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Sharks, Evander Kane reminding NHL who they are during winning streak

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AP

Sharks, Evander Kane reminding NHL who they are during winning streak

The Sharks are riding their first three-game winning streak since before Thanksgiving, and Evander Kane is a major reason why.

In Thursday's 3-2 overtime win over the New Jersey Devils, he had the primary assist on Logan Couture's game-winning goal.

In Saturday's 5-0 blowout victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, Kane got the scoring barrage started with the game's opening goal.

Then, in Tuesday's impressive 5-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, he opened the scoring once again, and added an insurance marker in the third period for good measure.

The standings might not reflect it, but as Kane and San Jose have proven over the first three games of its current undefeated homestand, it would be unwise to overlook the Sharks on the schedule.

"We obviously haven't had the type of success we wanted this year for whatever reason, but you look at us on paper, even with some of the guys we have out of our lineup, we're a pretty darn good team," Kane said after the win over Toronto. "On paper. We've just got to put it together. We've had a lot of success over the years here, and we just want to finish the year off on a strong note and put a little reminder out that we're still the San Jose Sharks and we're going to be tough to beat every night."

Outside of an awful first period against the Devils, the Sharks have lived up to Kane's words. They've outscored their opponents 13-4 over the last three games, and scored nine unanswered goals stretching from the second period of the win over New Jersey through the first period of Tuesday's victory.

While the lowly Devils aren't a playoff team, both the Penguins and Maple Leafs are very likely to qualify for the postseason and would have to be considered two of the more talented teams in the league. Despite missing several key players, San Jose has taken each of their best punches, and then delivered significant blows to both.

"I think we've kind of made up our minds as a group, as players, that we want to -- I said it the other game -- ruin some seasons for some teams and be as destructive as we possibly can down the stretch," Kane explained.

The Sharks don't have a playoff berth to realistically fight for, but they don't lack for motivation. From a team perspective, in addition to playing the role of spoiler, San Jose has 16 more regular-season games with which to generate momentum for next season. And there are individual motivations, too. Some players are trying to prove they belong at the NHL level, while others, like goaltender Martin Jones, are hoping to more permanently establish themselves in the lineup.

Jones, who has started all three wins on the homestand, appears to be finding a groove and is currently playing as well as he has all season.

[RELATED: Jones seizing control of Sharks' ongoing goalie competition]

"When he's on the top of his game like he has been these last three, we're a real hard team to beat," Kane said of Jones. "We're going to make mistakes, and when he can bail us out, and when we can give him some run support, too -- which we haven't done a good job of this year -- we're a top team in the league. We just haven't shown it this year consistently enough."

Indeed, it's quite likely too little, too late for San Jose. The combination of injuries to key players and sheer bad luck created a hole that the team doesn't appear to have enough remaining time to dig out of. Too often this season did San Jose not look anything like the Sharks we're used to.

Lately, though, they're remembering who they are.

Sharks' Mario Ferraro is bright spot at center of franchise's future

Sharks' Mario Ferraro is bright spot at center of franchise's future

SAN JOSE -- At this time last year, Mario Ferraro was surrounded by similar-aged players while starring at the University of Massachusetts. But for the last five months, he has been the Sharks' youngest player, nearly half the age of his eldest teammate.

From the way the defenseman has performed in his first NHL season, you would think Ferraro was a five-year veteran. But frequently, as it was after he scored San Jose's first goal in a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night, his youthful energy is on display and infects all those around him.

The Sharks were dead in the water after the first period, trailing 2-0 with nothing good to point to. Ferraro changed that in a hurry in the second, as he scored just over two minutes into the frame, and proceeded to use that to fire up the rest of his teammates. Both the skill involved in scoring the goal, and the leadership shown afterward are qualities rarely found in a 21-year-old rookie.

"I try to be a leader wherever I go, no matter how old," Ferraro said after the much-needed win. "I think that everyone in this room is a leader in their own way. They bring something different to the game and to the rink every day. So, that's always something you try to do is try to lead by example. But, of course, I've got a lot of great people to follow in their footsteps around here. I'm trying to improve on my leadership and I only do that by learning from the great leaders that we have on this team already."

Of the elders whose footsteps Ferraro hopes to follow, there arguably isn't a better model than Marc-Edouard Vlasic. And, in fact, that process has already begun. Like Vlasic, Ferraro skipped the minors altogether and was immediately thrown into the fire at the NHL level after being drafted as a second-round pick. Vlasic is now in his 14th season, but this time, the shoe on the other foot. Now, he's the elder statesmen paired up with the standout rookie.

"It's been a lot of fun," Vlasic said of playing alongside Ferraro, as they did against the Devils. "He's very energetic, plays hard. He skates. He can move the puck really well."

There aren't many players who can speak to Ferraro's experience this season, but Vlasic is one of them. He's very impressed with his rookie counterpart, and appreciates the fact that the opportunities he has received have been earned and not simply given.

"It's tough, but he's doing a great job," Vlasic said of Ferraro's challenge of entering the league at such a young age. "He's playing against great players, he's playing hard like I said, and he's getting rewarded. He's playing a lot, but he's playing well, so that's why he's playing a lot."

[RELATED: What Kane hopes to teach young Sharks for rest of season]

Ferraro totaled 30 shifts and 23:54 of ice time in the win over the Devils, both of which are career-highs. His minutes have significantly increased as of late, though, and that's not by accident. Injuries and the trade deadline have created opportunities for younger players to take on larger roles, and through his play, Ferraro has done nothing but prove he deserves one.

"He always seems to be fired up and ready to go, and it's contagious," Sharks interim coach Bob Bougher described Ferraro. "I think he's a well-liked guy in the room, and for a rookie, he's not a quiet kid. He's not afraid to get in the middle of it off the ice, as well as on the ice. He has had a great season. You can see the maturity in his game, from the beginning of the season until now. He's playing in major situations, and his development has been great all year."

Not much has gone right for San Jose this season. At almost every opportunity where something could go wrong, it has. But Ferraro's growth and development is one of the few major exceptions. He has surpassed even the wildest of expectations, and as good as he has looked as a rookie, he is well on his way to becoming a franchise cornerstone on the back end.

He has been the bright spot of the Sharks' season. And the best surely is yet to come.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 3-2 comeback win in OT vs. Devils

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 3-2 comeback win in OT vs. Devils

BOX SCORE

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.

Strength re-established

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.

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.

[RELATED: What Kane hopes to teach young Sharks for rest of season]

Growing pains

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.