Sharks find success with new lines against Dallas

Highlights: Thornton's goal lifts Sharks to shootout win

Sharks find success with new lines against Dallas
December 22, 2013, 10:30 am
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We'll probably go through this for a little bit until we found something we feel comfortable with game in and game out.
Todd McLellan on shuffling lines

Programming note: Coverage of Avalanche-Sharks begins Monday night at 7:00 with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California.

SAN JOSE – Early on in their game against Dallas, there was a sense that the Sharks’ loaded up top line of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski was going to have to score a goal if the team wanted to have any chance for the two points.

The three veteran players have been the Sharks’ best offensive threats of late, and entered the game as the club’s top three scorers. They had just one practice together before Saturday’s game, as Tomas Hertl’s injury has left a void in the forward group.

The goal came in the third, when Pavelski tied it at 2-2 on a backhand from the slot, allowing the Sharks to capture a 3-2 shootout win.

“They are two great players, and it was very easy for me to play in,” Thornton said. “Patty had a couple good chances, and obviously Pav with the goal tonight. But, very easy playing with those two players.”

The Sharks’ coaching staff would like to be able to keep Pavelski in the third line center role, but that could prove to be more difficult now that Hertl is out for a month, and possibly even the rest of the season.

Recently, Pavelski broke out of a scoring slump after skating on the wing of the Marleau and Logan Couture. Perhaps the most versatile player on the team, he’s used to getting moved around.

“You look back, that’s how [the lines] have been at times for long stretches,” said Pavelski, who played the majority of the shortened 2013 season in a top six role, before he was moved the third line center in March. “We haven’t been going really that good lately, so you get moved up and try to do something with it.”

The Sharks’ second line – for two periods – consisted of struggling forwards Couture, Brent Burns and Marty Havlat. Havlat was bumped off of that line to start the third, switching places with Tommy Wingels, who was having a much more effective game than Havlat to that point.

“We had to shuffle it around now with Tomas gone now for a little while,” Todd McLellan said, after the Sharks’ 3-2 shootout win. “We'll probably go through this for a little bit until we found something we feel comfortable with game in and game out."

[KURZ: Reluctant shooter Thornton keys win over Stars]

San Jose played a generally sloppy game through two periods, trailed 2-0 early in the second, and all indications were the Stars were going to put it away with a third marker. A disallowed goal helped the Sharks, too.

"I think we could have won it in the second,” Dallas coach Lindy Ruff said. “Just put the game away. We had them right where we wanted them, and we probably had five or six Grade-A opportunities to get the third one. … We didn't quite put the foot on the head of the snake."

McLellan said: "I didn't think we played with the energy that we normally play with. We were on top of them for small segments, then one [shot] and out. We never had a pattern of shooting and getting it back and re-attacking the net. … We talked about a few things between the second and third, small adjustments, and went after them.”

The win allowed the Sharks to keep pace in a Pacific Division that, incredibly, keeps getting better. The Ducks, Kings and Coyotes all also won on Saturday, and the Vancouver Canucks earned a shootout victory in Chicago the night before. San Jose is 3-2-0 in its last five, alternating wins and losses.

“We needed it,” Pavelski said. “We’ve been kind of up and down, and now we need to try to build on this.”