SAN JOSE – Some fans and spectators likely expected that the Sharks were going to steamroll the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night. And why not?
Just look at their matchups thus far this season. San Jose shut Vancouver out 4-0 in November, and walloped on the Canucks' rookie goaltender less than a week ago to win 7-2.
However, the Sharks had a much tougher task at hand when the Canucks – who are in the hunt to snag a wild-card spot in the Western Conference – put up quite a fight on Saturday. But not only were the Sharks prepared for the game to be a little tougher, they were happy with how they buckled down to grind out a 3-2 win.
“Every night, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing, you expect a pretty close game,” explained captain Joe Pavelski, who scored the Sharks’ game-winning goal. “A pretty hard-fought game. We knew they were going to come out with a little more energy. They’ve got some good skill over there.”
“They’re a scrappy team, they’re fighting for the playoff life and I thought they played that way," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer echoed. "I thought they played with a lot of energy and desperation. And that made it hard on us.”
That level of difficulty, though, is something DeBoer expects on a nightly basis down the stretch.
“We had to work for a win tonight and that’s how it should be,” he said.
Although Saturday might not have been the Sharks’ cleanest game, there was a noticeable fight in the way they played. Timo Meier, who scored San Jose’s first goal 3:45 into the game, added to that bite just two nights after the Sharks' loss to the Washington Capitals.
“I think everybody battled, especially after the game we had against Washington,” the forward said. “It wasn’t an easy win for us tonight.”
That lack of ease was in part because of San Jose’s frequent trips to the penalty box. Although the penalty kill was a flawless 0-for-4, Vancouver had too many opportunities to swing the momentum back in its favor.
“We got caught in penalty trouble, so they got a little bit of momentum and they felt good playing with the puck,” Pavelski observed. “We were defending a lot in those situations.”
At the end of the night, though, the Sharks will happily take getting back in the win column. As the race for playoff positions in the West tightens up – and the jostle for first place between the Sharks and Calgary Flames becomes even more intense – this type of grind-it-out win will do.