Alex Stalock’s first career shutout keyed the Sharks to a 3-0 win in Florida on Thursday night at BB&T Center.
Joe Thornton, Matt Nieto and Joe Pavelski were the goal scorers, as the Sharks recorded their 30th win of the season (30-12-6).
Of the 24 saves that Stalock made, none were bigger than when he got his right pad on a Scottie Upshall opportunity with about 15 and a half minutes left in the third period and the Sharks nursing a 1-0 lead. Upshall got free in front of the net, but his slam-dunk chance was turned aside by the 26-year-old backup goalie.
Shortly after that stop, the Sharks transitioned the other way. Tyler Kennedy drove the puck hard to the net, and Nieto cleaned up the loose garbage in the slot at 4:44 to end a 28-game drought. It was the rookie's third goal.
Pavelski found the rebound of a Brad Stuart floater at 11:46 of the third to increase the Sharks’ lead to 3-0, as San Jose won consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 27-29.
The Sharks had alternated wins and losses in their last nine games, and will try to make it a perfect three-game road trip on Saturday in Tampa Bay.
Thornton gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead with 51 seconds left in the second period. The captain gathered in a pass up the wall from Brent Burns in the neutral zone, sped towards the net, and lifted a soft shot over Tim Thomas’ left shoulder for his sixth goal.
It was Thornton’s first goal since Dec. 3, and he avoided matching a career-worst 21-game goalless drought dating back to the start of his rookie season in 1997. Thornton entered as the league’s assist leader with 45.
The Panthers came out with the early energy and recorded the first five shots of the game, but San Jose responded and poured on 21 shots in the opening period. A two-man advantage for a minute and a half didn’t result in anything, though, as the players on the Sharks’ top unit spent more time staring at one another other than moving the puck and generating any scoring chances.
It took the Sharks eight minutes to get a shot on goal in the second, but Florida could not solve Stalock. The backup goaltender stoned Sean Bergenheim on an aggressive move to the net less than four minutes into the middle frame to keep it scoreless.
Pavelski leads the Sharks with 22 goals, and has 13 goals and five assists in his last 18 games.
Florida visits the SAP Center on March 18. The Panthers had won the previous four games against the Sharks.
The Sharks took an 0-for-4 on the power play, including the ineffective two-man advantage in the first period.
Florida was 0-for-3 with a man advantage, and the league’s worst power play has now failed to score in its last 25 chances.
Stalock improved to 6-2-0 on the season, including a 6-1 mark as a starter. He lowered his goals-against average to 1.80 and has a .938 save percentage.
Thomas had allowed more than two goals just once in his last nine games, but fell to 12-12-3 on the season. He’s just 2-5-0 in eight career appearances against San Jose.
James Sheppard returned after missing the last three games, in place of Mike Brown. Brown had played the previous 14 straight.
Scott Hannan was placed on injured reserve before the game.
It will be an early start as the Sharks wrap up their road trip on Saturday against the Lightning (11 a.m. PST). They host Calgary on Monday, and will be home for eight of their final 10 games before the Olympic break.