Ryan Donato notched a trio of firsts in the Sharks' 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday at SAP Center.
Donato lined up at center for the first time this season, with rookie John Leonard and enforcer Kurtis Gabriel flanking him on the wings.
He also clinched his first three-game point streak since joining the Sharks in an offseason trade with the Minnesota Wild, thanks to his goal with 16:12 remaining in the third period.
That tally held up as the game-winner, Donato's first with the Sharks.
"I liked him there. I liked that line there," Sharks coach Bob Boughner said of Donato and his line during a postgame video conference with reporters. " ... I thought they gave us exactly what we needed at the right time of the game. That was a big couple of shifts they had at the end of the second period. I thought it gave us a little momentum going into the dressing room, and of course the wraparound, the winning goal [was important]."
The Sharks didn't rely on Donato or his linemates nearly as much as they did on, say, embattled goaltender Martin Jones, who stopped 41 of 42 shots in his third straight start allowing just one goal. Gabriel (6:26), Leonard (8:12) and Donato (8:43) played the least of any Sharks, and the trio only played 5:04 together 5-on-5, according to Natural Stat Trick.
In their ice time, though, the Sharks attempted eight shots to the Kings' four, generating as many scoring chances and only three against. San Jose also created four high-danger chances to LA's one during that time.
None of the Sharks' top three lines accounted for as many 5-on-5 scoring chances, high-danger chances and expected goals as San Jose's fourth forward combination.
"I think, for one, Lenny's obviously got some crazy speed and he can make plays," Donato said when asked about his linemates. "For Gabes, I think there's definitely a presence when he's on the ice, and guys maybe tend to turn over more pucks than they usually would when he's forechecking and finishing checks every shift. They're definitely great to play with."
Gabriel fought Kings defenseman Kurtis MacDermid in the first period, and Leonard wristed a shot off the post with 31 seconds remaining in the second. Both players have been in and out of the lineup this season, and they certainly earned another look -- and a longer one -- in the Sharks' rematch against the Kings on Wednesday.
Donato could get another chance at center as well, depending on the Sharks' health ahead of their next game. The 24-year-old now has 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in 30 games, and he's on pace to set a new career high in points.
"I thought Ryan did a really nice job there tonight," Boughner said. "He gave us a lot of juice that we needed from that fourth line."