Programming note: Bruins-Sharks coverage starts Thursday at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California with Pregame Live
SAN JOSE – There were a number of encouraging aspects to the Sharks’ 2-1 win over the Flyers on Tuesday night at SAP Center, besides the fact that they were finally able to win back-to-back games in regulation for the first time since the opening two games of the 2014-15 season.
*Matt Nieto, who by all accounts has been playing well but hasn’t been able to find the scoresheet, has now scored two goals in his last two games including the game-winner with just 11.5 seconds left on the clock in the third period.
*After getting behind 1-0 and not seeming all that interested in the first period, the Sharks were able to regroup at the intermission and improve throughout, rather than succumbing to a lesser opponent as they have done far too many times.
*The fourth line, which has not been a factor most nights, had a number of good shifts including just before Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s game-tying marker in the second period. Mike Brown and John Scott combined for 10 hits, while Andrew Desjardins played perhaps his best game of the season and nearly scored on a third period breakaway.
*The Sharks were able to overcome the loss of Logan Couture early in the third period, after the Flyers’ Michael Raffl inadvertently nailed their leading scorer in the jaw. (He will be re-evaluated on Wednesday.)
Most notably, of course, is that the Sharks were able to build off of Saturday's 6-4 win over the rival Anaheim Ducks, improving to 2-1-2 on a five-game homestand.
“It gives us confidence getting two wins in a row,” Vlasic said. “We wanted to get something going at home. … It’s good to get that, and guys feel good about themselves now.”
Tommy Wingels, who helped create the game-winning goal, said: “It’s very important for us. We haven’t [given] ourselves the opportunity to have these kinds of streaks yet this season, having consistent play. … This team can reel off five, six, seven, eight in a row. That’s what we’re going to try to do here.”
Nieto’s winner came after Patrick Marleau raced in on a partial breakaway, and Wingels got tangled up with Braydon Coburn, who subsequently knocked goalie Steve Mason out of the way. In came the 21-year-old to clean up the loose garbage in front of the net and bring the fifth straight non-sellout crowd to its feet.
Nieto hadn’t scored since opening night when his empty-net goal sealed the win over the Ducks, but now he suddenly has a goal-scoring streak.
“Last game I got an empty-netter, and even though it didn’t seem like much, it was huge confidence-wise,” Nieto said. “They come in bunches and I’ve been patient all year, sticking to my game. I’m glad to see it’s paying off the last two games.”
Todd McLellan said: “An empty-net goal sometimes can do wonders. So, two in a row – good for him."
Nieto was only on the ice at the end of the game because Couture had been knocked out. The Sharks found a way to get the deciding marker anyway, shortly after Couture’s assist moved him ahead of Joe Thornton for the team scoring lead (22 points).
“Logan drives this team,” Wingels said. “To lose him is tough. He plays in every situation. A couple of guys filled in, a couple of guys played a couple more shifts than they would have, and we were able to get the deciding goal there at the end.”
[INSTANT REPLAY: Sharks edge Flyers 2-1 on last-minute goal]
Although they played one of their better games over the past few weeks, the Flyers clearly won’t be mistaken for the 1980's Oilers any time soon. They fell to 1-8-1 in their last 10 games, are quickly fading from the playoff picture, and were still able to outplay San Jose in the first 20 minutes.
The Boston Bruins should provide a better test on Thursday as the Sharks will try and close out their homestand on a three-game winning streak.
It’s nice to be trending the right way again, at least.
"We talked about trying to take a step forward, build up the confidence again,” McLellan said. “It wasn't ideal, it wasn't pretty, but it was a win and we'll take it.”