Karlsson emerges as Game 1 hero for Sharks

Karlsson emerges as Game 1 hero for Sharks

EDMONTON – Playoff hockey always brings unlikely heroes.

It happened right away for the Sharks in their opener on Wednesday, when Melker Karlsson hissed a wrist shot past Cam Talbot a little more than three minutes into overtime to push San Jose past Edmonton, 3-2.

The Sharks coaching staff had some decisions to make with its lineup with Joe Thornton unavailable to play, and settled on plugging Karlsson into the top line left wing position with center Logan Couture and right wing Joe Pavelski, despite Karlsson playing mostly on the fourth line this season.

After the game, DeBoer indicated that he had help in making that call, and not necessarily from his assistant coaches.

“One of the best compliments any player can get is when you ask players who they want to play with, and [Melker is] a guy whose name gets mentioned,” DeBoer said. 

“That’s the ultimate compliment. It’s an easy decision on my part. He’s as honest a player as there is, he plays a 200-foot game and [is] a big part of our team.”

The top line isn’t completely unfamiliar territory for Karlsson, who made a splash as a rookie in 2014-15 while playing mostly with Thornton and Pavelski. As the Sharks’ roster got deeper under DeBoer than it was in Todd McLellan’s final year, though, Karlsson was bumped down.

His game never changed, and he put together a nice regular season of 11 goals and 11 assists for 22 points in 67 games this year while also contributing big minutes on the penalty kill. That makes him a welcome addition to Pavelski’s line, according to the captain, as he and Thornton have gone through multiple left wings throughout the year.

“All year it’s more of a question that me and Joe got – if we were getting a different linemate of something, what do you guys think about Melker coming back up?” Pavelski said.

“Every time we get him, we like playing with him. He is one of those players, he’s just honest. Gets on pucks first, takes hits, he breaks a lot of plays up, he’s responsible, blocks shots – everything you ask for in a teammate, he does. He got rewarded last night with a big goal.”

Karlsson elicited some laughter after Wednesday’s game by quickly responding, “yep,” when asked if that was the biggest goal of his career.

“We got the chance at the end, and I stuck it in,” he said.

Pavelski and the rest of the Sharks were happy to see Karlsson get a moment in the sun – and they let him know it, too.

“Oh, it was awesome, everyone’s excited for him,” Pavelski said. “Everyone wants to get in and give him a face-wash, or hit him a little bit and give him a shot. Really happy to see guys like that score. 

“He does so many little things right.”

In Game 1, Karlsson added a big thing, too.

Sharks on longest winning streak since 2013 after extinguishing Flames


Sharks on longest winning streak since 2013 after extinguishing Flames


SAN JOSE -- Evander Kane scored twice to give him six goals in his past two games against Calgary and the San Jose Sharks won their seventh straight game, beating the Flames 5-1 on Saturday.

Kane followed up his four-goal performance in Calgary a week ago with another impactful performance, scoring a short-handed goal in the second period to give the Sharks a 3-1 lead and an insurance goal in the third. He also used his physical play to get into a scrum with Mikael Backlund and a fight with Travis Hamonic.

The Sharks improved to 10-2 since acquiring Kane just before the trade deadline last month, including this current streak that is the longest for San Jose since a seven-gamer from March 25 to April 5, 2013.

Brenden DillonJannik Hansen and Justin Braun also scored for the Sharks, who moved six points ahead of Los Angeles in the race for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Kings played later Saturday in Edmonton. Martin Jones made 37 saves.

Michael Stone scored the lone for the Flames, who have lost five straight to fall out of the playoff race. Calgary trails Anaheim by nine points for the final playoff spot with just six games remaining. David Rittich made 28 saves.

The Flames were controlling the play in the second period before Kane's goal turned the momentum back in San Jose's favor. Calgary held San Jose without a shot on goal for more than six minutes to start the period and had just started a power play when Kane struck for his goal.

Chris Tierney skated into the offensive zone and held the puck near the net as Johnny Gaudreau skated past Kane, who was set up in front of the crease. Tierney then slid a pass to Kane, who knocked it into the open net for his sixth goal with the Sharks and 26th on the season.

Kane then had his run-ins with the Flames late in the second and early in the third before the Sharks broke it open with goals from Braun and Kane midway through the third period.

Dillon, who assisted on Kane's second goal, then got into a fight late in the game with Garnet Hathaway to complete the Gordie Howe hat trick.

The Sharks started fast and scored twice in a span of 74 seconds midway through the first period. San Jose took advantage of a turnover by Calgary in the offensive zone to go on a rush. Timo Meier fed Chris Tierney, who gave a behind-the-back pass to Dillon, who beat Rittich from the high slot.

The Sharks kept the pressure up and quickly added to the lead when Hansen redirected Brent Burns' point shot off defenseman Mark Jankowski's skate and into the Calgary net.

The Flames got one back with a blast from the point through traffic by Stone.

NOTES: The Sharks honored Jonathan Cheechoo, who recently announced his retirement. ... Burns' assist on Hansen's goal was his 49th of the season, breaking the record he set two years ago for Sharks defensemen. ... Flames F Matthew Tkachuk (upper body) and D TJ Brodie did not make the trip for the two games in California.


Flames: Visit Los Angeles on Monday

Sharks: Visit Chicago on Monday.

Paul Martin rewarding Peter DeBoer's faith in NHL return


Paul Martin rewarding Peter DeBoer's faith in NHL return

When Sharks defenseman Paul Martin confirmed reports in January that he was willing to go elsewhere for more playing time, his head coach was insistent that the team would need the veteran blueliner. 

"I really believe we need eight NHL defenseman here," DeBoer told reporters in January (via The Mercury News). "If it happens that he isn't here, then that'll be disappointing for us. I'm not hoping that's where this goes. I'm hoping this goes to a place where he can maybe go down, play some games and keep himself ready, because I know we're going to need eight defensemen."

That's pretty much exactly what's happened.

After clearing waivers in January and playing with the AHL's San Jose Barracuda, Martin was called up ahead of the Sharks' four-game road trip at the end of February. He did not play until last Saturday in Vancouver, when an upper-body injury to rookie defenseman Joakim Ryan, whose play pushed Martin down the depth chart in the first place, created an opening alongside Brent Burns. 

Martin's now played three straight games with Burns, his defensive partner for the vast majority of the previous two seasons. It's the first time Martin's played in three consecutive NHL games all season, and although he hasn't played much (11:53 in average time-on-ice), he's acquitted himself nicely in a sheltered role.

His five-on-five possession numbers (52.78 percent corsi-for; 53.33 percent fenwick-for) are the second-best marks among Sharks defensemen over the last three games. Burns, too, has posted better possession numbers with Martin (47.62 percent corsi-for; 50 percent fenwick-for) during the last three contests than without his longtime partner (43.40 percent corsi-for; 41.67 percent fenwick-for). 

The Sharks have also outscored (3-0) and outchanced (17-16) opponents with Martin on the ice, neither of which was the case in Martin's first three appearances earlier this season. The former is owed to a decent amount of puck luck, as the Sharks have converted on 17.65 percent of their shots with him on the ice, but the latter is an extension of his solid underlying numbers. 

Martin's played the least amount of total minutes among Sharks defensemen since coming back, even as Marc-Edouard Vlasic missed time in two of the last three games, and has barely been used in special teams. His days of averaging 20-or-more minutes a night are likely behind him, but the 37-year-old has played well in a limited role. 

Considering Martin's NHL days appeared to be behind him as recently as last month, his play has been a pleasant surprise. With the exception of his head coach, that is.