SAN JOSE – On a night when the Sharks’ top players continued to look more interested in next week’s Olympic break than in their next shift, a couple of wingers that have struggled to find the scoresheet and a rookie goaltender that is making a push to unseat the starter keyed a 2-1 overtime win over the Dallas Stars on Wednesday.
Marty Havlat’s redirection from the slot late in the second period, and his beautiful setup of Tommy Wingels in overtime were the kind of skilled plays that Sharks faithful haven’t seen nearly enough of from the $6 million winger, who was injured in late December, recovered, and then sat as a healthy scratch for a stretch before returning to the lineup on Jan. 29.
Wingels, who’s got more hits than Sadaharu Oh but hasn’t been able to maintain his early scoring pace, registered just his second goal in 24 games in helping the Sharks to their second win in the last six games (2-4-0).
“It was time for some others to step up and score,” Todd McLellan said. “To see Marty and Tommy both do it in one game is a good thing for our team.”
Havlat rightly praised Scott Hannan for assisting on both goals. His shot-pass found Havlat’s tape late in the second to open the scoring, and Hannan found Havlat down low at the side of the net before Havlat skillfully set up Wingels with a backhander towards the slot less than two minutes into the extra period.
Despite his inability to have much of an impact during five-on-five play, Havlat has continually been one of the Sharks’ better overtime players when teams are at four-on-four. In the open ice, he can still make plays.
“It’s nice to score goals. It doesn’t matter who it is,” Havlat said. “If you win the game, it’s always fun.”
Regarding the game-winner, Wingels said: “Hannan got open there and Marty was down low and made a good play across the crease to me, and fortunately it went in.”
Goalie Alex Stalock, starting for the fifth time in 11 games, wasn’t tested a whole lot but made a fantastic glove save on the dangerous Jamie Benn in the first period. He improved to 8-3-0 as a starter with a 1.61 goals-against average and .942 save percentage. He could even be putting himself in position to take over the number one role, as Antti Niemi’s inconsistency has been a point of concern for the last three months.
It was Stalock’s second win of the season over Dallas, which entered Wednesday’s game with a 5-1-1 mark in its last seven, outscoring the opposition 24-9.
“Seeing them once already helped a little bit,” Stalock said.
The Sharks also got some good minutes from a newly constructed fourth line of Andrew Desjardins, Mike Brown and Adam Burish, the latter of which was making his season debut. Brown delivered one of the biggest hits this season, nailing Antoine Roussel behind the Dallas net in the second period. Burish finished with three hits and one shot on goal, and was noticeable.
“Desi and Brownie, they were great,” Burish said. “It was fun to play with those guys. I just had fun out there. It was fun to be back out there. I felt like I was laughing and smiling the whole time.”
Meanwhile, though, most of the rest of the roster looked like it needs some time off. Joe Thornton, Brent Burns and Patrick Marleau, playing as linemates, were on the ice for Dallas’ only goal against when Valeri Nichushkin was left alone in the slot.
The power play, featuring those three players along with Dan Boyle and Joe Pavelski on the top unit, was equally ineffective in going 0-for-3 with just one shot on goal. Oddly, Thornton was not made available to the media after the game, although the team's PR staff later clarified it gave him the night off.
“As far as the power play goes, it needs some work obviously, but it's a bit reflective of some of our players right now. They're not as sharp as they need to be,” McLellan said.
The Sharks have just one game before the Olympic break, on Friday against Columbus. San Jose played harder than in its sleepy performance on Monday in a 5-2 loss to Philadelphia, but will probably have to get better to hang with the rejuvenated Blue Jackets.
“It doesn't mean we were cleaner or faster or more polished, just the commitment level went up,” McLellan said of Wednesday’s game compared with the Flyers loss. “We’ve still got to improve, but the games are getting tough.”