SAN JOSE – Two months ago, a dominant 4-0 Sharks win wouldn’t have shocked anyone.
But when the Sharks jumped all over the Anaheim Ducks at HP Pavilion on Wednesday night, scoring three times before Anaheim even registered a shot on goal, the only reasonable question was – where have these guys been since the end of January?
The Sharks won back-to-back games in regulation for the first time since Jan. 26 and 27, controlling nearly every facet of the game against a team that entered with a 10-point lead on the entire Pacific Division and sat in second place in the conference.
[Kurz's Instant Replay: Sharks 4, Ducks 0]
And this one was decided quickly.
“Getting three goals early like that is huge,” Joe Thornton said. “The game was pretty much over after that.”
Joe Pavelski got it started with a wraparound goal just one minute into the first period. Patrick Marleau followed with his 16th goal at 4:52, and Brent Burns’ power play marker at 9:20 gave San Jose a three-goal lead. The Sharks had nine shots on goal at that point, while Anaheim didn’t have any. That score remained until Tommy Wingels’ shorthanded wrist shot sailed over the glove of Jonas Hiller in the third period to cap the scoring.
It was the Sharks’ second straight win over the Ducks, and second time that the Sharks had the early energy. On Monday at the Honda Center, the Sharks scored twice in the first 7:10 of the first period on their way to a 5-3 win.
Anaheim lost its fourth straight game, all in regulation.
“This last little streak here they’ve been on their heels a bit to begin games, and we knew we had to get after them right off the bat,” Todd McLellan said. “I think that first shift Pav had scoring, set the tone for the first 10 minutes, and we took advantage of it.”
The Sharks improved to 9-1-4 at home in what was the first of seven straight at The Tank. Their grasp on the eighth spot in the conference got a little tighter, but more importantly the team is starting to get some of its swagger back with just 16 games left in the shortened season. Antti Niemi recorded his second shutout with 22 saves.
“We feel like our game has been getting better and better. Tonight was another good game by us,” Thornton said. "We're getting our confidence."
Wingels, who had a goal and two assists, said: “We’re going to have to string a few wins together. We know we’re capable of it, and no better way to do it than here at home.”
Wingels may have had his best game as an NHL player, while skating on the wing with Marleau and Logan Couture. He assisted on two of the three first period goals, including drawing a penalty on Sheldon Souray before Burns’ power play goal, and his shorthanded marker in the third period put the game away for San Jose. He had a breakaway in the second period, too, but couldn’t settle the puck.
Most of it came playing against Anaheim’s top line of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan.
“We gave him an assignment to play against Getzlaf and Perry and that whole line, and Tommy accepted it and played very well,” McLellan said. “It makes everybody in the coach’s office and locker room feel good that we can do that. He had a great night, and a real good player when he’s doing certain things. I’m happy for him.”
Wingels said: “You’ve got to be an all-around player in this league if you’re going to stay. It’s something that the focus is on game in and game out, day in and day out in practice. There are a lot of guys on this team that are great in giving advice and helping some of the younger guys out.”
Coincidence or not, the Sharks appear to be a faster team with Douglas Murray no longer on the roster and Michal Handzus sitting for the past four games. A newly constructed fourth line of Scott Gomez, Andrew Desjardins and James Sheppard also made a good account of itself, despite not getting on the scoresheet. Adam Burish sat for the first time.
A balanced attack has been missing for the majority of the season. In the last two games against the Ducks, it’s been there.
“I really like the way our fourth line played tonight, if you want to call them the fourth line,” McLellan said. “I thought Gomez, Shep and Desi had a huge impact on the game, played a lot of time in the offensive zone. The matchups and the way we used guys was productive.”
Dan Boyle said: “Four lines rolling, and playing well. That’s been the key to our success these last two games.”
Ryane Clowe made his return to the lineup after missing four straight with a shoulder injury, assisting on Pavelski’s second goal in as many games. Three minutes after that early goal, Clowe was throwing haymakers at Ducks defenseman Bryan Allen.
“I don’t like to tippy-toe my way back, and I missed a lot of time, so I like to get into it right away,” he said.
He wasn’t the only one who dropped the gloves. In the third period and with the Sharks leading 4-0, Boyle and Perry engaged in a lengthy bout after Boyle took exception to Perry’s cheap shot. Perry connected with a right hook to Boyle’s mug while trying to get back on Wingels’ goal.
“On the shorthanded goal, he suckered me right in the face,” Boyle said, and which replays confirm. “Obviously, it just carried on from there. I don’t fight too often, as you guys know, but it’s nice to get involved.
“When you’re not expecting it, I’m not sure where that is in the game. It is what it is.”
Boyle and the Sharks had the last laugh, though, winning three of five against a team that they very well could see in the postseason. If the Sharks do end up making it into May, these two wins against the Ducks might be viewed as a springboard, depending on what happens the rest of the way.
“We’re here at home for six more here, and we’ve got to make a move,” Boyle said. “We’ve got to win some games in regulation, preferably. This is a good start tonight.”