SAN JOSE -- The Sharks didn’t exactly travel along the easiest road en route to beating the Arizona Coyotes 3-2 in overtime Saturday night.
For starters, they were playing their first game after a long break -- a situation that sets up any team to be a little rusty. Then, they went up against a sturdy performance from Coyotes netminder Darcy Kuemper. To top it all off, the AHL Barracuda had played a matinee game just a couple of hours before, and the SAP Center ice wasn’t at its best.
“The game was difficult to play,” Sharks forward Logan Couture admitted. “Both teams coming off a long stretch without playing hockey. Throw in the ice because there was a game earlier today. By the end, I think both teams were exhausted, but it’s good to get the two points.”
Sure, Saturday’s game was looser than what San Jose wants to play at this point in the season. But the rust was shed midgame, and a strong second period helped set up a victory. That's definitely a positive sign for a team that wants to power through the last 30 games of the season and have a deep playoff run.
“It’s an entertaining game for fans because you’ve got breakaways and 2-on-1s and a lot of odd-man attacks that you normally don’t see this time of year,” Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said, chuckling a bit. “I think as we get back and going, everything will tighten up again.”
Defenseman Justin Braun agreed: “Coming off the break, you’re trying to find your game. But I thought for both teams it was good effort overall. I thought the ice was a little choppy after the game this afternoon, but I think both teams did a good job out there.”
Both teams, in fact, weren't polished before Conor Garland scored the game-opening goal for Arizona. San Jose had the better-looking chances of the two teams, but a turnover in the Sharks' zone allowed the opposition to get on the board. They, however, chose to not let the mounting adversity get to them.
“The bench didn’t get down,” Couture said. “We stayed positive. I thought we were playing really well, given the circumstances and found a way to win.”
That’s the type of mentality the Sharks need to maintain moving through the last 29 games of the regular season. San Jose is just four points out of first place in the Pacific Division, with some crucial matchups coming up on its schedule, including the division-leading Calgary Flames this upcoming week. But the Sharks aren't yet focused on the standings, according to Braun.
“You can’t look at what other teams are doing," he said. "You have to take care of your business every night."
DeBoer echoed that same sentiment when asked what the message was to the team going forward.
“We really want to play some really good hockey here down the last 30 games,” he said. “We think large pieces of our game are in a good place, but there are some areas we want to clean up a little bit. The whole key to playoff hockey is making sure you’re playing well this time of year on. That’s our focus.”