GLENDALE It was one of the biggest highlight-reel moments of the season, and it came courtesy of an unusual suspect.
Torrey Mitchells goal with less than two seconds left in the second period in Dallas was dazzling. The forward, who has scored just seven times this year in 61 games, received a pass from the neutral zone from Joe Thornton with the clock winding down and the visitors trailing by a goal. He cut to his right, and then quickly shifted his weight the other direction in making defenseman Alex Goligoski look foolish. He finished it off with a sneaky short-side backhand that beat goaltender Kari Lehtonen.
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Dont really have an explanation, it just worked out, Mitchell said on Friday about his goal. It felt good, and that was obviously a timely goal at the end of the period.
The Sharks seemingly carried the momentum into the third period, taking their first lead just 25 seconds after the faceoff on Patrick Marleaus 27th of the season, before the disappointing end.
But the loss doesnt diminish the fact that Mitchell, who has two goals in the last three games, seems re-invigorated on a line with newcomers Daniel Winnik and Dominic Moore.
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That line is starting to feel comfortable with each other. There are some good pieces there speedy pieces, good defensive pieces. Theyve been able to chip in offensively, and I like the way the three of them have been playing, Todd McLellan said.
New blood often brings new energy, and not necessarily with those players themselves. Mitchell seems to sincerely enjoy playing with his new linemates, and it shows.
Theyre doing a good job, theyre easy to play with, theyre fun to play with, and they have a lot of energy. We obviously have a lot of guys pushing for the third line role, too, so its keeping us honest and keeping us showing up every night, knowing we basically have to fight for our position. Its been good for us, and its been good for me.
Thats led to an uptick in production on the scoresheet, but theres more to it than that. Hes gaining the confidence of his head coach, who scratched him from the lineup on two separate occasions, most recently on Feb. 21 at Columbus.
Two situations this year where hes come out of the lineup, and hes done what a good player will do. Hes responded, McLellan said. Now, a real good player is going to maintain that. Hes getting that opportunity now, and I think Torrey Mitchell is a real good player. Lets see if he can do it, and maintain it.
It appears that McLellan is happy with that trios defensive play, too. Winnik, although he has yet to score, has been solid in his own zone and along the boards. Moore is also playing well as the center on that line, which lately, has been drawing the assignment of keeping the oppositions top line at bay.
At home, where McLellan has the last change, they were out there against Edmonton's dangerous Jordan Eberle-Sam Gagner-Taylor Hall line. On Thursday against the Stars, Mike Ribeiro, Michael Ryder and Loui Eriksson entered with a combined 31 points in the last eight games, but had trouble generating offense while matched up primarily against that line.
Mitchell embraces that challenge.
You want to be careful, because you want to stay on your toes and contribute offensively as well. But obviously, if thats our role for that game is to shut down that other teams top line, then thats fun for us, Mitchell said. Its exciting going into the game knowing you have an opportunity to shut down Gagner, or whoever it may be. Its good. I like that. Its fun.