SAN JOSE -- The Sharks got a taste of redemption Thursday night, earning a 3-2 overtime win over the New Jersey Devils at SAP Center. Captain Logan Couture, playing in his second game since returning from a 17-game absence, scored 38 seconds into the extra session.
After dropping a 2-1 contest in New Jersey eight days prior, the Sharks turned the tables and split the season series with the Devils. It required a come-from-behind effort, as San Jose dug a significant 2-0 first-period hole.
The Sharks found their groove in the second frame, however, and maintained that surge throughout the rest of the game. With the victory, San Jose ended a five-game losing streak.
Here are three takeaways from what the Sharks hope is the start of a resurgent six-game homestand.
Black and white
Since taking over for Pete DeBoer, interim coach Bob Boughner has been adamant that he wants the Sharks to be a "hard" team to play against, one that isn't easily pushed over and never relents. They couldn't have been further from that in Thursday's first period.
The Sharks edged the Devils 12-5 in hits in the first period, but that was deceiving. In the moments when it truly mattered to bring a physical presence, San Jose provided the resistance of tissue paper.
On the Devils' first goal, for instance, the Sharks allowed Miles Wood to drive straight from behind their own net and across goaltender Martin Jones' crease. San Jose lost sight of the puck in the resulting collision at the side of the net, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic ended up accidentally pushing it across the line.
The Sharks went into the first intermission trailing 2-0. Whatever was said in the locker room in between periods certainly worked, because when San Jose returned to the ice, it looked like a completely different team.
The second period belonged to the Sharks, and they got back to the kind of style Boughner wants to see. They out-shot, out-hit and outdueled the Devils in the faceoff circle in the middle frame, and managed to tie things up going into the third.
At this point in the season, establishing an identity is more important to San Jose than points are. As upset as Boughner must have been after the first period, he had to (mostly) like what he saw from the Sharks from that point on.
There was about a 10-game stretch in mid-January when the Sharks' penalty kill -- which had been the team's undeniable strength all season long -- experienced a bit of a down spell. Any issues appear to have been solved, as San Jose's penalty kill has been back near top form over the last handful of games and was again Thursday night.
Not only did the Sharks kill all four of the Devils' power plays on the evening, but they also managed to score on one of them themselves. Joel Kellman and Marcus Sorensen combined for a perfectly executed 2-on-1 on a second-period kill, and Sorensen's resulting goal pulled San Jose even at 2-2. It was the Sharks' seventh short-handed goal of the season, which ranks in the top 10 in the NHL.
Sorensen ties it up 🙌 pic.twitter.com/yVGjbtZGTB— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) February 28, 2020
You don't often see bad teams ranking atop the league's special teams, but that's the case with San Jose. On one hand, the Sharks can be proud of how consistently strong they've been while short-handed this season. On the other, they must be disappointed that it hasn't meant much in the grand scheme of things.
After the trade deadline passed, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson insisted that the team would use the final 20 games of the season to see what some of the younger, lesser-proven players could provide. San Jose has been true to that word in the two games since, and as is often the case with youngsters, there seems to be a corresponding down for every up.
Thursday was no different.
New Jersey's second goal came immediately following a terrible defensive zone turnover by defenseman Jake Middleton. San Jose's first goal was scored by Mario Ferraro, and assisted by fellow rookie Noah Gregor. Shortly thereafter, Lean Bergmann -- playing in his first NHL game since Nov. 7 -- took a bad tripping penalty in the offensive zone, sapping much of the team's momentum. Several minutes later, Kellman made a tremendous cross-ice pass to find Sorensen for the tying goal.
Get used to the growing pains. This is who the Sharks are for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.