November 29, 2014 By Paul Gackle

Sharks Halt Skid Against Division Rivals

What’s the best antidote for a four-game losing streak? For the San Jose Sharks, apparently, it’s a date with the Anaheim Ducks.

The Sharks snapped a four-game losing streak against the Ducks on Oct. 26, putting together their best effort of the 2014-15 season, and they did it again at SAP Center on Saturday, breaking out of another four-game skid with a 6-4 win over their Pacific Division rivals.

But this time, the game wound up being much closer. The Ducks cut a four-goal deficit down to one in the third period, keeping the crowd on the edge of its seat.

“If the building gets nervous that’s fine as long as those guys — the 23 players on this team — don’t get nervous,” Tommy Wingels said. “Todd [McLellan] called a timeout. I think that was a really good timeout, we reestablished what we wanted to do.”

The Sharks (11-10-4) jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the first 27 minutes of the game, triggering memories of the team’s 4-1 win over the Ducks in Anaheim last month. But instead of going after the Sharks with their fists, the Ducks fought back by putting the puck in the net, scoring three unanswered goals, including two in the first four-and-a-half minutes of the third period.

With the Sharks leading 5-4 and more than 15 minutes remaining in regulation, head coach Todd McLellan used his timeout after the Ducks scored their fourth goal to remind his squad how they were so effective in the first two periods: playing a north-south game, being physical and applying pressure on the forecheck.

“He just needed to say, you know, let’s get back to what we need to do,” Wingels said. “It was a great timeout. The guys fed off it well and it was a big part of why we won.”

McLellan said the Sharks are pleased they won the game, but disappointed that they allowed a four-goal lead to shrink down to a single tally.

“It kind of epitomizes our team,” McLellan said. “We come out and we do exactly what we wanted to do. We play with a straight forward mentality: no turnovers, hard forecheck, physical, on pucks, special teams are sharp. We get a lead and now we want to play a different game. We want to play a softer, cuter game.”

But the Sharks held on, picking up two points with their most productive-offensive game of season, scoring six goals, including two from Logan Couture, who missed the morning skate because of illness.

Couture said his eye was swollen so badly when he woke up Saturday morning, he could barely see. As a result, he went to the hospital to receive antibiotics.

But Couture was cleared to play later in the day and he made his presence felt immediately, jumping on a loose puck in front of the Ducks net at the 9:05 mark of the first period and putting it home to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead.

After the Ducks tied it up less than two minutes later, Couture put the Sharks ahead for good with a breakaway goal on the penalty kill with 6:25 left in the opening frame, the best medicine for his sickness.

“It felt good scoring when the puck just finds you,” Couture said. “With an open net and then you get a lucky bounce and you get a breakaway.”

The Sharks entered the game having scored just 12 goals in their last eight games. But after Couture found the net, the Sharks broke the dam with a power play goal from Joe Pavelski in the final minute of the first period and tallies from Wingels and Tomas Hertl in the second.

Matt Nieto added an empty net goal in the final minute of regulation, his first tally since opening night.

Despite the offensive explosion, the Sharks wouldn’t have won the game without a stellar performance from Antti Niemi, who stopped 30 of 34 Ducks shots, including several from in close with the team clinging to a one-goal lead.

“He’s been solid all year. He’s made some big saves. [On the penalty kill], he’s been the rock behind it for us when we’re going good,” Pavelski said. “Made a lot of point blank saves there, too.”