SAN JOSE -- Few teams in the NHL have struggled as much as the Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins as of late, with both squads each earning just one win in their last six tries entering their battle on Saturday night. But after what took place at SAP Center, it would be unfair to continue including San Jose in that group.
In what began as a highly competitive game, the Sharks ended up prevailing 5-0. San Jose didn't break through until late in the opening period, but seemed to get stronger and stronger from that point on. Five different players scored for the Sharks, and nine registered points.
The victory gave San Jose (28-33-4) consecutive home wins for the first time since Jan. 9-11, and completed the series sweep of the Penguins (37-21-6) after the Sharks won 3-2 in overtime in Pittsburgh back on Jan. 2. Meanwhile, the Pens suffered their sixth straight defeat, doubling their next longest losing streak of the season.
Here are three takeaways from one of the Sharks' more complete efforts this season:
Much of San Jose's recent struggles can be attributed to a lack of scoring, and specifically from the top of the lineup. The Sharks are giving chances to younger players as the season winds down, and several of them have already produced in limited opportunities, but the team simply won't be able to consistently win if the usual suspects aren't leading the charge.
San Jose interim coach Bob Boughner has been looking for more production from his top lines, and it looks like that message has been received. Logan Couture got things started by scoring the game-winner in overtime against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, and Evander Kane and Timo Meier kept it going by notching the Sharks' first two goals against the Penguins.
Kane's goal, which came on a partial breakaway late in the first period, ended a six-game goalless drought. Meier doubled San Jose's advantage in the second frame, and ended a five-game drought of his own in the process. For good measure, Couture tipped in Mario Ferraro's shot from the point in the third period for his second goal since returning from a 17-game absence.
Kane now leads the Sharks with 22 goals, with Meier one behind him and Couture tied for third with Tomas Hertl with 16. All three guys would tell you they haven't had the kind of seasons they expected of themselves, but they still have an opportunity to finish the season with some pretty good numbers.
Martin Jones' numbers won't look good at the end of the season, but they'll look a lot better with more performances like the one he had Saturday night.
Few teams have the sheer star power that the Penguins possess, but Jones was equal to the task, stopping all 30 shots he faced for his second shutout of the season, both of which have come this month. While he certainly got some help from the iron -- Pittsburgh hit at least two posts on the night -- Jones was a steady presence in net throughout, and particularly so on the penalty kill.
With the win, Jones earned victories in consecutive starts for the first time since Nov. 29-30. He and Aaron Dell had alternated each of the previous seven games, but Boughner decided to stick with Jones after the win over the Devils. It's still more likely than not than Jones will be back with the Sharks next season, and any momentum he can generate throughout the remainder of the current campaign would provide some clarity for San Jose heading into the offseason.
Most of the Sharks' goals came from the usual suspects, but one that didn't originated from what appears to be a blossoming connection between fellow countrymen.
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In Thursday's win over New Jersey, Joel Kellman made a terrific cross-ice pass to set up Marcus Sorensen for a short-handed goal. Against the Penguins, the two Swedes combined for another score, but this time, Sorensen returned the favor. Just over three minutes after Meier put San Jose up 2-0, Sorensen drove down the right side of the offensive zone before making a nifty drop pass to Kellman, who proceeded to go five-hole on Pittsburgh goalie Tristan Jarry.
Both Kellman and Sorensen now have three-game points streaks and are seizing the opportunity in front of them. Based on the chemistry they've shown together, one would imagine Boughner will keep them on the same line moving forward.