Sharks win big in Stalock's first career start
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OTTAWA – James Sheppard picked a good time to score his first goal of the season.
Playing on a line with Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl, Sheppard scored a huge insurance marker early in the third period to take the wind out of the Senators’ sails and give the visitors a 4-2 lead. Ottawa never looked dangerous from that point forward, and the Sharks cruised to a 5-2 win.
Sheppard, a native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, had a large contingent of supporters at the Canadian Tire Centre. His father, who had been following the Sharks since the team arrived in Boston, had some company over the weekend.
“Actually, mama bear is here, too, so it was great,” Sheppard said after the game. “Nova Scotia flags in the stands, so it was awesome. There was about 25 of them here, so I’d say a great thanks to those guys for coming.”
Sheppard played two of his better games of the season on Saturday in Montreal and Sunday in Ottawa. He finished the third period of the 2-0 win in Montreal on a line with Thornton and John McCarthy, primarily because Todd McLellan deemed that pair more defensively responsible than youngsters Hertl and Freddie Hamilton.
On Thursday in Boston, though, he was a healthy scratch for the first time this season.
Could that have helped him get going?
“I don’t like sending the message that way, but I still think James was – not comfortable, because that’s a bad word – but just letting himself off the hook, not expecting as much from himself as much as we did,” McLellan said. “He proved there’s a lot more there.”
As for the last two games, Sheppard has been “very productive,” McLellan continued. “He had a chance to go up and play, moved his feet. He’s a hard guy to handle because of his size. He can’t let himself off the hook, he’s got to continue to do what he’s done the last two games.”
After playing primarily in a fourth line role since his full time return to the NHL at the start of the 2013 season, the 25-year-old Sheppard appreciates the opportunity to play with a guy like Thornton.
“Yeah, it was awesome. It’s a lot of fun playing up there,” he said.
“It’s all kind of going pretty fast, I’m just trying to stay out there and get a lot of shots, and really just get the puck back and forecheck. The more time you have the puck, the less time you have to play in your own zone, so that’s what I’m kind of focused on.”
Sheppard also registered an assist on Sunday, on Hertl’s first period goal that gave the Sharks an early lead they would never relinquish.
Thornton said: “He’s been skating well and getting in on the forecheck. Tonight, he just made two good plays on two good goals. He looked solid again.”