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.