Sharks bounce back, beat reigning champion Penguins
BATTLE OF THE BACKUPS
Aaron Dell out-duelled Casey DeSmith, and the San Jose Sharks skated away with a 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Just like everyone surely predicted when the schedule was released.
Tomas Hertl scored the game-winning, power play goal 1:53 into third period, and Dell stopped every shot he faced in the third period to preserve the one-goal lead. Timo Meier tied the game 17:44 into the first period, nearly 14-and-a-half minutes after Penguins forward Conor Sheary opened the scoring.
Saturday marked San Jose's first win against Pittsburgh since June 9, 2016, Game 5 of that year's Stanley Cup Final. The Sharks are now 4-1-0 since their bye week.
While starter Martin Jones was on the mend, Aaron Dell stood tall in his absence.
Dell stopped 31 of the 32 shots he faced, and has allowed two goals or fewer in 10 of his 14 starts this season. Those waiting for the other skate to drop on the second-year goaltender will probably have to keep waiting, as Dell's now up to a .929 save percentage in his short career.
Regardless of Jones' health, Dell may just be San Jose's better option in net right now.
Penguins blueliner Jamie Oleksiak's cross-checking penalty proved to be ill-advised at best.
When Oleksiak went to the box 1:49 into the third period, the Penguins out-attempted the Sharks 44-39 in five-on-five situations, and only trailed 29-26 in five-on-five unblocked shot attempts, according to hockeystats.ca. In other words, it was an even game up to that point, until Tomas Hertl capitalized four seconds into Oleksiak's penalty.
That goal ultimately proved to be the difference in a game of thin margins.
Sharks goaltender Martin Jones missed the game, and will miss Sunday's game against Anaheim, with a lower-body injury. Head coach Peter DeBoer said the injury is unrelated to the injury that caused Jones to miss games in late November.
On Friday, the Sharks recalled netminder Troy Grosenick to back up Dell. Jannik Hansen and Tim Heed were healthy scratches.
Penguins goalie Matt Murray is out indefinitely after the death of his father. Carter Rowney (upper-body) and Chad Ruhwedel (upper-body) are on injured reserve, while Bryan Rust (upper-body) is on long-term injured reserve. Ian Cole and Daniel Sprong were healthy scratches for Pittsburgh.
The Sharks flew to Anaheim after the game, and will play the Ducks at Honda Center Sunday at 6:00 p.m.