It ended up being another close game between Sharks and the Arizona Coyotes in the last game before the Christmas break.
Things looked bleak for San Jose as the last few minutes of regulation wound down at SAP Center, but it was able to ride a two-goal effort by Tomas Hertl into overtime. The road to the holiday break carried all the way into the shootout, with the Desert Dogs ultimately picking up a 4-3 win.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Two words: Tomas. Hertl.
Of the herd of players who pushed the hardest to get the Sharks over the hump, Hertl was at the forefront of that group. He shined alongside Logan Couture and Timo Meier, and then did the same centering Kevin Labanc and Evander Kane after San Jose's forward lines were thrown into a blender. No wonder Hertl has notched five multi-point games over his last eight.
The forward’s mix of speed and physicality on his two-goal third period was a sight to be seen. Hertl muscled his way down the ice to score San Jose’s second goal, and he had perfect presence in front of the net to notch the tying goal. His relentless fight fueled the rest of the team as they sent the contest into overtime.
Tim Heed stepped up to the plate
Perhaps the biggest question heading into Sunday’s game was how Heed would perform as he filled in for Erik Karlsson, while the two-time Norris Trophy winner served the first game of a two-game suspension. Heed had not played since Nov. 23, but he’s been grinding away at Sharks’ practices during that time.
When he got the call to fill in Sunday, he more than rose to the occasion.
Heed opened the scoring for San Jose by blasting the puck past the league’s top penalty kill. With the Sharks on their first chance of the evening on the man advantage, Joe Thornton patiently fed the puck to Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who set up Heed’s slap shot for the power-play goal.
The lead didn't last long, as the Coyotes tied it up 20 seconds later.
Maybe the break is coming at a good time?
The Sharks didn’t play terribly, but a lot of the team looked tired -- particularly in the second period. Of course, spending an extended amount of time on the penalty kill in that frame can do that. But given the schedule they’ve maintained heading into the holiday break, it isn’t too surprising.
Having a designated three-day break could be exactly what this team needs. Between the rigorous road schedule at the start of their campaign and the multiple back-to-backs they’ve played, the Sharks likely will benefit from having a couple days away from the rink before they host the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday.