NEWARK – Wrapping up their four-game-in-six-day road trip in New Jersey, the Sharks went on to a relatively pain-free 4-1 victory in their only appearance at Prudential Center. Here are three takeaways from the afternoon tilt…
1 – Burns takes over
On Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia, Burns didn’t look took too good when he turned the puck over to Wayne Simmonds, who promptly scored an overtime goal. He certainly didn’t let that play linger against the Devils, scoring two second period goals that turned the game in the Sharks’ favor.
"We needed a spark, and he's been there all year,” Pete DeBoer said. “A big goal at the right time. He's a fearless player. He walks the line, and under pressure, has a fearlessness offensively to him that is hard to teach and really separates great players from other guys. You saw that on the first goal.”
Burns wakes up on Monday fourth in the NHL in scoring with 59 points, just two behind league leader Connor McDavid. Remarkably, he has a legitimate chance to join Bobby Orr as the only defenseman to ever lead the NHL in points (our friends at NBC have some other notes on Burns, here).
Burns was asked after the game if he keeps track of where he is in the scoring race.
“You look at everything. You’re looking at other guys on the team, the other team we’re playing, you’re looking [at stats]. We hear about it from you guys (the media) all the time about stats and everything, so you’re aware of it.”
2 – Getting some distance from the pack
On Feb. 4, the Sharks had a three-point lead on Anaheim for first in the Pacific with a game in hand. They lost their next four games, although they picked up a point in three of the losses.
On Monday, the Sharks find themselves with a five-point lead over the Ducks, with 25 games remaining for both. The Sharks may have hit a brief rut, but it didn’t hurt them in the standings.
“We played some games that were winnable for us, but we managed to get points, and when you look around the league right now teams are in the tough part of their schedule,” Logan Couture said. “We're in a tough part of our schedule. On the road on the east coast, and it was a back-to-back. To get three (points) out of four in these past couple games is big."
DeBoer said: “We wanted some separation between us Anaheim and Edmonton, and the guys got the job done.”
3 – Couture, Jones return to the lineup
Couture said after the game that he didn’t decide he was going to play until warmups, after missing Saturday’s game with an undisclosed upper body injury.
He played a reduced role, skating just 15:34 and taking only one faceoff. He didn’t register a point, and had one shot.
“Obviously, wasn't 100 percent,” said Couture, who was hurt at some point in the game in Boston on Thursday. “But, I felt I was good enough to try it.”
Jones, on the other hand, was outstanding. If he was feeling any nerves after allowing a goal on the first shot he faced – on the heels of his last two subpar performances, including getting the hook in Boston – it didn’t show.
“You always want to bounce back with a good effort,” Jones said. “But, it was everybody tonight. We weren’t happy with the way the last few games have gone, and we responded really well tonight and had a really, really strong game.”