SAN JOSE Even before the Sharks fourth line helped to generate two goals in Thursday nights 5-2 win over Detroit, it was noticeable early.
While the rest of the team was having trouble moving the puck through the neutral zone, as the Red Wings controlled play for most of the first 20 minutes, San Joses Andrew Murray, Brad Winchester and Andrew Desjardins were keeping the puck in the offensive zone for long stretches during their shifts.
Todd McLellan called them it his best forechecking line of the night, and he wasnt kidding.
They were very good. Thats about the best compliment that I can give them, he said.
As we wrote here on Sharks Talk earlier in the week, the fourth line has been getting more and more ice time recently. On Thursday night it saw the most ice time in weeks, as Winchester (9:39), Murray (10:30) and Desjardins (10:37) all exceeded their season averages by a couple of minutes.
Weve been able to get in on the forecheck, get some sustainability and be around the net. It was nice to get rewarded, said Winchester.
Ah, yes, the reward. After Desjardins scored twice on opening night on Oct. 8, and Winchester assisted on one of those, the fourth liners had combined for a grand total of zero points. While the Sharks top two lines were carrying the offense, the third and fourth lines were failing to generate much of anything on the scoreboard.
On Thursday, Winchester helped create some havoc in front of goaltender Jimmy Howard just before Marc-Edouard Vlasics wraparound goal made it 3-1 in the second period.
Winchester actually wanted it but I saw an opportunity there. He was yelling for it, but he made a great play in front, said Vlasic. He made a great play on the pass, and got in front of the net.
Winchester would get his later, though, when he fired a wrist shot past Ty Conklin in the third period that essentially sealed the win for San Jose, giving them a 5-1 lead.
The night marked the first multiple-point game for Winchester, and Murrays first point as a Shark.