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Troy Grosenick Steals One for the Sharks

(Originally published at Sports Radio Service)

Sunday’s 2-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes was one of the more compelling games the Sharks have played this season. It was not high-scoring and the Sharks did not outplay their opponent, except in goal. It was Troy Grosenick who made the 2-0 win exciting. He finished his NHL debut with a 45 save shut out. He even had to make one of those saves with Tyler Kennedy’s stick. He was a man on a mission.

After the game, Grosenick said:

It’s kind of a dream come true. It’s kind of like… just like you write it up when you’re a little kid. The guys played great in front of me, I saw so many pucks, not too many difficult ones.

At the other end, Anton Khudobin only faced 19 shots. It was an unusual way to welcome a goalie to the NHL, unless letting him steal a game was the Sharks’ plan. From Todd McLellan’s post game comments, no, that was not their plan:

A lot of guys score in their first games. Did we expect a shutout and 45 shots? No but he played extremely well and we certainly believed he could do that. So to get a young man like that to come in and steal us a game, when we didn’t have our A game yet, I thought as the night wore on we wanted to do it more and more for him and we improved.

All’s well that ends well.

Grosenick was called up last week when Alex Stalock had a knee procedure that will keep him out at least for a few games, but it was not assumed he would start a game.

The Carolina Hurricanes presented a different kind of challenge for the Sharks. They had a very poor start to the season, and suffered a lot of injuries to key players early. Their record so far is lousy but their recent record is much better. Their roster is getting healthy and they are playing well. So they might have looked like an underpowered opponent but they are more capable than that. With the backup to their backup in net, Matt Nieto and Scott Hannan out, the Sharks had some pressure from within if the Hurricanes did not offer enough inspiration.

None of that seemed to help much, as the Sharks started as slowly as ever. Their rookie goaltender had to keep the Sharks in it while his team was outshot 12-3 through the first 15 minutes. Part of that time was spent on the penalty kill but the Sharks did not look much better at even strength.

That penalty was a hooking call to Joe Pavelski at 18:03. It gave Grosenick a chance to get in the game, as he had to make a few saves in quick succession. He looked confident and composed. The Sharks had to kill another penalty, this one to Jason Demers in the last four minutes of the period. The Sharks’ penalty kill featured two different short-handed chances, one from Adam Burish and one from Patrick Marleau backed up by Mirco Mueller.

The pressure they started to generate on that kill outlasted the penalty, when Tomas Hertl gave the Sharks the lead. He took advantage of a miscue by the Hurricanes in the Sharks’ zone, escaping into the neutral zone with the puck. Hertl went in two on one with Joe Thornton with only Carolina’s Andrej Sekera back. Hertl tried to get the puck to Thornton but it hit Sekera. The puck came back within Hertl’s reach as all three skaters converged at the blue paint, so Hertl poked it under goalie Anton Khudobin. The assist went to Barclay Goodrow.

The shots by the end of the first were 16-5 for the Hurricanes.

At 12:08 of the second, the Sharks went on the power play after Barclay Goodrow drew a hooking penalty from Brad Malone. Despite a couple of good chances, the Sharks only got a few shots through the Carolina penalty kill. Khudobin stopped those.

At the end of the period, Grosenick had a chance to really show off when the Sharks got trapped in their zone and several shots came at the Sharks goaltender, rapid fire through traffic. The last shot was at a nearly empty net but Grosenick got across with just enough of his glove to stop it. (Click on that link to see the video of that sequence)

The period ended with the Hurricanes still leading in shots 31-14, 15-9 for the period.

The Hurricanes did not let up during the third period, and the Sharks only managed five more shots. No penalties were called, few stoppages gave relief to the tired teams. Until Joe Thornton broke away in the final seconds to shoot at the empty net, the shutout looked very uncertain.

Six Sharks got credit for two shots, none had more. Marc-Edouard Vlasic led the team in ice time with 23:22, while Justin Braun led the team with six hits. The Sharks power play was 0/1 while their penalty kill was 2/2.

Nathan Gerbe led the Hurricanes (and all skaters) with seven shots. Three Hurricanes got credit for three hits each, John-Michael Liles, Elias Lindholm and Brett Bellemore. Andrej Sekera led his team in ice time with 27:07.

In the faceoff circle, the Hurricanes beat the Sharks 34-24.

The Sharks next games is against the Sabres in Buffalo, on Tuesday at 4:30 PT.

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