SAN JOSE -- The Sharks might’ve been playing their second contest in the four-game homestand on Sunday evening. But you have to admit, they looked a little like a team not-so-fresh off a road trip in the first period against the Chicago Blackhawks.
“I thought the road trip caught up to us more energy-wise than it did the other night,” head coach Peter DeBoer admitted afterward, recalling the team’s recent swing through the East Coast.
Despite a less-than-favorable start, they found a way to right the ship. The Sharks built up momentum as the contest went on, and burst out with a big third period to defeat the Blackhawks 5-2. There’s no denying that late-game push was big for the home team.
“It’s huge,” Timo Meier said of taking control of the game in the final 20 minutes. “You’ve got to find a way to win games. In the third period, it doesn’t matter if you’re back one goal or up with the lead.”
The score was knotted up 2-2 heading into that final frame. Each goal San Jose tallied in the first 40 minutes, Chicago had an answer for. Even though the Sharks had a visible boost in the second stanza after DeBoer shuffled up the forward lines, they went into the second intermission tied with the opposition and outshot 23-21.
This made their dominance in the final frame even better because, as Joe Pavelski pointed out, the playoffs are full of games that are close like that.
“Our third was the best, which was encouraging because it was 2-2. We’re going to be in that position quite a bit moving forward,” the captain explained.
Sunday’s contest also marks another home victory for the Sharks, who still play 10 of their last 16 regular-season games at the Tank. No matter what time of the season it is, they want to make a statement on home ice.
“We’re trying to close the gap on Calgary and we’re at home,” DeBoer said. “We’ve been good at home all year and our challenge here is to win the games we’re supposed to win at home.”
While every team tries to stay focused on what their squad is doing and what they can control, it’s not surprising that Calgary factors into that equation. With their win over Chicago, the Sharks move within three points of the first-place Flames in the division standings. It doesn’t matter who the Sharks are facing from here on out -- they want to be ready to play the high-level hockey that comes after the regular season.