Back-to-back no problem for Sharks' vets in win over Dallas

Back-to-back no problem for Sharks' vets in win over Dallas

SAN JOSE – Typically in the second half of a back-to-back, a team needs its younger, fresher legs to contribute, or even lead the way.

On Sunday against Dallas, though, the Sharks – currently the second oldest team in the NHL – turned to their 30-plus crowd to down the Stars, 5-1.

Captain Joe Pavelski, 32, led the way with a pair of goals; 37-year-old Patrick Marleau opened the scoring and was arguably the Sharks’ best forward; 36-year-old Paul Martin notched a pair of assists, and 36-year-old Joel Ward scored a goal early in the second period that really deflated Dallas.

Youngsters Chris Tierney, Dylan DeMelo and Marcus Sorensen teamed up for the final score in the third period, courtesy of Tierney, but the Sharks already had the game well in hand by that point.

This win was courtesy of the old guys.

"Just taking the bull by the horns there and leading by example,” said goalie Aaron Dell, when asked about the veterans stepping up after Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Nashville.

The game wasn’t flawless, as the Sharks took some time to get their legs going against a Dallas team playing its first game in four days. Marleau opened the scoring less than four minutes after the opening faceoff, but the Sharks didn’t register a shot on goal for more than 10 minutes after that. Remi Elie tied it during that span with his first career goal.

“It took us a little bit to get going,” Pavelski said. “That first period we kind of hung in there. Deller made some big saves, and kind of kept it to the outside.”

Dell, who made 14 saves in the first period and 15 over the final two, said: "I think we weathered the storm a little bit. They're a team that likes to trade chances, and we kind of got into that game a little bit to start off, but then we started playing our own game and I think that changed everything in the second."

Pavelski’s first goal gave the Sharks a 2-1 lead, when he converted on a two-on-one rush with less than three minutes to go before the first intermission.

But the backbreaker came early in the second. Marleau jarred a puck loose along the wall with his hustle and tenacity, and pushed it back to Martin, who quickly found Logan Couture down low. Ward got free in the slot and one-timed a dish from Couture past Kari Lehtonen, who was pulled from the game when the Stars were finally able to locate backup Antti Niemi, who was still up the tunnel for some reason.

San Jose had withstood the Stars’ push, and was never in danger again.

Martin said: “When they went to pull Lehtonen, you could tell if we kept playing that way that we could kind of take any of the momentum or anything that they had left out of them.”

After it was all said and done, the Sharks had one even strength goal from their top line, two from their second line, and another from their fourth line to go along with a shorthanded marker by Pavelski.

“That's the strength of our team. We have to be a four-line team and get production from everybody if we're going to be good and go on any kind of a run in the playoffs,” Pete DeBoer said. “That's going to be critical, and we've got that type of depth now."

It also helps to have veteran players that can fight through fatigue, and dictate the play when necessary.

Couture scores in OT, helps Sharks make up ground on Golden Knights

Couture scores in OT, helps Sharks make up ground on Golden Knights


SAN JOSE -- Seconds after almost costing the San Jose Sharks a game with a turnover, Logan Couture ended it with his backhand.

Couture scored 39 seconds into overtime after getting bailed out by goalie Martin Jones and the San Jose Sharks won their season-high sixth straight game, 2-1 over the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night.

"I was able to make a move on their guy," Couture said. "(Marc-Edouard Vlasic) did a good job of driving their backchecker back and I was able to go far side."

Couture's goal came at the end of an opening shift of the overtime that started with him losing the puck in his own zone, giving Jonathan Marchessault a chance alone in front. Jones got enough of the shot to stop it, and then Vlasic sent the puck ahead to Couture for the winning goal that moved San Jose within seven points of first-place Vegas with eight games remaining in the regular season.

Brent Burns also scored and Jones made 24 saves to help the Sharks open a four-point lead over third-place Los Angeles in the Pacific Division with a game in hand as the Sharks close in on home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

"For us to get a win tonight was important," captain Joe Pavelski said. "Plus, just plant that seed. If we stay hot, you never know, we might be able to catch them and get home ice. We took care of business tonight and we'll try to keep playing well."

Tomas Tatar scored the lone goal for the Golden Knights, who were kept in the game by a sterling performance by goalie Malcolm Subban. He stopped 42 shots but it wasn't enough for Vegas to come up with the win, although he helped earn a point that gave the expansion team 100 this season.

"It's impressive," forward James Neal said. "It's a great season for our guys. Guys came together real quick. A great job so far but we're not done yet."

The Golden Knights struck first on a pretty passing play early in the first period that ended when Marchessault found Tatar cutting through the slot ahead of Justin Braun. Tatar skated past Jones and backhanded the puck into the open net.

Vegas has been dominant when getting off to a lead, posting an NHL-best 31-5-1 record when scoring first heading into this game. But the Sharks carried the play in the second period, outshooting the Golden Knights 18-4 and getting the equalizer on a blast by Burns from the point after another strong shift by San Jose's fourth line.

"We want to be playing really good hockey this time of year and heading into the playoffs. I think that's the goal," coach Peter DeBoer said. "Whether we would have won tonight or lost, I like how we played for most of the game, so that's what I'm concentrating on."

Vegas managed to keep it tied despite the lopsided shot totals, killing off a four-minute penalty to Colin Miller and another late power play that started late in the second.

That penalty carried over until the third period and the Sharks got 25 seconds of a two-man advantage after Brayden McNabb was called for throwing his stick but still couldn't get anything past Subban.

The Golden Knights squandered a power-play chance later in the period when Miller was called for cross checking with the man advantage. That nearly led to a power-play goal for San Jose but Subban appeared to get a piece of a shot from in close to Joe Pavelski to keep the game tied at 1.

"He's the main reason we got the point," coach Gerard Gallant said. "He looked comfortable."

NOTES: Vegas G Marc-Andre Fleury didn't make the trip to San Jose with an undisclosed injury but is expected to join the team for Saturday's game in Colorado. ... Burns became the 15th player to play 500 career games with the Sharks.

Golden Knights: Visit Colorado on Saturday.

Sharks: Host Calgary on Saturday.


How the Sharks can catch the Golden Knights and win the Pacific


How the Sharks can catch the Golden Knights and win the Pacific

About a month ago, the Sharks appeared locked into the Pacific Division's second, third, fourth, or fifth spot. At the end of trade deadline day, they were 12 points back of the division-leading Vegas Golden Knights, and only two points up on the fifth place Calgary Flames.

24 days later, thanks to an 8-2-0 record over the last 10 games (second-best in the NHL), San Jose's still in second place. Now though, those margins are eight points and 11 points, respectively. 

The latter's pretty much locked the Sharks into a playoff spot, while the former's created a path for a late run at the Pacific Division crown. Beginning Thursday night, they will play the Golden Knights twice over both team's final nine games. 

What does the path look like to the Sharks' first division title since 2011? To start, they'll have to beat the Golden Knights twice in regulation to even have a shot. 

That is the foundation of any run at the Pacific's top spot. If the Sharks win both remaining games in regulation, they'll trail the Golden Knights by four points, leaving aside results against other teams for now.

They have to win in regulation, however. A win in overtime or the shootout on Thursday would only cut the gap to seven, and a subsequent win in regulation would leave it at five. Two losses, in any situation, would create a gap of 10-12 points, which would be nearly impossible to overcome this late in the season. 

One point doesn't seem like a lot, but this late in the season, it makes a world of difference. A five-point gap means they'll need to earn six more than the Golden Knights in those other seven games, while a four-point gap means they'll need to earn five in order to pass them. 

The simplest way to five extra points, is for the Sharks to have a record that's two wins and an overtime loss better (2-0-1) than the Golden Knights in the seven games where they don't play each other. That's impossible if Vegas earns at least 10 points in those seven games, so a 5-2-0 or 4-1-2 record would ensure a division banner raising in Sin City.

Taken all together, then, the Golden Knights' 'magic number' is 10 points. Even if the Sharks win on Thursday, their path to a Pacific title remains difficult, if not improbable. 

If a season with an expansion team leading their division has taught us anything, though -- it's that improbable is not impossible.