Sharks

Ward's sacrifice keys 'bounce-back' game for Sharks

Ward's sacrifice keys 'bounce-back' game for Sharks

SAN JOSE – Joel Ward has been in the league long enough to know that the Sharks got outworked and outhustled in their decisive loss to the Blues on Saturday.

That could be why he put his body on the line in the second period against the Jets on Monday afternoon at SAP Center. Ward hustled to a loose puck along the wall with the Sharks holding a slim 1-0 lead and slipped it ahead to Chris Tierney, before getting absolutely plastered by Mark Stuart on a hit as big as you’ll see in today’s NHL.

While Ward was sluggish to get up as a result of his head bouncing off the ice surface, Tierney gave it to Timo Meier, who finished off a breakaway goal early in the second period.

While he was seeing stars from what he called a “clean hit,” Ward also heard the goal horn.

“I tried to get the puck out, obviously, and next thing I knew I was on my back and heard the horn go off,” he said. “I wasn’t too sure what happened after that.”

What happened was a 5-2 Sharks win, two days after one of their worst performances of the season, a 4-0 home defeat to St. Louis. San Jose withstood an early push by the visiting Jets but took over the game in the second period, particularly after Ward’s sacrifice.

"That's the commitment we talk about,” Pete DeBoer said. “Taking that hit, making that play, [Meier] scores the goal. We need that. Joel's a guy that brings that to the rink almost every night. That's what it's going to take at this time of year in order to have success."

In a rare afternoon start, the Sharks looked sleepy in the beginning. The Jets were the better team for the first few minutes, but Martin Jones made sure they didn’t get on the board. He made a key stop on a Shawn Matthias one-timer just 1:29 into the first period, and then bailed out David Schlemko on a defensive zone turnover a few minutes later, again denying Matthias.

The Sharks went to the penalty kill after Schlemko’s cross-checking minor at 11:39, but Ward scored 15 seconds after that, picking the corner over Michael Hutchinson for a pretty shorthanded marker. He correctly read a Justin Braun clearing attempt, when Braun rimmed it past Dustin Byfuglien, who couldn’t keep it in at the blue line. 

After that, “just kind of saw glove side and fired it there as quick as I could,” Ward said.

That led to a dominant second period for San Jose. Along with Meier’s goal, Brent Burns scored on a power play and the slumping Jets were noticeably deflated from there.

Jones said the Jets “came out real hard,” but, “that’s pretty much all [my teammates] needed from me today. You can’t really ask for much more than that from the guys. They put up five, and slowed down a pretty fast team.”

Tierney said: “Joner did a great job of keeping us in it and not giving up a goal there and putting us behind. After that, we kind of got it going a bit and started playing our game.”

There was even some late comedy. Trailing 4-1 at the time, Jets coach Paul Maurice decided to take Hutchinson out for an extra attacker. Jones noticed the empty net and was lining up a shot after he retrieved a dump-in. It didn’t go more than a foot in front of him, though, as Mark Scheifele blocked it and slipped it into an empty net.

Jones could be seen grinning through his mask, while Tierney said he was “laughing on the bench.”

“That’s the first time I’ve tried [shooting at an empty net], and probably the last, too,” Jones said.

In total, Monday's result offered quite the change in mood from Saturday’s whipping.

DeBoer said: “I don't think anyone in our room was happy with how last game went. It was a good bounce-back game."

“It was definitely good today to rebound, and get back to winning,” Ward said.

Erik Karlsson relieved to score but focused on winning with Sharks

Erik Karlsson relieved to score but focused on winning with Sharks

SAN JOSE — Scoring your first goal of the season certainly is cause for celebration. Maybe even some extra-exuberant cheering and shouting. 

After defenseman Erik Karlsson scored his first goal as a Shark in their 4-0 win over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night, there were rumors he’d let some choice language fly.

“I don’t know if I said it in Swedish or English,” he jokingly told the media after the game at SAP Center. “If I said it in English, unfortunately it might be out there. If not, then you’re going to have to play the guessing game.”

Not that anyone could blame him for using some colorful verbiage. The pressure on the Swedish defenseman has been incredibly high since he arrived in San Jose at the start of training camp in September.

While he’s been contributing to the team on the back end during the Sharks' six-game homestand, Karlsson’s continued lack of goal production had his critics whipped into a frenzy. 

Finally notching that elusive goal helped put his entire body of work thus far into perspective.

“He’s been playing some really good hockey, and he’s been really solid for us lately,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. 

“It’s nice to see one go in here for him tonight,” forward Joe Pavelski complimented. “He wants to contribute. He has, in a lot of ways, just maybe not in the goal department.”

Karlsson has been pitching in as a helper on San Jose’s goals over the homestand, including in the second period of Saturday’s game when he set up Evander Kane’s tally to give the Sharks a 3-0 lead. He’s now riding a three-game assist streak with five points (one goal, four assists) in his last three games.

“I’ve been feeling good all year. It just hasn’t worked out on the score sheet,” Karlsson said. “But sometimes, that’s the way it is.”

The defenseman admitted he felt a sense of relief after he notched that first goal on the season, but he also emphasized he’s more concerned with how it helped the Sharks get a bounce-back victory over the Blues. 

“I think the win was extra good after the game against (the Toronto Maple Leafs),” Karlsson said. “I don’t think we played well there. To have this game tonight was important for us, and it shows character in the room.”

Now with that first goal out of the way, Karlsson’s critics perhaps can leave him to focus on helping his team win more games.

“I’m not here to play an individual game,” he summarized. “It’s nice to finally get one in the back of the net. But at the end of the day, this is a great win.”

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 4-0 shutout win over Blues

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 4-0 shutout win over Blues

SAN JOSE -– After being shut out 4-0 by Chad Johnson and the St. Louis Blues just eight days ago, the Sharks were looking for payback.

Boy, did they get it Saturday night. 

Fueled by Erik Karlsson’s first goal as a member of the Sharks, San Jose got back to its roots and put up an all-around defensive effort to pummel the Blues by a score of -– drumroll, please -– 4-0. 

Here are three takeaways from the game at SAP Center:

Karlsson’s big night

It took 21 games — and, as one fan on Twitter pointed out, exactly 65 days since he was acquired from Ottawa — but the two-time Norris Trophy winner finally found the back of the net.

Of course he also did it in epic fashion, banging home a one-timer that Johnson didn’t even see coming. You could see the relief on Karlsson’s face as the cameras zoomed in on him after the goal.

With that elusive first marker out of the way, it doesn’t hurt to wonder if that goal will open the floodgates. Karlsson’s individual game has visibly improved over the Sharks’ current six-game homestand, Saturday was his second consecutive game with two points, and his third n a row with at least one. 

Dell was a brick wall

Aaron Dell wasn’t tested as much this time around as he was against the Blues eight days ago. Nevertheless, the Sharks’ backup goalie made the big saves when he needed to on his way to registering his first career win against St. Louis.

Dell was particularly impressive in the third period. He stood tall to stop Vladimir Tarasenko from putting the Blues on the board just 10 seconds into the frame, and continued to stand his ground as St. Louis built momentum and tried to pin San Jose in its own end.

Identity found?

Following the Sharks’ 5-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, captain Joe Pavelski told the media the team wasn’t playing up to its identity as a defensively sound unit. Against the Blues, the Sharks’ sound defensive game was on full display.

It also didn’t hurt that multiple players had multi-point games in addition to Karlsson. Pavelski himself scored two goals, giving him 13 in 21 games, good for fourth in the NHL. New linemate Logan Couture assisted on three of San Jose’s four goals, including both of Pavelski’s. Timo Meier also pitched in as a helper on both of Pavelski’s goals.