EDMONTON, Alberta — Zack Kassian flew into the Sharks zone with the puck after the Edmonton Oilers controlled a faceoff in their own end to start a penalty kill. He backhanded a shot wide of the net but followed the puck around the boards to the other side of the ice.
With Logan Couture skating to get control of the loose puck, Kassian continued in like a runaway train, barreling over Couture for one of the loudest hits on a night filled with thunderous jolts.
Along with his shorthanded goal, which turned out to be the winner, Kassian played like a man possessed as the Oilers beat the Sharks 2-0 to even the first round series at one win apiece.
“Those are always fun to get,” Kassian said of the hits. “Gets you in the game, gets your team in the game. I think that’s a big part of my game. Especially in the playoffs.”
Oilers forward Zack Kassian lowers the boom on Brendan Dillon with a massive hit. #DontMissAMoment – https://t.co/WK1t6wnN5I pic.twitter.com/ZduaKgQtRp
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 15, 2017
One of them also happened in the first period, as Kassian also got a good lick on Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon to electrify the Rogers Center crowd.
“I was fine,” Dillon said. “I was just coming around the net. A finished hockey check. Kind of keep going.”
The question is, do all of these hits start to add up over time, and how can the Sharks’ counter?
The Oilers were credited with 49 hits in Game 1, and were listed as having 41 more in Game 2. Kassian had four hits Wednesday, and six Friday.
Is Kassian a real problem for the Sharks in this series?
“He scored the goal, and he was getting pucks into the zone,” Dillon said when asked about things the Sharks could have done differently against Kassian. “I think for us, when we’re on top of our game, we’re breaking out well and getting pucks in their end. … That’s when we’re going to be successful.”
The Oilers played to their strengths Friday night. They were opportunistic with a pair of shorthanded goals and played the body whenever possible, sometimes crossing the line.
The Sharks had all the power chances they could ever want, but managed just five shots on goal in 12 minutes of power play time.
“Disappointed with the way it went,” Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said. “We got what we probably deserved out there. I don’t know how to explain that, and I was leading the way out there that way. Didn’t have what I needed to have tonight. That’s on me and it trickled down.”
It’ll be interesting to see if the Sharks make any lineup changes for Game 3 on Sunday.
Micheal Haley, never one to shy away from contact, is in the bullpen if the Sharks want to add some muscle to offset the Oilers’ hard-hitting ways. But the Sharks could just stay with the status quo, thinking that, if they had just capitalized on one power play chance, then Kassian’s play isn’t such a big deal, and the focus would be more on the Oilers’ lack of discipline.
“I still thought, going into the third period, it was only 1-0 and from a road perspective, even though we were outplayed, we had a chance to win the game,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said. ‘Those are games that, when you go on long playoff runs, you find a way with a power play goal.”
Of course, Joe Thornton could also be available by then. His possible inclusion in the Sharks’ lineup would, it seems, affect other decisions.
“It’s big boy hockey. But our guys are hanging in, sacrificing,” Brent Burns said. “That’s what playoffs are all about.”