OTTAWA – The guy who was honored in a pregame ceremony for recently playing in his 1000th NHL game had a chance to be the shootout hero.
Instead, it was the kid playing in his 17th.
Kevin Labanc was the only player to convert his chance in the skills competition, beating goalie Mike Condon and earning his team an extra point in the standings on Wednesday night at Canadian Tire Center. The Sharks beat the Senators, 4-3, winning their second shootout on the road in as many nights.
Just before Labanc converted his chance, longtime Sens agitator Chris Neil - playing in his 1,002nd career game - tried playing the puck off of his skate in order to beat goalie Martin Jones. It didn’t work. On his subsequent try in the fourth round, Labanc skated in slowly, kicked up his left leg while faking a shot to freeze Condon, and slipped it through his wickets.
“[Labanc’s] move at the end was fun to watch,” Joe Pavelski said. “It’s a fun situation with Neil going before that. Big two points right now.”
Labanc saw Mikkel Boedker, Pavelski and Brent Burns fail on their chances before deciding what move he was going to do.
“It was nice to go last,” he said. “Kind of feel out the goalie and see what he kind of gave. I just got the option to see his tendencies.”
While the ending was satisfying, the game was far from perfect for San Jose, which went 0-for-7 on the power play and lost Logan Couture to an apparent head injury. Marc-Edouard Vlasic could be in line for supplementary discipline, too, after seemingly spearing Erik Karlsson in the second period.
Failing to get a goal on a five-minute power play they got after Mike Hoffman’s dirty cross-check on Couture was especially disappointing. An apparent Patrick Marleau goal was nullified when replays showed the puck came just out of the zone seconds earlier.
“You’d like to be a lot better on that power play,” Pavelski said. “We had some looks, we did. We score that goal, it’s offsides. … Just in general, the power play could have created a little bit more momentum for us.”
Still, the Sharks showed some resolve after Dion Phaneuf gave the Sens a 3-2 lead with just 3:46 left in regulation. Chris Tierney managed to deposit his third goal of the year just a minute and a half later when a shot by Burns from along the wall ricocheted to the slot, where Tierney was hanging out.
The Sharks have struggled tremendously to get scoring from any of their depth players this season, and after getting goals from Pavelski and Burns earlier in the night, Tierney’s score was a welcome development.
“We needed that,” DeBoer said, pointing out that the Sharks lost to Ottawa just one week ago on a late third period score.
The game was essentially the third straight that the Sharks haven’t been at their best, yet they found a way to collect the two points and remain in first place in the Pacific Division. They beat the Hurricanes last Saturday, 4-3, despite getting just 20 shots on goal, and were lethargic through two periods before coming back in the third period in Toronto on Tuesday night to get a 3-2 shootout win.
Brenden Dillon said: “We know we weren’t at our best, in a situation being back-to-back where things weren’t really clicking on the power play. We just found a way.”
DeBoer echoed Dillon. “We found a way, and on the road that’s all you ask for,” he said.