SAN JOSE – After grinding out a difficult yet successful road trip in which they played four games in a six-night span, the Sharks were well aware that they might be getting the Flames on Tuesday night with their opponents’ tanks a little drained.
Calgary had competed in Arizona the night before, beating the Coyotes before flying to San Jose immediately afterwards to get ready for the second of a back-to-back.
After a first period in which the Sharks outplayed Calgary yet it remained a scoreless affair, they exploded for four unanswered goals in the second period to take control of their division rival in a 4-1 win.
“We knew they played last night, so I think we just got stronger as the game went on and you could just see we kind of wore them down,” said Joe Thornton, who had a pair of assists in his 1400th career game.
Last year, though, it was the Sharks that never looked all that energized in the first game back at home after a multiple-game road trip. In a stat that’s been mentioned several times, they were just 1-8-1 in such situations, with the lone win a shootout over Edmonton.
Joe Pavelski has heard that number before, giving an ever-so-slight scowl to one reporter who asked about it after Tuesday’s game. It’s still a worthy topic, though, as San Jose is now 3-0 this season when getting back in their own building after being away, outscoring the opposition 10-2 in wins over the Ducks, Devils and now Flames.
“Part of it is our confidence at home right now,” Pavelski said. “That goes a long way, I think anyone knows that.”
Perhaps its time to give some partial credit the Sharks’ sleep doctors, too. On two of the three occasions, the Sharks have stayed over in a Midwest city rather than charter home immediately after the game, as is customary. They spent Sunday night in Chicago after losing to the Blackhawks, flying back to San Jose on Monday morning.
DeBoer has mentioned previously that the Sharks’ awful home record last year was part of the reason they changed the protocol for this year. It is helping?
“I think that's part of it,” he said. “The other part of it is an attention to detail from our group. We've got to make sure that we're ready for these games right after a long road trip.”
The Sharks are also slowly but surely getting a more balanced offensive attack.
Joonas Donskoi was the leader on the scoresheet on Tuesday, getting his first goal in 23 games in the second period and then quickly adding another less than two minutes later. Linemate Timo Meier continues to get chances after his first NHL goal on Friday in Montreal, Mikkel Boedker seems to be improving on a nightly basis and was all over the puck on Tuesday, while Chris Tierney and Melker Karlsson both scored on the recent trip.
San Jose looks like it may have something going with its top three scoring lines lately.
“I liked our line combinations tonight. I thought all the lines looked pretty dangerous,” DeBoer said.
Donskoi, who has been energized since he was a healthy scratch last Wednesday in Ottawa, was pleased to finally contribute.
“That's a long time ago since I scored the last time. I didn't even remember how good it feels,” he said, referring to his previous score on Oct. 29. “So, it was great to get those goals.”
The win was also the Sharks’ 20th of the season, as they became just the second Western Conference team to reach that mark. They are back along in first place in the Pacific, and have a five-point gap on the Flames, who will likely be in the mix for a playoff spot themselves.
They’ll try and close out their pre-Christmas schedule with a win against the upstart Oilers on Friday. They’ll have the added benefit of sleeping in their own beds for the next three nights, too.
“Our division is so tight right now, every game is a four-point game,” Thornton said. “We got one more before Christmas, so get some confidence after tonight and win that next one, and have a nice break.”