Winnipeg Jets

Joe Pavelski's game-winner vs. Jets symbolic of clutch Sharks' tenure

Joe Pavelski's game-winner vs. Jets symbolic of clutch Sharks' tenure

Programming note: Joe Pavelski's game-winning goal in the Sharks' thrilling, last-second 2019 victory over the Winnipeg Jets will re-air on Saturday, April 4 at 9 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay California.

What a game. What a finish.

Joe Pavelski served as captain in multiple capacities throughout his time with the Sharks. Captain of San Jose, Captain America, and frequently, Captain Clutch. On March 12, 2019 against the Winnipeg Jets, both bookend descriptions were apt.

The Sharks entered the game on quite a run. They were undefeated in March, riding a five-game winning streak, including an impressive 3-0 road shutout over the Minnesota Wild the night before. Marc-Edouard Vlasic got San Jose on the board first, but Winnipeg responded with two goals over the ensuing 65 seconds, an early sign that the Sharks would have their hands full.

San Jose pulled even before the first intermission, and both sides managed to score once in the second period. Precisely two minutes into the third, Marcus Sorensen gave the Sharks their first lead since Vlasic's opening goal, but Matheiu Perreault knotted things up for the Jets with less than four minutes remaining in regulation, setting up for what appeared to be an overtime finish.

Pavelski never let it get that far.

With less than 15 seconds remaining in regulation, Winnipeg broke into San Jose's defensive zone, but Vlasic got a stick on a Jets' cross-ice pass, turning a scary defensive situation into an odd-man rush opportunity. Timo Meier raced up the open ice and collected the puck right as he crossed Winnipeg's blue line. Coming in at high speed, Meier attempted to set up Pavelski for the game-winning goal by lifting a saucer pass over the lone remaining Jets' defenseman's stick.

Before the puck reconnected with the ice, Pavelski swatted it out of mid-air, directly into the back of the net with 4.3 seconds left on the clock.

Game over. Winning streak extended in Winnipeg.

It was the usual suspect. Throughout Sharks franchise history, only Patrick Marleau has accounted for more game-winning goals than Pavelski's 60. Though it wasn't apparent at the time, his game-winner against at the Jets that night turned out to be the final one he scored for San Jose. Pavelski departed for the Dallas Stars in free agency last offseason, and while his goal total (14) might be on the decline, he hasn't lost his penchant for the clutch (three game-winners).

[RELATED: How COVID-19 impacts Sharks' salary cap, draft planning]

Pavelski worked his way from being the No. 205 overall pick in the seventh round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft to being named captain of the United States National Team. Though not the biggest or fastest skater, there was never a harder worker. He endeared himself to Sharks fans through his leadership and effort, and those 355 regular-season and 48 playoff goals didn't hurt either.

Sharks' captain. Captain America. Captain Clutch. Any and all will do.

If you need a reminder as to why, tune into NBC Sports California tonight at 9 p.m.

Sharks' Evander Kane suspended three games after elbowing Neal Pionk

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Sharks' Evander Kane suspended three games after elbowing Neal Pionk

The Sharks' lineup of available players continues to dwindle.

After news broke Saturday morning that defenseman Erik Karlsson will miss the remainder of the season with a broken thumb, the NHL suspended Evander Kane three games for elbowing Winnipeg Jets defenseman Neal Pionk in Friday night's 3-2 win.

The Sharks winger was assessed a minor penalty for the hit, and Pionk remained in the game.

[RELATED: Sharks' Meier now reaping rewards of new line on hot streak]

This isn't Kane's first suspension of the season, as the winger missed the first three games of the regular season after shoving an official during a preseason game against the Vegas Golden Knights.

He will be eligible to return to the ice Feb. 22 in New York, when the Sharks visit the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Sharks' Timo Meier reaping rewards with new linemates on hot streak

Sharks' Timo Meier reaping rewards with new linemates on hot streak

Timo Meier is making the most of his time with his new linemates. 

The Sharks winger now has six points (three goals, three assists) in four games since joining veteran center Joe Thornton and winger Kevin Labanc on a line, including the game-winning goal in Friday night's 3-2 comeback victory over the Winnipeg Jets at Bell MTS Place. 

"I think the biggest thing is we're trying to have fun and work with each other, have a lot of talk out there which makes it easy," Meier said of Thornton and Labanc in an interview with Sharks broadcasters Randy Hahn and Bret Hedican after the game. "We all know what Jumbo's capable of, but we're just trying to follow his lead ... and doing everything we can in our hands as a line to try to have team success."

The trio turned in their best game together Friday night. The Sharks out-shot the Jets 8-2 and out-chanced them 7-5 with the trio on the ice in 5-on-5 situations, according to Natural Stat Trick. Labanc and Meier combined for eight shots on goal at all strengths, finishing first and second, respectively, among Sharks skaters. 

Meier has led the way for his new line, and the Sharks as a whole, at even strength over the last four games. He is tied for the team lead in 5-on-5 shots (11), while leading the team in expected goals (1.5) and high-danger chances (eight) since the change. 

"He's playing heavy," teammate Evander Kane told reporters Friday night in Winnipeg. "He's skating. He's a big, powerful guy with a good scoring touch. When he goes hard to the net, he can finish. That was another example of that tonight."

The 23-year-old Meier was expected to take another leap forward in his fourth NHL season. Meier scored 30 goals for the first time in his career in 2018-19, and the Sharks hoped he, Labanc and other young forwards would fill the void left by departing captain Joe Pavelski and wingers Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist. 

[RELATED: Should Sharks retire Jumbo, Patty's jerseys on same night?]

The Sharks, as a whole, haven't met expectations and Meier is well of his 30-goal pace from a year ago. Scoring 25 this season remains within his grasp, however. Friday's game-winning goal was his 19th of the season, so Meier now is one goal shy of becoming only the fourth Shark to score 20 goals in three of their first four seasons. 

Only three Sharks have at least three 20-goal seasons before turning 24 (Jeff Friesen, Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture), and Meier should join them soon enough.