McLellan: 'We weren't the better team tonight'
VANCOUVER -- Sharks goalie Antti Niemi deserved to win Thursday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks, as he ended a personal five-game winless streak with steady and sometimes spectacular play.
The rest of the Sharks? They probably didn’t.
San Jose was outplayed for the majority of its 2-1 overtime win at Rogers Arena, but a late third period goal by Tomas Hertl and an overtime marker from Dan Boyle secured the club its second straight triumph. The Sharks improved to 2-0-1 on a five-game road trip.
[RECAP: Sharks 2, Canucks 1 (OT)]
While the two points could be of the stolen variety, the Sharks arguably had some points stolen from them recently. Tommy Wingels’ goal against Buffalo on Nov. 5 should have counted, and Patrick Marleau had one waived off against Winnipeg last Sunday. The Sharks went on to lose both of those in a shootout.
“We weren’t the better team tonight. We’ve been on the other end of that where we were the better team and found a way not to win it,” coach Todd McLellan said. “Tonight, we found a way to come back. … I don’t know if there is a hockey god, but it evened out a little bit.”
Boyle factored in both goals. The overtime winner was by design. The game-tying goal in which he recorded the primary assist, was not.
Boyle got only a small piece of the puck after winding up for a one-timer, but it deflected right to Hertl to make it 1-1 with 65 ticks left on the game clock.
“I was going to shoot it, and then kind of changed my mind at the very last second,” Boyle said. “Obviously, it spun off and went wide, and thank god Tomas was in the right place at the right time. That was just fortunate luck on my part.”
Logan Couture said: “Kind of a right spot at the right time for Tomas there, and he’s got a knack for scoring big goals, which is good for a young player. … It was good for him to get that one, and when you get a chance on the power play in overtime, you’ve got to score.”
The Sharks sent out Couture, Boyle, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski for the four-on-three after Henrik Sedin’s hooking minor gave San Jose its fourth power play. It was able to capitalize on what was the top-ranked penalty kill in the league headed into Thursday night’s games.
Pavelski’s pass through the slot to Boyle allowed the defenseman plenty of time to wait for Roberto Luongo to flop on his belly and lift in a wrist shot at 2:38. The puck came out of the net so quickly after hitting the back bar and camera high in the cage that a video review was necessary to confirm the game was over.
Boyle, though, knew immediately it counted.
“I was very positive that it hit the camera and I would have been pretty shocked if I saw that wrong,” he said.
McLellan said: “It’s interesting, because as the puck went in tonight there was a debate about whether it was in again. It just seems to happen that way for our team. Struggle in the shootout, have disallowed goals in overtime, have goals in overtime that should have been reviewed that weren’t. It’s just a tough way for us to win, and we’ll take it.”
Niemi, who entered Thursday night with an 0-4-1 mark, 3.91 goals-against average and .878 save percentage in his last five starts, played his best game in weeks. He allowed only Kevin Bieksa’s deflected goal in the second period to get past him, and made 19 saves in the middle frame alone. His 34-save performance allowed San Jose to come from behind.
“Nemo was sharp. He gave us a chance to stay in it until the end,” McLellan said. “I think he looked comfortable in the net again, and guys had some confidence when he was making those saves.”
Couture said: “Nemo was excellent tonight. He really rebounded, and played a great game and kept us in it.”
The Sharks are back to within two points of the Pacific Division lead, with two games in hand on Anaheim, which has lost two straight.
The points all count the same, even if they don’t come pretty.
“We have to be happy that we got the points, but not overly pleased with the way we played,” McLellan said.