SAN JOSE - For the first time in a long time, the Sharks looked like, well, the Sharks.
You know, the team fans had become accustomed to watching over the last several seasons. The team that can go up against a tough Western Conference opponent and put on a show. The team that has, also, been pretty absent for the majority of the current season.
San Jose didn't just tally their third straight win on Saturday against the Nashville Predators. They defeated a really good team by playing solid 60-plus minutes of hockey. And in the end, they were rewarded with a 2-1 shootout victory -- a victory they can feel proud of.
"I think this is the first game where, right from the start, that no matter what the score was, we felt like we were playing our game and we weren't too worried about what they were doing," Erik Karlsson said after the win. "It feels like we're finally starting to look like the team we're supposed to be."
Despite winning their previous contest 6-5, the Sharks were not happy with their overall effort. Going up on a team 4-0 in the first period and then getting outscored 5-2 for the rest of the game isn't going to make any team happy. So while San Jose didn't score as many goals on Saturday against Nashville, they were significantly happier with their 60-minute effort. And when the Predators tallied the first goal of the night during the second period, the Sharks kept grinding until Tomas Hertl buried the equalizer in the third frame.
"One of the better efforts from our group," captain Logan Couture observed. "They had a few chances, but I thought we had better looks. We stuck with it and got that goal to tie it up, which was big."
Hertl himself agreed. "I'm really happy about our team tonight because all 60 minutes were great," he said. "It was the best game of the season, against a really good team."
That's the real kicker there -- that the Sharks beat a good team. Sure, they had a two-game winning streak going into Saturday's contest. But those were wins over the Chicago Blackhawks and the Minnesota Wild, two clubs who have been struggling just as the Sharks have.
To beat a playoff contender like Nashville is what San Jose needed to boost their confidence.
"We needed to beat a good team like this," head coach Peter DeBoer said. "We knew it would be a good test. We've put together some good spurts of hockey here over the last week. I like some of the things we've been doing but we haven't been doing it enough. We haven't done it against a team like that this year. There were a lot of good signs. Hopefully, we can turn the corner here."
Which is, of course, the next step. The Sharks close out their current homestand against the Pacific Division-leading Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday and still have a ways to go before they get to .500 hockey for the first time this season. San Jose's best bet is to keep playing exactly as they did on Saturday against the Predators.
"We have to, every night, play like that because we need the points right now," Hertl said. "But It was a really great effort. I think we deserve the two points tonight. We have to just keep going."