The Sharks weren't thinking "here we go again" after yet another subpar second period Saturday.
San Jose blew a three-goal lead against the St. Louis Blues in the middle frame at Enterprise Center, seeming set to follow the same script the Sharks have all too often this season. But during the second intermission, coach Bob Boughner implored his players to not allow the frustration of missed penalty calls and missed opportunities to affect their game, and the Sharks (7-7-2) responded with one of their best third periods of the season to clinch a 5-4 win over the Blues (10-6-2).
"I'm pretty proud of the guys," Boughner told reporters Saturday in a postgame video conference. "I thought that that was a character period. Easy to get rattled when you give up a three-goal lead, and we just kept comin'. We played a really good period."
After allowing a glut of quality looks in the second period, the Sharks shut the door in the third. San Jose, according to Natural Stat Trick, held a 6-2 edge in 5-on-5 scoring chances, a 3-0 advantage in high-danger chances and a 0.46-0.12 edge in expected goals. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk, making his first start in two weeks, only needed to make eight saves in the third period to pick up his first win of the season.
The Sharks' stingy defense ensured that Logan Couture's second goal of the night, a deflected shot through layers of traffic with 8:09 remaining, stood as the game-winner.
Couture and linemate Evander Kane combined to score three of the Sharks' five goals, routinely pinning the Blues in their own end. In Couture, Kane and Kevin Labanc's 13:15 together, San Jose had a 12-6 edge in 5-on-5 shot attempts and an 8-1 edge in scoring chances. Rudolfs Balcers, Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier weren't far behind as a trio, with the Sharks out-attempting the Blues 16-5 and out-chancing them 7-1 in that line's 10:34 together Saturday.
Balcers, for his part, scored his first goal with the Sharks 3:48 into the second period.
"When we get performances like that throughout the lineup up front, it's why we're scoring," Couture said Saturday. "We scored five goals tonight. We've had a tough time scoring goals throughout the season, but when we play like that, we're gonna find the back of the net."
Following the win, the Sharks flew back to San Jose ahead of what will be the team's longest homestand of the season. The Sharks are scheduled to play eight consecutive games at SAP Center, beginning Monday against the Minnesota Wild.
The Wild (8-6-0) currently have the inside track to fourth place -- and the last playoff spot -- in the Western Division, and the Sharks will also play the Blues (twice), the Colorado Avalanche (twice) and the Vegas Golden Knights (three times) during their next eight games. This stretch is perhaps the most difficult of San Jose's schedule, and will determine what -- if any -- hope for a playoff push is left.
The Sharks didn't buckle Saturday when a 3-0 lead turned into a 4-4 tie in a span of a little more than 16 minutes, and Boughner hopes that's a sign of things to come moving forward.
"I think our game's maturing, and I think it starts with our best players and our leadership group," Boughner said. "You see Kaner, and Cooch, and Tommy Hertl and Timo ... kind of take over the game, I think it just brings everybody along, and I think that's really what happened tonight."