SAN JOSE – Not only had Sharks backup goalie Aaron Dell not played a game in nearly three weeks, it took awhile on Friday night against Philadelphia for him to see many pucks directed his way, to boot. The Sharks had their legs going in the first period, attacking the Flyers in waves over the first few minutes and keeping it in the offensive end.
Just as he has been all season, though, Dell was calm and composed in his goal crease. The first and only shot he saw over the first half of the first period was a difficult one, when Dale Weise let a wrist shot fly from the faceoff dot.
The 27-year-old turned it away, as well 20 more over the course of the game. Dell recorded his first career NHL shutout in a 2-0 Sharks win, their fourth straight and eighth in their last nine overall.
In six games this season, his first in the league, Dell is now 4-1-0 with a 1.78 goals-against average and .936 save percentage. Those numbers are especially impressive in that he typically goes several weeks between starts, including on Friday, his first since Dec. 10.
“He’s played awesome when he’s come in. It’s not an easy job not seeing a lot of action,” Joe Pavelski said. “He’s a gamer, so he steps up tonight and makes a lot of big saves.”
Dell said: "I just try to play every game the same way, [and] trust my preparation.”
The Sharks as a team had two days to prepare for Philly after they somehow got past Anaheim on Tuesday, 3-2 in overtime, despite not playing all that well. The extra energy showed in the first period, although it took them until the 16th minute to capitalize.
It came on the power play, a source of frustration in recent weeks. Patrick Marleau found a Marc-Edouard Vlasic rebound for his 10th of the season at 16:29.
It was important that the Sharks, who outshot the Flyers 12-7 in the opening frame, didn’t waste that early territorial advantage.
“We definitely had some good jump,” Pavelski said. “I think guys were making plays.”
While Dell was solid in making that lead hold up until Justin Braun added some late third period insurance, the Sharks as a team were exceptional in front of him. The Flyers simply didn’t have many good looks at the net, finishing with 21 shots in total. Philadelphia had 18 of its attempts blocked.
Coach Pete DeBoer was pleased that the team responded from its lackluster effort against the Ducks – albeit under difficult circumstances of having to travel the day after the Christmas break – and it appeared his pair of practices on Wednesday and Thursday had the desired effect.
“I thought it was a real solid game for us. Probably one of our most complete games all year, and nice after the Anaheim game,” DeBoer said. “We wanted to come back today after a couple good practices and play a real solid game. I thought we did that.”
Despite leading 2-0 in the final minute, the Sharks went all out to preserve the shutout for their teammate in net. The Flyers pulled goalie Anthony Stolarz and got set up in the offensive zone, when a Shayne Gostisbehere slap shot deflected up into the face of Vlasic, who was protecting the crease.
The defenseman took several moments to get to his skates, and was eventually helped to the dressing room. DeBoer, who said that Vlasic was unlikely to play in Los Angeles on Saturday, offered the following update after the game:
“As bad as it looked and as bad as it probably is, I’ve got my fingers crossed. The initial reports are that I don’t believe it’s that serious, so that’s good,” he said.
Braun revealed that the shot hit Vlasic underneath the visor. He saw him after the game, and said, “He looks alright. A little swollen. It's hard to see your teammate take one of those, as bad as it looked.”
And Braun’s message to his D partner?
“I told him, ‘good block.’"
Dell appreciated the effort from Vlasic and the rest of his teammates from start to finish.
“I think I had a pretty easy night tonight,” he said. “I think that was probably the best all-around game we've played all year."
And, of course, they appreciated him right back.
“It was great to see Deller get that shutout,” Braun said. “He's been working a long time for that, and it's great."