Saying the Sharks didn’t make Wednesday's win over the Colorado Avalanche easy on themselves is probably a bit of an understatement.
The ice tilted to and fro, with Colorado coming out hot, San Jose taking over the second period, and the Avalanche coming back with a vengeance in the third. Up until Sharks goaltender Martin Jones made one last save in the final seconds of the game to solidify the Sharks' 5-4 victory, it looked the game could have gone either way.
But the Sharks held on to win, even when one of their key players was injured in the first frame.
“It was a crazy game,” Brent Burns told Sharks radio broadcaster Jamie Baker after the game. “Losing guys and guys battling back.”
That guy would be defenseman Justin Braun, who landed awkwardly against the boards in the first period and had to be helped off the ice, appearing to not be able to put any weight on his right leg. He returned for just one shift in the second period, and his absence was extra concerning given San Jose is already down one defenseman. Radim Simek sustained a concussion following a late hit from Calgary Flames forward Sam Bennett on Monday.
Shortly after Braun was helped off the ice, his teammates put on a big push to break a then 1-1 tie with the Avs. Burns broke the tie with an assist from fellow All-Star defenseman Erik Karlsson, and the Sharks were able to build a big enough lead in the second period to hold Colorado off after a third-period push.
“Those are ones I think you can build off of,” Burns continued. “You can remember the grind and the work you put in.”
That grind was apparent on the scoresheet. With Braun sidelined and the bench further shortened after Marc-Edouad Vlasic missed time in the third, Burns played nearly half the game (29:13) while Karlsson played just over it (30:54). Burns also tallied four points (one goal, three assists) on the evening.
While the Norris Trophy winner made it look easy, he admitted the challenges of playing more minutes in such a fast-paced game.
“You can’t play the same game,” Burns explained. “You’re not going to play great, but those are the fun ones.”
While he may have still been hurting, it was an encouraging sign moving forward that he was able to briefly return. San Jose has a three-games-in-four-nights homestand coming up, starting with a Saturday night rumble against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The league-leading Bolts score more goals per game than anyone else, and boast an NHL-best power play that is currently converting at a 29.2 percent clip.
San Jose’s defense is going to have its hands full, especially if Braun and/or Vlasic can't play on Saturday. Building off of any positives from Wednesday’s game, then, would be a very good thing.
“It’s just a grind, but those [are the games] that can bring the team together,” Burns said. “They’re the ones you remember at the end.”