SAN JOSE – It took some time for the Sharks to get going, but the end result on Sunday against Dallas was a fairly easy 5-1 win over a disappointing Stars team that will miss out the postseason. The veterans led the way, as we focused on in the game recap, but let’s dig a little deeper in the three takeaways…
1 – Martin finding the scoresheet
On Sunday morning Sharks coach Pete DeBoer was asked about Paul Martin, who rarely makes headlines but whose unassuming game this season has been a huge part of San Jose’s success.
“I think he’s gotten better as the season’s gone on,” DeBoer said of the 36-year-old. “The tougher the grind of the schedule, the more he’s rising to the occasion. I thought [Saturday afternoon] he might have been our best defenseman. That’s great to see. He takes good care of himself, he’s a pro’s pro, and a big part of our group.”
Martin had another notable performance on Sunday, notching a pair of assists on the two most important goals of the evening. He sprung Joe Pavelski on a two-on-one that the captain finished off, and continued a quick passing play from Patrick Marleau to Logan Couture that Joel Ward slammed home early in the second.
He’ll bring a three-game point streak (1g, 3a) into Tuesday’s game against Buffalo.
“The guys have made some good plays on just some pucks that I’ve passed to them, so I think it’s just a coincidence,” Martin said of his scoring uptick.
Pavelski gave his teammate a little more credit than that.
“He’s been up in the play. He’s been really solid with the puck, the way he’s been reading plays,” Pavelski said. “That’s what we know he can do. He’s at a high level right now.”
2 – New second line generates a pair
Ward was promoted to the second line in place of Mikkel Boedker late in the loss to Nashville on Saturday, and remained in that spot against the Stars. The 36-year-old scored his first goal in 10 games early in the second period, after linemate Marleau opened the scoring less than four minutes into the game.
The Sharks would love to get more from Ward, who has shown to be a clutch playoff performer, as the postseason approaches. He has eight goals and 26 points in 66 games, after finishing with 21 goals and 43 points in 79 games last season.
“For me, it’s just trying to get pucks out, get to open areas, help my linemates as much as possible, and just try to do little things and believe in that process,” Ward said.
“Our team gets chances, so it’s just a matter of when you do, you just try to have some opportunities. I’ve had opportunities, just couldn’t score. Today I got a good pass from Cooch, and fortunate to put one in. If you stay with it and believe in it, you’ll get your opportunities.”
The Couture-Marleau-Boedker line had started together the previous 17 games (other than Feb. 11 in Philadelphia, which Couture missed due to illness).
3 – Finding Nemo, Dallas edition
Perhaps the most memorable event of the night came just after Ward’s goal made it 3-1, when Dallas coach Lindy Ruff wanted to pull Kari Lehtonen for Antti Niemi. The problem was, Niemi was nowhere to be found more than two minutes into the middle frame. Jamie Benn had to come off of the bench and leave the ice to go find the netminder, who entered the game at the next stoppage of play.
Cameras showed the Stars head coach was not too pleased behind the bench at the time, but he was restrained after the game when asked about the delay in the tunnel, where Niemi should have been.
“[The referee] said, ‘you’re going to have to wait until the next shift,’ so it was probably the right call," Ruff told reporters.
Niemi said: “I got the word when they decided [to change goalies], so I don't think it matters. Just a few more steps. Maybe it was better to get a few extra seconds there to get mentally ready.”
On the Sharks bench, Martin indicated they weren’t sure what was happening as Lehtonen floated towards center ice, but was then forced to go back to the crease as the puck was dropped.
“I thought Benn was maybe hurt and getting off the ice,” Martin said. “Usually the goalie is sitting right over there. Obviously he was in the back, so…haven’t seen that before.”