Unlike the game less than a week ago in San Jose, tonight's matchup between the Sharks and Canucks did not feature the fisticuffs and ejections that played a role in the earlier matchup. The excellent goaltending of Roberto Luongo, however, was once again on display for all to see as Luongo went head to head with Sharks youngster Thomas Greiss.
While Luongo was perfect, stopping all 14 shots he saw at even strength, the Sharks once again used their power-play to generate their offense (even without first unit PP regulars Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Matt Carle in the lineup). The Sharks scored three times while on the man-advantage behind two goals from Devin Setoguchi, giving him five on the preseason, and one from Ryane Clowe, with less than a minute remaining in the third period, that tied the game at three.
After a scoreless overtime, Greiss matched Luongo save-for-save on the first four shooters for each side in the shootout. The fifth skater for the Canucks, Jason Jaffray, moved in and Greiss once again made a great lateral move to record the save setting up perhaps the most improbable shootout winner since Marek Malik of the Rangers scored two years ago. Ron Wilson gave the fifth nod to Rob Davison, a Shark defender better known for his physical play, who skated in and made a beautiful deke to beat Luongo and take the shootout win 1-0 in five rounds.
Behind such a strong offensive performance in the preseason, Devin Setoguchi has to be considered close to a lock to make the opening night roster as a scoring forward. Following Setoguchi, the other star of the Sharks pre-season has been Joe Pavelski. Although he did not record a goal on Wednesday night, he did contribute with two assists, and was flying around all night.
As we look forward toward opening night, beyond Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, Wilson has some decisions to make regarding the other four top forward slots. Milan Michalek, if he can recover from his arm injury by opening night, will be one of the forwards as will Jonathan Cheechoo. For the two remaining spots, Wilson will have to choose between Pavelski, Steve Bernier, Ryane Clowe, Setoguchi, and Jeremy Roenick (who has shown great chemistry with Marleau). Also still in the mix is Torrey Mitchell, depending on the severity of his foot injury.
Wilson will have one more game to evaluate the team before the games start counting next Thursday evening in Edmonton.