SAN JOSE The praise was plentiful if not a bit unconventional for Sharks winger Joe Pavelski after the winger scored his 30th and 31st goals of the season in San Joses important 3-0 win over the Dallas Stars on Saturday night.
Hes just a dirty player. He gets in dirty areas and wills himself in front of the net, said Joe Thornton, who assisted on both of Pavelskis goals. A lot of guys dont want to necessarily go there, but hes made a living going to the front of the net like tonight with that tip from Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Hes just a dirty player.
Todd McLellan said: Hes a little bit like Gumby. He slithers into spots, and his sense of timing is really good. We talk about going to the net, but arriving at the net at the right time is probably a little more important than always going to the net. Pav has that knack and great hockey sense.
Pavelski became just the ninth player in Sharks franchise history to record at least 30 goals in a season, and the first American, for what thats worth.
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His first period goal ended up being the game-winner, thanks to Antti Niemis sixth shutout of the season (and 19th of his career). Pavelski is making a habit of getting on the board early, too. He has five goals in the first two minutes of a game, the most of any NHL player this season according to Elias.
Its important to score early, regardless. Get the lead, Pavelski said. The last few games weve had so many good looks not just decent scoring chances, but it feels like open nets.
They were able to get one to drop this time, something that didnt happen in disheartening losses in Anaheim and Phoenix, putting the tired Stars behind the eight ball early.
Weve been stressing our starts, Thornton said. I dont know if theres a secret or not, but we have to be prepared to start every night, and we have been.
Pavelski, incidentally, has 18 career two-goal games but no NHL hat tricks. Thats the fourth-longest active streak of its kind. Pavel Datsyuk, believe it or not, has the most (26).
Niemi feeling good: Hes made 18 starts in a row, and it will almost certainly be 21 by the time the regular season comes to a close next Saturday, but Antti Niemi is feeling just fine, thank you very much.
I feel great. I think its all about balancing the practice time and playing time, he said after Saturday nights game. We play on Tuesday next, so thats good, too.
The Sharks will resume practice at 10:00 a.m. on Monday after a complete day off on Sunday. Their 17 games in March was tied for the most in the league last month with three other teams.
Stars unhappy with effort: It wasnt exactly surprising that the Dallas Stars didn't have their A-game last night, regardless of how tight the playoff race is. The Stars arrived in San Jose in the early morning hours on Saturday after a flight from Vancouver where they lost 5-2 the night before.
That wasnt a valid excuse, according captain Brenden Morrow, who saw his club fall to an abysmal 1-11-2 in the second half of back-to-backs.
It was a big game, and I dont think fatigue can be an excuse when you have whats on the line what we had tonight, Morrow said.
Morrow hopes the animosity these two teams clearly have for one another can benefit his club at home on Tuesday at American Airlines Center.
Its nice to be able to get them again while the bloods hot a little bit, get a little redemption, Morrow said. But, if we do the same thing we did tonight, were not going to have the success that we want.
Head coach Glen Gulutzan said: Weve got to move on. Weve got a big game against this team on Tuesday. Our fates in our own hands still. At this junction of the season, thats what you have to focus on.
Checking the race: The Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes both got points in the standings last night; LA in a 4-3 overtime loss to Minnesota and Phoenix with a 4-0 win over Anaheim.
The Sharks improved their playoff chances by 16.6 percent according to the math, and now have a 62.4 percent probability to make the postseason, according to sportsclubstats.com.
None of the teams in the playoff race is in action on Sunday. On Monday, Edmonton visits the Kings.