SAN JOSE With the game tied in the second period, and the Sharks having just squandered a lengthy two-man advantage, San Jose desperately needed a penalty kill.
Thats been easier said than done this season, as the Sharks entered the game with the leagues worst percentage on the PK. But they managed to keep the game knotted at 2-2 with Marc-Edouard Vlasic in the box, and exploded for three goals later in the middle frame to key a 5-2 victory over the Dallas Stars on Thursday night.
It was the Sharks first regulation win since Nov. 23, and ended a stretch in which they had lost four of their last five.
We havent played well the last two or three games, so it was nice to come out and play well tonight, said Joe Thornton, who had two assists.
San Jose took a 2-1 lead into the second period, but failed to capitalize on penalties just 10 seconds apart to Dallas Nicklas Grossman and Sheldon Souray. In fact, the Sharks had trouble even maintaining possession in the offensive zone, and shortly thereafter, Brenden Morrows power play goal tied it up.
The five-on-three that we had could have killed us, said Todd McLellan. There was a lot of momentum lost, and they come back and score.
Dallas had a chance to take the lead on the power play less than three minutes later, when Vlasic was whistled for high-sticking Mike Ribeiro in front of the Sharks net at 9:12. The Sharks managed to kill it off, though, against a Dallas team that entered the game just two for its last 29 with a man advantage in its last 12 games.
San Jose took over from there, beginning with Ryane Clowes goal at 11:53 and followed by markers from Brad Winchester and Torrey Mitchell.
The following penalty kill, we did a good job, said McLellan. I was happy that we didnt sag, and showed some resiliency and were able to come back and take the game over again.
The goal from Clowe, his sixth, came after a shot from the circle by Marty Havlat rebounded high in the air and Thornton gathered it in. The captains failed wrap-around attempt popped out to Clowe, who found the open net.
Less than two minutes later, Winchester was credited with a goal when a point shot from Brent Burns deflected first off of Thornton and then Winchesters stick at 13:48.
The Sharks werent finished, when some hard work by Patrick Marleau resulted in a Mitchell goal with 2:03 remaining in the second. Marleau provided a strong forecheck and Jamie Benn inadvertently tipped the puck out to Mitchell, who blasted in his third of the season from the circle.
The Sharks rolled out some new lines for the game, and adjusted a couple of them midway through. No fewer than 10 players got on the scoreboard.
Obviously, Todd doesnt want anyone getting too comfortable, said Mitchell. Switching lines up, and different faces with different guys, is a good thing.
Sometimes when you move your lines around, everybody gets a wakeup call, said McLellan. You wonder, Why is he doing it to me? Why am I not in that situation, and why am I not playing with that guy? It gets some people mad, and those people that were mad had pretty good nights.
Mitchell could be considered one of those guys. The winger began the night on the fourth line and eventually replaced Michal Handzus on the third line, playing with Marleau and Jamie McGinn.
Mitchey had a hell of a night. He started on the fourth line and got more and more ice time as it went along, and it was nice to see him rewarded with a goal, said McLellan. He went to the net, found some garbage and put it in.
The other change that provided immediate dividends was putting Winchester on the top line with Thornton and Joe Pavelski. For just the second time this season, the big wingers ice time exceeded 13 minutes as he scored his third goal.
I liked him there, said McLellan. I thought he could do what he did. He was very good along the boards and around the net. He managed his shift-length well, and did a good job.
I just try to be around the net and much as possible and create something, said Winchester.
The game was not without the standard chippy-ness that commonly accompanies a Sharks-Stars matchup.
In the second period, Frazer McLaren drilled Dallas Radek Dvorak along the boards and was sent off for charging, but not before Eric Nystrom started a scrum with McLaren and Andrew Desjardins. Later, Vlasic and Ribeiro exchanged niceties in front of the Sharks net after Antti Niemi froze the puck, resulting in the high-sticking penalty to Vlasic that the Sharks subsequently killed.
At 18:36, Ribeiro was called for roughing Jason Demers while San Jose-favorite Steve Ott picked up a 10-minute misconduct.
San Jose got off to a flying start in jumping out to a 2-0 lead. First, Logan Couture fired in a wrist shot from the high slot on a two-on-one at 1:07 after the opening faceoff. Just 15 seconds later, Jamie McGinn cleaned up a loose puck in front of the net for his third goal in the last four games.
The Stars tied it up, though, on a goal by Ribeiro at 13:37 of the first and the power play marker from Morrow at 6:30 of the second. Morrow, Dallas captain, was returning from a six-game absence with a back injury.
After taking the 2-0 lead, the Sharks allowed several odd man rushes to the Stars and were generally sloppy in their own zone until the intermission.
There were a few things odd-man rush-wise that we were able to tighten up, said Winchester. Certainly, they have a lot of skill up front. If you can take away their lateral movement at the blue line, and cuts and drops and stuff like that with strong back pressure, you cut down on the odd-man rushes.
Stars goalie Andrew Raycroft was replaced by backup Richard Bachman to start the third period, after surrendering all five Sharks goals on 24 shots.
Niemi finished with 18 saves to record his 11th win.
Odds and ends: The Sharks begin a three-game road trip on Saturday in St. Louis. Andrew Murray was scratched for the first time this season in favor of Frazer McLaren, who played just 3:42. Douglas Murray (right hand) and Jim Vandermeer (upper body) were out for San Jose. The Sharks won the faceoff battle for the 10th straight game, 31-23.