Sharks skate past Stars 4-1

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Sharks skate past Stars 4-1

BOX SCORE

DALLAS The Sharks scored twice on the power play and Antti Niemi was outstanding in net once again, as San Jose beat the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center on Saturday night, 4-1.

The much-maligned San Jose penalty-killing unit, which entered the game dead last in the NHL, killed off all three Dallas power plays in helping the Sharks take over the top spot in the Pacific Division for the first time this season. The Sharks, Kings and Coyotes each have 23 points, but San Jose has one more win and fewer games played than both Los Angeles and Phoenix.

Dallas entered the night with a scoreless streak of more than 147 minutes, and San Jose withstood an early push from the Stars before Brent Burns tallied on the power play at 4:58 of the first period. It was downhill from there for Dallas, which got exceedingly frustrated as the game progressed. Logan Couture scored a power play goal in the second period, Brad Winchester tallied later in the frame, and Jamie McGinn added one in the third as the Sharks took over after Burns goal.

Mike Ribeiro ended the streak at 194:11 with a goal at 6:22 of the third period, but that was all the Stars would get past Niemi, who finished with 30 saves.

Nemo played well again, especially early in the game when we were trying to find our way, said McLellan. They were coming hard and they had a really good forecheck."

The Stars had numerous chances to score early. On a power play with Douglas Murray in the box just after the Sharks had just taken the lead, Niemi made impressive saves on a Toby Petersen redirection and two attempts from Michael Ryder in the faceoff circle. Later, he stopped Loui Eriksson from the slot to maintain the 1-0 lead through the first period.

Dallas had another great scoring chance when Ryder broke in all alone during a four-on-four situation in the second period with the Sharks up, 3-0. Ryder fired a wrist shot from just above the hash marks, but Niemi flashed his glove and snagged the puck, freezing play.

Niemi, who made 40 saves in a 5-2 win over Detroit on Thursday, has won his last four starts. He's given up two goals or less in each of them.

As with most Sharks-Stars matchups, the animosity was evident. In the second period there were two fights just two seconds apart, when Krys Barch fought with Jim Vandermeer and Eric Nystrom dropped the gloves with McGinn. The Stars were likely attempting to change the momentum of the game, but it didnt do them any good as Winchesters goal came just 37 ticks after the second fight.

I think frustration was setting in for them. I think we did a pretty good job not reacting too much to it, said Vandermeer, playing in his first game since Nov. 3. Obviously, we have to defend ourselves out there. We came back strong and scored a goal right away.

Late in the third, with the game essentially decided, more emotions bubbled over. Ryane Clowe gave Stephane Robidas a whack with his stick after Robidas was pushing and shoving with Joe Thornton, and Clowe later had a big-time bout with Barch.

At the end of that tussle, Barch was seen pointing and yelling in the direction of Clowe and the Sharks bench. Clowe said later that he was yelling at Barch for starting a fight with him at the end of his shift, while Barch was just stepping onto the ice.

I dont know if Id chase someone down in that situation, said Clowe. Youre at the end of youre shift, but it happens. Im sure I might have done that before as well, but I dont usually turn down a challenge.

Clowe sensed an aggravated Dallas team that has now lost five straight games after starting 11-3-0.

We had a real great second period, controlled the play and they were getting frustrated, he said. Theyve got guys that even when you leave them alone, you dont know what theyre going to do. They like to continue to push the envelope, and we answered the bell well.

The Sharks took advantage of a Nicklas Grossman holding call to take the early lead. Thornton was positioned down low, and stopped a pass from Patrick Marleau with his skate. The captain quikcly threaded a pass between the legs of Trevor Daley to a changing Burns, who tapped his fourth goal of the season into an open net at 4:58 of the first period.

San Jose made it 2-0 early in the second. Couture pounced on a fortunate bounce off of Sheldon Sourays skate as the puck squirted to the side of the net, where he flipped it over the shoulder of Andrew Raycroft at 1:23.

The Sharks fourth line contributed its second goal in as many games when Winchester took advantage of a Dallas turnover in its own zone and wristed it past Raycroft at 4:52 of the second period. Winchester scored his first goal on Thursday against the Red Wings.

McGinns marker at 4:34 of the third period put the game away, making it a four-goal cushion. The only thing that had to be decided at that point was whether or not the Stars would end their scoring drought, which they did on Ribeiros wrist shot through traffic.

The Sharks would have liked to get their first shutout of the season for Niemi, regardless of the Stars futility, but it wasnt to be.

It would have been nice for Nemos sake. I dont really pay attention to what theyre doing, but Nemo played great and it would have been nice to get him the zero, said Thornton.

Still, the Sharks won for the 10th time in their last 13, and sixth time in their last seven road games.

It took us seven or eight minutes to kind of get in the game but once we did, we got our legs, said Thornton. And the night was over.

Odds and ends: Colin White and Justin Braun were the scratches for the Sharks. Dan Boyle broke his stick three times during the night. The Sharks visit Colorado on Sunday evening. San Jose has outscored the opposition 28-11 in the second period. There was a total of 100 penalty minutes in the game, 53 by Dallas. Thornton and Patrick Marleau had two assists each. Jason Demers was a game-high 2.

NHL Gameday: Stumbling Sharks likely getting Hansen back for Stars

NHL Gameday: Stumbling Sharks likely getting Hansen back for Stars

Programming note: Sharks-Stars coverage starts today at 5:00 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 42-24-7, 91 points, 1st Pacific Division
Stars: 29-33-11, 69 points, 6th Central Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***Indications are that Jannik Hansen will return to the lineup after missing the last two games with a head injury, as the Sharks try to end their season-long four-game losing streak in regulation. The forward took part in the team’s optional skate on Friday morning at American Airlines Center, his second straight day on the ice after he was hurt last Saturday against Anaheim.

“You’ve got to go through a couple stages, make sure there are no setbacks, no nothing,” said Hansen, who was whacked in the head by defenseman Brandon Montour.

Coach Pete DeBoer spoke before Hansen, and would only call him a game-time decision. Regardless, the trade deadline acquisition will be welcomed back into the lineup after he seemed to give a boost to the Joe Thornton-Joe Pavelski line.

“He’s missed quite a bit of hockey personally this year, which should make him fresh for the playoffs, but we also want to make sure we get him in enough games that he’s comfortable in our system and gets some chemistry going with the guys around him,” DeBoer said. “I think it’s important we get him back. He’s a key piece for us.”

Timo Meier appears to be the forward that will come out for Hansen. Melker Karlsson (lower body) doesn't seem to be ready just yet, but skated again Friday morning.

***Along with getting a key piece back in their lineup, the Sharks will be the more rested team, having not played since Tuesday’s 3-2 loss in Minnesota. Dallas dropped a 3-2 shootout decision in Chicago last night.

DeBoer was quick to point out, though, that the first two of the Sharks’ four straight losses came to St. Louis and Anaheim, both of which was playing in the second of a back-to-back.

“I don’t think that’s a factor at all,” DeBoer said. “We played [the Stars] a couple games ago. We know what they do. We know what we have to do better here tonight in order to find a way to score some goals. We’ve just got to execute.”

Dallas is 2-4-1 in its last seven games, but beat the Sharks on Monday, 1-0, behind 30 saves from Kari Lehtonen. Aaron Dell will start in net for San Jose, while the Stars’ starter is not yet known.

***The Sharks begin the night with just a two-point lead on Anaheim in the Pacific Division. The Ducks are hosting the Jets on Friday.

Have the Sharks discussed the tightening standings?

“No, all we think about it get back to the winning road,” Joonas Donskoi said. “I think we’ve been playing pretty well last games, just haven’t found a way to put the puck in the net. That’s all we concentrate on.”

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Jannik Hansen. Hansen wouldn’t say if he was going to be back up on the top line, but in his first four games there after he was inserted into San Jose’s lineup, they generated one even strength goal in each. The 31-year-old is still looking for his first goal with the Sharks, posting one assist in six games with a minus-one rating.

Stars: Ales Hemsky. Limited to just 11 games this season, and coming off of hip surgery, the 33-year-old veteran forward potted two goals in Chicago on Thursday night. The Czech native has points in four of his last seven games (3g, 2a).

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Jannik Hansen – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Joel Ward
Joonas Donskoi – Tomas Hertl – Mikkel Boedker
Micheal Haley – Chris Tierney – Marcus Sorensen

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko

Aaron Dell (starter)
Martin Jones

Stars
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin – Ales Hemsky
Remi Elie – Tyler Seguin – Brett Ritchie
Devin Shore – Radek Faksa – Patrick Sharp
Curtis McKenzie – Adam Cracknell – Jiri Hudler

Esa Lindell – John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis – Greg Pateryn
Patrik Nemeth – Stephen Johns

Kari Lehtonen
Antti Niemi

INJURIES

Sharks: Melker Karlsson (lower body) is doubtful.

Stars: Jason Spezza (back spasms) is day-to-day. Mattias Janmark (knee) and Antoine Roussel (hand) are out.

QUOTEABLE

“Obviously we know where our position is in the standings. We know how tight it is right now. We know how important these last two games on the road trip [are]. But there’s no panic here. We’ve just got to go out and play some good hockey.” – Joe Thornton

Brent Burns working through offensive dry spell

Brent Burns working through offensive dry spell

DALLAS – Brent Burns hasn’t altered his routine, despite his name not showing up on the scoresheet for a little while.

“It’s not like I stopped eating the same meal or I’m not sleeping anymore,” Burns said on Thursday, after a rare Sharks road practice. “It’s the same. I do the same thing every game.”

What he hasn’t been doing every game, like he seemed to be for the first three-quarters of the season, is racking up points. The Norris Trophy frontrunner hasn’t potted a goal in his last 14 games, and is scoreless in his last seven. He still leads the Sharks with 70 points, and has four more points than Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson for the most among NHL defensemen, but there’s no denying he’s hit a cold streak. Previously, he hadn't gone more than three games without a point.

He’s not the only one, of course, as the Sharks have managed just four goals in their last four games, all regulation losses. But when a team is struggling to put the puck in the net, it’s often the top guys that have to lead the resurgence. And no one has been better or more important to the Sharks this season than the 32-year-old blueliner.

Could it be that as Burns goes, so do the Sharks? The team is 33-9-3 when Burns finds the scoresheet, and just 9-15-4 when he doesn't.

Coach Pete DeBoer doesn’t think so, though, pointing to the Sharks putting up plenty of offense at the start of Burns’ dry spell, including nine combined goals in wins over Dallas and Buffalo last week.

“I don’t think we only score when Brent Burns is on. I think we’re deeper than that. I think we’ve shown that,” DeBoer said. “He hasn’t scored in awhile, and up until a few games ago we were putting up some significant goals and numbers and offense. 

“I think even the nights he’s not scoring, we’ve generated lots of chances. Other than the St. Louis game (a 4-1 loss on March 16), the last three games we’ve lost, we’ve generated enough chances that on a lot of nights that’s three or four goals. But, that’s not just [on] Burnzie…It’s some other guys bearing down and sticking it in the net. It will come.”

Joe Thornton believes that the forwards can also do more to help Burns, who has become the team’s most valuable offensive weapon with his ability to get shots or passes through from a distance with velocity and precision like few players in the NHL can.

“He’s obviously a dominant player, and I think we just need to help him out,” Thornton said. “It shouldn’t always be on one guy, I think we’ve got to give him better opportunities to put him in better spots. It shouldn’t all lay on his shoulders. We’re not doing a good enough job to kind of work away from him, and getting him opportunities.”

Burns, of course, is a guy that wears his heart on his sleeve. During practice, his hooting and hollering can typically be heard echoing throughout the rink. Simply put, no one has more fun than this guy.

So, is the cold streak weighing on him? Maybe a little bit.

“I think it weighs on him, for sure,” DeBoer said. “We have good dialogue, there’s a lot of communication, especially with him and [assistant coach Bob Boughner]. And also, him and his teammates. The guys know how much responsibility he takes on himself – sometimes too much. Guys are good with that, they recognize that.”

Thornton said: “When you’re a d-man and you get so many goals and so many assists, you kind of expect it’s going to happen every night, but that’s just not the reality of it. He’s doing something that hardly [any] d-men do in the history of the game. … He’s capable of just getting out of that quick, and pouring it on like he has in the first 65 games of the year.”

For now, Burns is taking every new day and new game as it comes, and said: “It’s no different if you’ve won four in a row and you’ve got 10 points.”

And if he did have 10 points in his last four games?

“You want 12. If you’ve got zero, you want one. Then 12,” he said.