SAN JOSE –- Credit the new guy for helping the Sharks end their longest home losing streak in almost 20 years.
Ben Smith, who didn’t arrive to SAP Center from Chicago until warm-ups were already underway, notched a goal and an assist in his Sharks debut on Monday night. San Jose beat the Eastern Conference-leading Canadiens, 4-0, ending their 0-6-2 stretch on home ice.
Smith was the only player added by the Sharks prior to Monday’s NHL trade deadline, acquired from the Blackhawks as part of a deal for Andrew Desjardins.
The Sharks are now tied with Calgary and Los Angeles for third place in the Pacific Division, although the Flames and Kings each have two games in hand.
Smith opened the scoring at 6:51, getting a piece of a Marc-Edouard Vlasic floater and tipping it through Carey Price. The 26-year-old, who lined up as the third line center with Tommy Wingels and Tomas Hertl, had not found the scoresheet in his previous 25 games with the Blackhawks.
A power play goal late in the frame increased the Sharks’ lead to 2-0, when Joe Pavelski redirected a Brent Burns wrister at 19:13. The goal ended a six-game personal drought for Pavelski, his longest of the season. He leads the Sharks with 32 overall, including 17 on the power play.
Instead of sagging after the first, as they had done in their previous two home games, the Sharks kept up the pressure in the second period. They recorded the first seven shots on goal in the frame, and made it a 3-0 advantage when Matt Irwin’s shot sailed through traffic and found the twine at 6:28. Smith earned the secondary assist and helped set the screen, and Wingels got the primary helper.
In goal, Alex Stalock earned his first shutout since the home opener on Oct. 11, with 20 saves. It ended a streak of some tough outings for the backup, who had allowed three goals or more in his previous five starts, with a 1-4-0 record and .862 save percentage over that span.
The Canadiens nearly scored with about 13 minutes to go after a Burns turnover in the defensive zone. The defenseman went to the front of the net, though, and was in position for a David Desharnais shot that appeared to kiss the goal line before Burns pulled it at the last moment.
Patrick Marleau put the game away with his third power play goal in as many games, going to the front of the net and tipping in a Pavelski feed at 13:07 of the final frame to cap the scoring.
Montreal saw a four-game winning streak snapped, losing in regulation for just the second time in its last 13 games (9-2-2), in what was the first of a four-game road trip.
The Sharks have won eight in a row over the Canadiens in San Jose, and the teams meet for the second and final time on March 21 at Bell Centre.
The Sharks won at SAP Center for the first time since beating Smith’s former team, the Blackhawks, 2-1 on Jan. 31. They had not dropped eight straight home games since Feb. 18 – March 26, 1995.
The Sharks finished 2-for-3 on the power play, the third straight game they have at least one goal with a man advantage. It was the first game since Jan. 21 vs. Los Angeles they had multiple power play goals.
For the third time this season, San Jose was not shorthanded. It was the first game this season Montreal did not have at least one power play.
John Scott was issued a 10-minute misconduct with 4:36 to go in regulation.
Stalock started for just the fourth time in the last 22 games. He had allowed three goals or more in each of his last five starts, but improved to 6-7-1 on the season.
The 27-year-old’s best saves came during a late second period flurry by Montreal, when he made saves through traffic on Lars Eller and Jacob De La Rose with about four minutes to go before the intermission.
Price, a Vezina Trophy if not Hart Trophy candidate, saw a 10-game road winning streak come to an end, in which he had a 1.20 goals-against average, .951 save percentage and four shutouts. He’s just 1-4-1 in his career against the Sharks, and has allowed at least three goals in all four of his appearances at SAP Center.
Along with the Desjardins-for-Smith trade, the Sharks also shipped out forwards Tyler Kennedy (Islanders) and James Sheppard (Rangers). Tye McGinn was waived, and claimed by Arizona on Monday morning.
Rookie defenseman Mirco Mueller drew back into the lineup for the first time in seven games, paired with Brenden Dillon. Vlasic and Justin Braun were reunited for the first time since Jan. 3, while Burns and Irwin rounded out the defense pairs.
Chris Tierney, reassigned to Worcester on Saturday, was recalled on Sunday and centered the fourth line with Scott and Barclay Goodrow.
The Sharks will play their second of a back-to-back on Tuesday in Vancouver, their second trip there this season. They are then off until they host the Canucks at home on Saturday. Vancouver is in Arizona on Thursday.
Saturday’s game kicks off a difficult four-game homestand that continues with Pittsburgh, Nashville and Chicago.