Toughness of Joe Pavelski, Timo Meier on display in Sharks' Game 1 win

Toughness of Joe Pavelski, Timo Meier on display in Sharks' Game 1 win

SAN JOSE -- There was a streak of dried blood under Timo Meier’s chin when he spoke to the press after the Sharks’ 5-2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday. The battle scar was evidence of when the stick of Vegas defenseman Jon Merrill caught the Swiss forward in the face with mere moments left in the first frame. Meier immediately bent over and grabbed his face, then headed straight to the dressing room before the period expired. But then, he took the ice at the start of the second frame, all stitched up as if nothing had happened. 

“it’s physical out there, sticks are coming up high, that’s the kind of stuff that happens in the playoffs,” Meier said cool as a cucumber following the victory. “Nothing that bothers me.”

Meier was one of two Sharks who exited the first period with a facial injury, the other being Joe Pavelski, who scored the opening goal of the game off his lip and didn’t return to the bench until partway through the second stanza with a visor covering his face. Losing two top-liners could have really put the Sharks in a tough spot. Seeing two key pieces of the lineup exit with injuries so early in a playoff series can really do a number on a team’s mental wherewithal. 

But the Sharks didn’t sag, and rallied behind their two injured teammates to take Game 1, 5-2.

“I think we earned that one, so that’s a good feeling,” Pavelski said to the press through a swollen lip and a mouth missing a couple of teeth. “We got what we needed as far as commitment.”

Meier agreed. “I think the big part is that everybody chipped in. We played a solid team game, all four lines were on tonight. Defensively, we didn’t give them much. That’s the way we have to play.”

Meier was especially complimentary of Pavelski and how the captain came back into the game. “He’s a tough guy coming back from that,” Meier complimented. “That’s playoff hockey character for him, coming out like that and playing a solid game.”

[RELATED: Watch Pavelski give Sharks the lead with goal off his face]

Head coach Peter DeBoer also, unsurprisingly, applauded Pavelski for returning to the game despite being banged up. “Tough as nails, to take a puck to the face and not go down,” DeBoer said. “He’s a warrior.”

Neither Pavelski nor Meier wasted any time getting right back to work once they returned to the ice, with Meier skating 23 total shifts over the course of the game and Pavelski skating 21. (Their linemate Logan Couture skated 26 shifts altogether.) With the two forwards back on the ice, San Jose was better able to roll four offensive lines and march to victory.

Of course, now the focus turns to how healthy both players will be for Game 2. While he appears no worse for wear, Pavelski admitted he has to have his stitched-up mouth looked at ahead of Game 2 and will “see how they feel.” Meanwhile, San Jose still has to get ready for their next game against Vegas, which could potentially be even tougher than Game 1.

“They’re going to come out harder,” Meier said. “We have to be better than we were today, that’s the playoffs. You’ve got to always take a step after every game.”

Coming from a player who played with a couple new stitches in his face, it isn’t hard to believe the Sharks are capable of that.

Sharks credit perfect penalty kill in sealing big win over Hurricanes

Sharks credit perfect penalty kill in sealing big win over Hurricanes

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks' 5-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night was no easy feat.

In fact, the team was fairly unhappy with how they played in the first period at SAP Center, despite heading into the first intermission with a 3-1 lead. 

But the Sharks were happy with was how their special teams propelled them to their third straight win. Although a potent power play helped get them on the board early, the penalty kill made the biggest difference.

"Our penalty kill, we've taken a lot of pride in it for a long time," coach Peter DeBoer said. "It's been good for a few years here."

The Sharks ended the night with the NHL's third-best penalty kill with a 91.7 percent success rate. San Jose has not allowed a power-play goal in each of its last three wins.

Evander Kane's first-period hat trick gave the Sharks a boost, but they spent too much time in their own zone at even strength Wednesday. The Hurricanes, who were playing the second night of a back-to-back, gave San Jose netminder Martin Jones plenty of work to do. Carolina dominated the shot clock and had the game's better chances.

But when things got extra interesting in the second period and the Sharks got into penalty trouble, their kill came to the rescue. Barclay Goodrow, a mainstay on San Jose's penalty kill, credited the Sharks' short-handed success to their pace.

"We're moving our feet, we're pressuring the opposition," he summarized. "We're forcing them to make plays a little quicker than they would like to. I think that, and we're blocking shots. And we're getting clears when we want to, so it's going well."

The Hurricanes had a golden opportunity to climb out of their two-goal hole late in the second period. Goodrow and Patrick Marleau simultaneously sat in the penalty box for hooking minors, giving Carolina 46 seconds on the 5-on-3. 

But with help from Jones, the Sharks penalty kill kept the 'Canes off the scoreboard.

"Your goalie's always your best penalty killer," DeBoer said. "He was really solid. I thought that first period [the score] could've been 3-3. He's given us two really good games in a row."

[RELATED: Watch Kane score Sharks' first-ever first-period hat trick]

While every game carries its own momentum, the Sharks undoubtedly would like for the success of their penalty kill to carry over into their next game.

The Sharks close out their three-game homestand Saturday night against the Buffalo Sabres, who currently have the second-best power play in the league. As a result, San Jose knows its penalty kill will once again be a key point. 

"We're going to be playing a good Buffalo team," Sharks captain Logan Couture observed. "I think they lost tonight but they've been playing very, very well. Their power play is very hot. So it'll be a good test for us."

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-2 win over red-hot Hurricanes

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-2 win over red-hot Hurricanes

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks knew the Carolina Hurricanes would be a big test Wednesday night at SAP Center. If that test was being graded, you would be hard-pressed not to give them an A.

Fueled by Evander Kane's first-period hat trick and a potent power play, the Sharks played perhaps their best game to date and stymied the Hurricanes in a 5-2 win.

Here are three takeaways from San Jose's third straight win.

Evander Kane, obviously

When a player becomes the first in Sharks history to score a hat trick before the first period ended, not giving him his own takeaway would be a crime. 

Kane's first goal deserves some recognition because of how quickly he scooped up the loose puck at Tomas Hertl's feet to chip it past Hurricanes netminder James Reimer.

But his next two power-play goals were also impressive, and his third was downright Pavelskian.

The Sharks struggled to get traffic in front of the net during their winless start, but Kane and his teammates have been much better lately getting in the goalie's grill. On Wednesday night, that effort paid off. Big time.

Martin Jones keeps rolling

When Jones made a swift glove save on Teuvo Teravainen 1:07 into the game, you could tell he was about to have another strong outing.

The 'Canes spent most of the game in the Sharks' zone, and Carolina dominated the shot clock for the duration. But Jones was in the zone.

The Sharks won't be happy that Jones faced a lot of strong chances, even if San Jose collectively did a better job at minimizing the turnovers in this game. At least with both goaltenders playing well, the Sharks have a better chance of keeping those mistakes out of the back of their net.

[RELATED: Sharks' Labanc keeping focus on future after turnaround]

A special night for the power play and penalty kill

When the Sharks' special teams were in a rough state at the very start of the season, coach Peter DeBoer said he wasn't worried about it. He had a feeling it would figure itself out, and he was right.

In addition to Kane's two power-play goals, the Sharks penalty kill came up big in the second period when they killed off the Hurricanes' two-man advantage. Even though Carolina was visibly tired due to playing on the tail end of a back-to-back, the Eastern Conference leaders were still getting some good looks in front of Jones. The Sharks penalty kill, however, was on point. 

That bodes well for Saturday when the Sharks host the Buffalo Sabres, who currently have the NHL's second-best power play.