Sharks Go Duck Hunting, Again
SAN JOSE — If the San Jose Sharks could play their entire 82-game schedule against the Anaheim Ducks, they’d quite possibly finish the season without a regulation loss.
The Sharks continued their dominance over the Ducks at SAP Center on Thursday, wrapping up their season series against their interstate rivals with a 4-0-1 record after a convincing 6-3 beat down.
Alternate captain Joe Pavelski said the Sharks have followed a “simple recipe” in their wins over the Ducks.
“We’ve got everyone to show up, that’s the bottom line,” Pavelski said. “Guys have played well, all four lines, up and down. Neemo (goalie Antti Niemi) has been great in those games, so it’s pretty simple. It’s a simple recipe when we have all four lines going, playing hard, doing things the right way.”
The four wins against the NHL’s top squad are even more impressive considering that the Ducks have lost only 11 games in regulation through 49 outings this season.
Despite the win, the Sharks (26-17-6) still trail the Ducks (32-11-6) by 12 points for first place in the Pacific Division standings. But they hold a three-point edge over the Vancouver Canucks for third place.
After falling behind 1-0 in the game’s opening five minutes, the Sharks responded with six unanswered goals, including five in the second period, the team’s highest output in a single frame this season.
And most of the tallies came from unexpected places. Matt Irwin scored his first goal since Oct. 14, James Sheppard lit the lamp for just the second time since Nov. 8, Brenden Dillon record his second tally of the season and Barclay Goodrow put the puck across the line for the third time in his NHL career.
“The unusual suspects came up big and when you win as a team you need that, too,” head coach Todd McLellan said. “Barclay, Shepp, Dillon, Irwin — those are all guys that haven’t really put the puck in the net lately, to get the monkey off their back is a big thing.”
In addition to his goal, Goodrow recorded an assist and led the team in hits (4) while also playing tenaciously in the defensive zone in his first outing since his reassignment from AHL Worcester.
The Sharks sent Goodrow, who joined the team as an undrafted free agent right out of junior hockey without suiting up any minor league games, to Worcester during the All-Star break to give him an opportunity for “self evaluation”. By playing two games in the AHL, Goodrow got to see how he measures up against peers in his age group.
“I think I just gained some confidence a little bit,” Goodrow said. “I was able to play in a bit more situations and get a bit more ice time down there, so I think it helped with the confidence.”
Goodrow rejoined the Sharks third line as a result of Tyler Kennedy’s lower-body injury and he played with energy for 14 minutes and 38 seconds against a bruising Ducks squad.
“Kennedy had earned the right to play in that position and, obviously, his injury allowed Barclay to move up,” McLellan said. “He’s a big-strong body and you need that type of player in this type of game because it was a big-strong game.”
The Sharks also received production from a few of the marquee names. Pavelski notched his team-leading 25th goal of the season on the power play in the opening period, his 13th tally with the man advantage this year.
The 30-year-old forward found the back of the net from in close after receiving the puck from Joe Thornton, who took a cross-ice feed through traffic in the left circle from Patrick Marleau.
Thornton registered a second assist when Marleau scored in the second period after redirecting a pass from Brent Burns on the right point in high-slot area. With his assists, Thornton moved into 37th place on the NHL’s all-time points list with 1,233 points, passing defenseman Phil Housley.
The win was also significant because it was the first time the Ducks have lost all season after scoring the opening goal. The Ducks entered the contest with a 23-0-5 record when scoring first, the only team in the NHL with an undefeated record when notching the opening tally.
Despite a 6-1 advantage after two frames, the Sharks entered the third period knowing that no lead is safe against the Ducks. The last time the Ducks visited SAP Center, they turned a 5-1 Sharks lead into a 5-4 game late in the third period. This time, the Sharks didn’t allow for any late-game drama.
“We didn’t want to do that again. We talked about it heading into the third,” McLellan said. “Two minutes in, we got scored on, so there’s concern there. But I thought we settled down and played well. A sloppy change at the end, we gave up the third one. But for the most part we played a pretty solid third period, so maybe we are growing, maybe we’re learning and getting better in some of the areas.”