Sharks' offense erupts in 5-3 win over Capitals


Sharks' offense erupts in 5-3 win over Capitals


WASHINGTON, DC If there was an unmistakable sign that it was Joe Pavelskis night, look no further than the first goal of the Sharks 5-3 win over the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center on Monday night.

The Sharks forward was the beneficiary of a fortunate bounce when he got his stick on a slap shot from Dan Boyle, who wound up behind center ice. Pavelski tipped the puck at the blue line and it skipped in on goaltender Braden Holtby, who allowed it to squeak by at 12:12 of the first period.

Boyle was trying to fire it on net to give a charging Joe Thornton a chance at the rebound, while Pavelski just wanted to prevent an icing call.

You see it bounce, and you hope when youre that far away that something stupid happens, and it did, Pavelski said.

That gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead, and Pavelski tallied another goal and two assists to tie his career high of four points before the evening was through.

Thornton finished with three assists and Patrick Marleau a pair of goals as the Sharks improved to 1-1 on their season-long nine-game road trip. They opened up a three-point lead on the Los Angeles Kings for first place in the Pacific Division in the process, with three games in hand.

The power play played a huge role for the Sharks, too. They were 0-for-4 with a man advantage on Sunday night's 3-0 loss in St. Louis, ending a stretch where they had been an impressive 10 for their last 22 in the eight games prior. They put that effort against the Blues quickly behind them in Washington, though, finishing 3-for-6.

We wanted to get back to making crisp tape-to-tape passes and getting our shots through, and guys in the right spots, Marleau said. We were able to do that tonight, and it paid off.

A real good sign of leadership, when it can bounce back an respond the way it did, said Todd McLellan of the power play.

After Pavelskis goal was the only marker of the first period, San Jose had a comfortable 3-0 lead in the second period thanks to power play goals from Pavelski and Marleau, and looked like it would head to the locker room with that cushion after 40 minutes. Instead, Dmitry Orlovs slap shot handcuffed Thomas Greiss, and the puck trickled over the line with less than a second to go in the period to keep the Capitals in the game.

To their credit, the Sharks werent rattled to start the third, and quickly gained a 5-1 lead. Brent Burns blast through traffic got past Holtby at 4:36, while Marleau managed to get his stick on a pass from Thornton in front of the net for another power play tally at 7:03.

That Orlov goal was a tough goal to give up, but that fourth goal was huge, Boyle said. It gave us a little more breathing room, and we fought hard tonight.

You never want to give one up at that point, McLellan said. Youve got the crowd thats in it now, youve got a coach that was probably upset going in, and in one second he changes his mind and hes now selling, hey we can do this.

The coach had a clear message for his team at the intermission.

We challenged our guys. Its up to them. They can choose to be on their heels, or they can choose to get on their toes and get after them. Im glad they chose the second.

Roman Hamrliks backhander through traffic midway through the third made it 5-2, while a low slapper by Jeff Schultz beat Greiss to the short side at 14:09, but the Capitals wouldnt come any closer in losing for the eighth time in their last 11 games (3-5-3).

Meanwhile, the Sharks improved to 16-1-0 against Washington since the start of the 1999-2000 season, including a 5-2 win at HP Pavilion on Jan. 7.

After the early gift goal, Pavelski got his second of the game at 3:26 of the second. Couture managed to push the puck towards the net through defenseman Kyle Alzner, and Pavelski skillfully flipped it over the shoulder of Holtby for his 22nd of the season.

Later, Thornton drew a high-sticking penalty on Jeff Halpern and the power play went to work again. This time, Couture deflected a wrister from the point by Pavelski, which hit Holtby in the chest before falling to the ice. Marleau was in front to deposit it at 15:11.

Greiss, making his first start since a Feb. 2 win against Dallas, was outstanding in stopping the first 29 shots fired in his direction before Orlovs stoppable shot cut into the Sharks lead.

The first two periods I played very well, he said, before adding the Orlov goal was a bad play on my part.

Greiss improved to 8-4-1 with 39 saves, and is 4-0-1 in his last five starts.

The first period had a frantic pace to it, in direct contrast to the Sharks loss in St Louis. Early in the game, Tommy Wingels, returning from a nine-game absence with a left shoulder injury, nearly put the Sharks ahead on a pair of chances in front of the net on a delayed penalty call, but Holtby stopped them both with his glove.

San Jose had a couple of defensive breakdowns in the first on which the Caps failed to capitalize. Alex Semins blast was challenged and stopped by Griess, while Orlov had a wide-open look from the circle but fired high.

The Capitals almost took the lead on a shorthanded breakaway by Brooks Laich, but Greiss got just enough of it to keep the game scoreless midway through the first.

Holtby made his first start of the season as Tomas Vokoun is suffering from an illness, and Michal Neuvirth played on Sunday in New York. Holtby played 14 games last season, and made the drive from Washingtons AHL affiliate in Hershey earlier in the day.

San Jose made it a night to forget for him, though, in what was a key win early on their marathon trek up and down the East Coast.

We wanted that first one yesterday and didnt get it, Pavelski said. It was really important for us, you see what happened with Chicago it just keeps snowballing and never gets easier on the road. You take the wins as you get them.

Odds and ends: Tommy Wingels started the game on the second line with Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe in his return, but was later moved to the fourth line. Jim Vandermeer and Benn Ferriero were San Joses healthy scratches. Jason Demers remains out with a lower body injury. Joe Pavelskis previous four-point game came on March 15, 2011 in Dallas.

Labanc, Sharks overcoming even strength scoring woes


Labanc, Sharks overcoming even strength scoring woes

Kevin Labanc’s first period goal in the Sharks’ Sunday win over the Ducks certainly didn’t look like it was just his fifth of the season, or only his third since opening night.

The 22-year-old, sprung in alone on a breakaway, sold Anaheim goaltender John Gibson on a fake shot with a leg kick, and snapped the puck past him into the top corner. You know a ‘goal-scorers goal’ when you see it, and you saw it 3:38 into the second period.

Labanc not only broke a 12-game, month-long goalless drought, but picked up his third point in as many games after scoring zero in his previous six. Despite his emergence as a force on the power play, all three points came during five-on-five play.

He’s generated six scoring chances in five-on-five situations in his last three games, according to Natural Stat Trick. That’s as many as Labanc accounted for in the six games preceding this run.

The same can be said about his five-on-five shot attempts (seven) and high-danger chances (two). His six shots on goal in his last three games are just one shy of also matching his five-on-five output over his six games prior.

In those categories, Labanc ranks third, third, and tied for second among Sharks forwards, as well as third in five-on-five scoring chances. He’s also tied with Mikkel Boedker for the forward-lead in five-on-five points over the last three games, despite playing only the eighth-most five-on-five minutes.

As Labanc’s broken out of an extended slump, so have the Sharks. Since returning from the bye week on Jan. 13, San Jose is fifth in five-on-five scoring rate (3.1 goals for/60 minutes), compared to 28th before their bye (1.91).

They’re also 5-1-0 during that time.

The Sharks, much like Labanc, were too reliant upon power play production prior to the NHL-mandated week off. Over half of Labanc’s points came with (at least) a man advantage, and 32 of San Jose’s 108 were scored on the power play.

Since, the second-year forward has only scored five-on-five points, while only five of the Sharks’ 23 goals were power play tallies. The power play’s still converting, but it’s not been the sole driver of San Jose’s offense.

It’s only a six-game sample, but the early five-on-five, post-bye week returns are promising for Labanc and the Sharks. The next step for both is to maintain that pace.

If Labanc and San Jose can, the Sharks may not need to shop for a top-six winger at the trade deadline after all.

Sharks dominate Ducks for two wins in two nights

Sharks dominate Ducks for two wins in two nights


ANAHEIM -- Mikkel Boedker had two goals and an assist, Joe Thornton had a goal and an assist, and the San Jose Sharks beat the Anaheim Ducks 6-2 on Sunday night.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Kevin Labanc and Melker Karlsson also scored for the Sharks, who have won five of six. Aaron Dell stopped 33 shots.

Rickard Rakell and Ryan Getzlaf scored for Anaheim. John Gibson stopped only 17 of 22 shots and was replaced after giving up his fifth goal. Anaheim had a four-game home winning streak snapped.

Four goals came in the third period. First, Anaheim pulled within one when Ondrej Kase stole the puck from behind the net and quickly fed Getzlaf, who fired it past Dell.

One minute later, the Sharks answered when Thornton's slap shot went in.

Boedker's second goal gave San Joe a 5-2 lead, and Karlsson's goal on goalie Ryan Miller made it a runaway.

The Ducks first found the net in the final minute of the second period, but that took a two-man advantage and a bit of luck.

Rakell was camped a few feet below the crease when he snapped a shot. San Jose's Justin Braun stuck out a stick, but it deflected the puck off the back of Dell's arm and into the net.

It was Rakell's team-high 17th goal this season.

San Jose appeared to take a commanding 3-0 lead on a power play in the second period. Boedker fired a shot from the top of the right circle that whistled past Gibson.

The Sharks took a 2-0 lead early in the second period when Anaheim's No.1 line turned the puck over. Thornton snapped it out to Labanc, who popped free for a breakaway. He beat Gibson on his short side for his fifth goal.

The Sharks took a 1-0 lead late in the first period on a nifty give-and-go when Tomas Hertl skated down the far side and sent a pass through the legs of Anaheim's Brandon Montour and right to Vlasic in front of the net.

Vlasic snapped it past Gibson for his seventh goal of the season.


Sharks: Return to San Jose on Tuesday night to play the Jets.

Ducks: Remain at home to play the Rangers on Tuesday night.