The Sharks’ Tuesday night rematch with the Edmonton Oilers was far from pretty. To be frank, their defensive game got pretty sloppy in the first frame. It even looked like San Jose might get embarrassed in their own house after jumping out to an early lead just to let Edmonton tie things up before that first 20 minutes had expired. “In my opinion, we played two first periods,” Todd McLellan said. “The first 10, we did the things that we wanted to do. In the second 10, we started to bring pucks back … and that ends up in your net.”
But in the end the home team didn’t let their first period mistakes — and the mounting injuries — get the better of them. “The positive thing is that the guys accepted those facts between periods,” McLellan continued, “and we got back to playing the way we needed to play to win.”
And win they did, thanks to a pair of goals from Joe Pavelski and some help from the Sharks younger players to pull out a 5-2 victory over the Oilers.
“It’s a game, there are going to be momentum shifts,” Pavelski explained. “You just have to stay with it, and keep working for it.”
Being able to “keep working at it” and notch the win was even more important since a few players were injured on Tuesday. That’s in addition to forwards Tyler Kennedy and Matt Nieto, who were already scratched due to bumps and bruises. Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game in the first period after getting pancaked into the boards by Tyler Pitlick, although McLellan assured the media afterward that Vlasic was kept out as a “precautionary” measure. Forward Mike Brown took a nasty lower body hit in the second period that had him crawling on all fours off the ice; while the exact nature of the injury is unknown, McLellan said Brown would be “out awhile.”
Heck, Antti Niemi was originally given the call to start Tuesday night, but took a hit during the morning skate that sidelined him for the evening. Lucky for the Sharks, Alex Stalock was prepared to go back between the pipes after surrendering Sunday’s game to the Oilers up in Edmonton. “I think for Nemo and I, we have the same pre-game skate whether we play or don’t play,” Stalock, who saved 25 shots on the evening, said of getting the call last minute.
Stalock had some big saves later in the match, although early on all the action was going on at the other end of the ice. The Sharks early assault started when Pavelski got the puck from Joe Thornton, then pirouetted around and backhanded the shot up high over netminder Ben Scrivens’s block to give the Sharks an early 1-0 lead.
Just a few shifts later, the newly-assembled third line of James Sheppard, Barclay Goodrow and freshly called-up Melker Karlsson added to the lead. Sheppard fed the puck to Karlsson, whose shot was blocked by Scrivens. Goodrow picked up the loose puck and pitched it in to put the Sharks up 2-0. It was Goodrow’s first NHL goal, and Karlsson’s first NHL point in his debut. “It feels nice to be able to contribute,” Goodrow said humbly. “In order for a team to be successful, you need all lines chipping in. And I felt that our line played well tonight.”
And don’t be surprised if that line combo sticks as the homestand continues. “That line was good for us,” McLellan admitted. “Missing Kennedy and Nieto, I thought (that line) had jump in their stride.”
After the second goal, the Sharks’ defensive game began to unravel. A turnover in their defensive zone allowed Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle to nab the puck and chip it behind Stalock, cutting the lead to 2-1. Then David Perron tied it up with a snipe past Stalock.
San Jose didn’t look much cleaner in the start of the second frame, but wouldn’t let the Oilers find the back of the net again. Instead, Logan Couture broke the stalemate that period when he deflected a shot by Scott Hannan to put the home team back on top 3-2. The fourth line drew the Sharks’ second penalty of the evening on the next shift, and the top power play unit delivered. A tic-tac-toe play from Joe Thornton to Patrick Marleau to Pavelski beat Scrivens to give No. 8 his second goal on the evening to increase the lead 4-2.
Brent Burns put the nail in the coffin when he found the back of the net with a slap shot to the top corner to give the Sharks a 5-2 lead with just over five minutes left in regulation. A few nifty saves by Stalock kept the visitors from coming back.
San Jose will need to improve, and get as healthy as possible, before they host the Minnesota Wild on Thursday. “There were definitely times tonight that we could have been better,” Pavelski conceded. “But, you start winning at home, it feels good.”