SAN JOSE – Sharks goalie Alex Stalock recorded his second consecutive shutout on Thursday at SAP Center, and after the game, quickly credited the team in front of him for his recent good fortune.
The 26-year-old is being a bit modest, as he now sports a 7-2-0 record with a stellar 1.62 goals-against average and .942 save percentage in what is his first full NHL season.
But he’s also correct in that the Sharks played a tight game in front of him, limiting the Winnipeg Jets to just 20 shots on goal in a 1-0 win. Only nine of those shots came after the first period.
Joe Pavelski was the expected hero with the game’s only goal, his 28th of the season and 19th in the past 21 games, but it was the Sharks’ team game in front of Stalock that was the key to San Jose’s fifth straight victory.
"It was a tight game. I thought both teams played that way. Not many chances at either end, and when there were, both goaltenders played well,” Todd McLellan said. “Great to see Alex get another shutout. We're all excited for him. There's some good things tonight."
Justin Braun said: “I thought we were moving the puck pretty well as a back end, just [getting] it up to the forwards as quick as we can. We didn’t spend too much time in our zone. That’s a credit to Al getting out and playing the puck, and helping us.”
Stalock, who notched his first career NHL shutout on Jan. 16 in Florida, made his best save moving from his left to his right to deny Andrew Ladd late in the first period.
“They made a [cross-ice] pass to him, and he was streaking in,” Stalock said. “He was going to have to lunge for it, so I just wanted to make it over there.”
He did, and it was one of 11 saves in the first period in which Winnipeg had two power play opportunities. The Sharks’ penalty killers were up to the task, though, and Ladd’s chance was one of the few prime opportunities the Jets had in the game.
“They had a power play and I was able to see some pucks. That always helps a lot,” Stalock said of the early action.
As for Pavelski, the scorching forward actually appeared to give the Sharks the lead on a second period power play. His rebound goal was waived off, though, after Thornton fell into goalie Ondrej Pavalec.
“I just kind of went down. Too bad, but thank god it didn’t affect the game,” Thornton said.
In the third period of the scoreless match, Braun was able to keep a soft clearing attempt by the Jets’ Olli Jokinen in at the blue line, and Pavalec was unable to cleanly handle Braun’s shot. Pavelski saw it, though, and batted it in for the game-winner.
“It was one of those that’s just kind of hovering, and you’re going to the net hoping for something like that, and I just touched it,” Pavelski said.
McLellan said: “Right spot, right time, great hand-eye. We talked about that a little bit in the media scrums, what some of his assets are. Very good hand-eye coordination to put it in."
The goaltender’s reflexes aren’t so bad, either, as Stalock has now firmly cemented himself as a more-than-capable backup to Antti Niemi. McLellan has already suggested that Stalock will see more action as the busy Niemi is set to play for Team Finland in the upcoming Olympics.
That’s just fine to the Sharks tasked with playing in front of the affable Stalock.
“When he’s in, he just gives us a chance to win,” Thornton said. “Two zeroes in a row, a pretty good feeling for him, I’m sure.”