."
His father did come through in another way, securing the Canucks alumni box for tonight's game. That was going to be filled with the Shark forward's two brothers, nephew, father-in-law and others on hand. Kearns still calls the Vancouver area home, and plenty of his friends were in Rogers Arena, too.
"A lot of my buddies come to the games anyway regularly, so they were able to scrounge up tickets," Bracken said. "I haven't been too harassed."
Kearns said he learned he was called up to San Jose on Sunday but wasn't immediately aware whom he would be playing against and where.
"I checked out their schedule and couldn't believe it," he said. "I'm pretty pumped."
Facing the Canucks also means Kearns will be playing against a former teammate in Florida, Canucks defenseman Jason Garrison. The two have trained together in past summers.
Sharks coach Todd McLellan described Kearns as "a strong player. He bulls his way to the net, he gets in and around the blue paint. Most of his goals have come from within 6, 7 feet of the net.
Playing with Jumbo and Cooch tonight, that'll be his role. He seemed ready to accept it."
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