Sharks finish road trip by knocking off Ducks
ANAHEIM – Earlier on Monday, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson offered some perspective on the Sharks’ scoring woes on a conference call held primarily to discuss the trade of Douglas Murray.
Headed into a game with Anaheim, San Jose found itself dead last in the league in goals-per-game, a place unfamiliar to a team with so many names that have made a living by generating offense.
“I don’t want to single out players, but there are certain players that are not having even average type years,” Wilson said. “If they were performing at a different level, I think we’d be at a different place today.”
Marty Havlat and Joe Pavelski weren’t mentioned, of course, but between the two of them had just one goal in a combined 33 games. Havlat hadn’t scored in 15 straight, the second-longest drought of his career, while Pavelski had just one goal in his last 18 games.
Each registered a goal and an assist in a 5-3 win over the Ducks on Monday night, as the Sharks ended a five-game road trip on a positive note (2-3-0).
[INSTANT REPLAY: Sharks 5, Ducks 3]
For Pavelski, he snapped an eight-game streak without a single point, the longest of his career.
“It’s been awhile. You feel it a little bit,” he said. “You never want it to go eight in a row, you are aware of those things.”
He also made his coach look good, as Todd McLellan moved Pavelski to the third line center between TJ Galiardi and James Sheppard, the first time Pavelski has started a game at center all year.
“Pav approaches the game right. I’m not too concerned about his approach or his preparation or anything like that, it was just a matter of him getting some results and feeling good about himself again,” McLellan said. “Whether putting him in the middle triggered it or not, I don’t know. But when he gets on the plane tonight, he can probably feel a lot better than he has down the stretch here.”
Havlat looks like a different player since he returned from a lower body injury, and now has four points in his last four games and is easily playing his best hockey of the season.
“I felt pretty good right after I got back from injury,” Havlat said. “It’s been getting better and better. Last game (in Minnesota on Saturday), I felt good, too. We had a lot of chances as a team, and we couldn’t score. Tonight, finally we scored a few goals in a game.”
The winger missed seven straight games before returning last Monday in Anaheim.
McLellan said: “He had a chance to review his play. I think he’s done a good job with it, and he’s found a way to contribute, which is a real good thing.”
The contributions came from other places, too, as the Sharks scored five goals in regulation for the first time since their third game of the season.
In fact, the multiple trades with Minnesota in the summer of 2011 looked a whole lot better at least for one night. Brent Burns kept up his impressive play as a forward, with a goal and an assist, while James Sheppard scored for the first time since missing two years with a knee injury.
Sheppard’s goal – his first since December 11, 2009 – held up as the game-winner. His parents were even in attendance, all the way from Nova Scotia.
“It’s a good feeling to get one, but two is still more than one. I still want to keep going. I did some pretty good things today,” Sheppard said.
Along with Pavelski and Galiardi, the Sharks’ third line combined for 11 shots on goal.
“I thought the three of them meshed real well, and allowed us to roll those three lines consistently,” McLellan said.
Defenseman Dan Boyle scored an impressive empty-net goal in the final minute from his own blue line while the Sharks were clinging to a 4-3 lead, and was a game-high +4.
The head coach was pleased with the effort from top to bottom.
“We weren’t perfect, but we played a pretty darn good game,” McLellan said. “We skated well, we score first which was big for our confidence. Everybody found a way to contribute, which was nice to see. It was a total team effort.”
The day began on a down note for most of the Sharks, who lost a good friend and teammate in Murray, who was shipped to Pittsburgh for a pair of draft picks.
“It’s been, I guess you could say, a difficult day,” Logan Couture said. “Obviously, losing a teammate is tough. Guys fought hard and we played one of our better games and fought through that adversity.
“I don’t know if that really had anything to do with it. You get to the rink, you play hockey. We finally put it together for the majority of the game and played our game. We really took it to them, I think, all night.”
Whether the extra jump came from the indirect message from the general manager, or simply taking advantage of a team that was playing on back-to-back nights, the Sharks had nearly all of the early energy. San Jose was outshooting the Ducks 31-17 after two periods, and held a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes.
The Ducks lost to Detroit on Sunday night at home, the first time they had lost back-to-back games in regulation all season. The losing streak stands at three now, and they’ll prepare for a rematch with the Sharks at HP Pavilion on Wednesday night.
San Jose is 8-1-4 at home, and begins a seven-game homestand with that game.
“It’s good to win one on the road here, in regulation especially, against a good team who has been playing really well at home,” Couture said. “We want to make our building tough to come in to, and seven in a row at home, hopefully we can string a couple wins together.”
McLellan said: “We’re going home, and we’ve got seven straight where we’ve got to make some hay. We’ve got to put together a string, and it starts with them again.”