A couple of scary looking injuries, three power play goals against and a blown two-goal lead weren’t enough to derail the Sharks from getting yet another road victory on Monday night at Calgary’s Saddledome.
Brent Burns’ power play goal, Logan Couture’s first score of the year, and some important saves late from Martin Jones were key in San Jose’s 5-4 triumph. In desperate need of some sort of winning streak to try and separate themselves from the Pacific Division pack, the Sharks (20-18-2, 42 points) moved two points ahead of Calgary and won their second straight for the first time since mid-December.
It wasn’t a perfect performance and didn’t resemble their 7-0 thrashing of the Maple Leafs on Saturday, but with the midway point of the regular season approaching, it’s the results that will start to matter much more than how they got there.
“We didn’t play that great, but [Jones] bailed us out with some timely saves,” Logan Couture told the Sharks’ broadcasters after the game. “Good to start this trip with a win. We’ll move on and get ready for [Tuesday night in Winnipeg].”
While their play at home is still concerning, the Sharks improved to 14-6-2 away from San Jose.
“We show up and I think we play a simple game on the road,” Pete DeBoer told reporters after the game.
The Sharks seemed to have the game under control in the second period, up 3-1 on markers from Joe Thornton, Joonas Donskoi and Couture, his first of the year in 10 games. A pair of stick fouls put them down two men, though, when Mike Brown and Burns both went to the penalty box for high-sticking and tripping, respectively.
Power play scores by Dennis Wideman on a two-man advantage and Sam Bennett just 15 seconds later reset the game, though, making it 3-3 just past the midway point of regulation.
Enter Burns, whose tripping minor wasn’t a very good penalty but who always seems to make up offensively for any earlier defensive errors. A hard pass through the seam by Patrick Marleau was no problem for the 30-year-old All-Star to one-time past Karri Ramo to give the Sharks the lead back for good.
“We needed one there,” DeBoer said. “We were on our heels a little bit and that was a big goal for us.”
“I really liked our game until we took the penalties in the second period. I thought we were in good shape. We were controlling things, we felt good about our game, and they grabbed the momentum at that point and it was tough to get it back.”
Joel Ward added an important insurance marker with a fortunate bounce off of Mark Giordano, and while Michael Ferland's goal on a lucky double-deflection pulled the Flames back to within one score, Jones stopped 14 of 15 third period shots he saw to secure his 18th win.
On the injury front, Tommy Wingels could not finish the game after a head-on-head collision with Donskoi early in the first period, while defenseman Justin Braun endured a scary incident in the third after taking a puck to the helmet.
Braun, who fell over in front of the goal and took a snap shot from Kris Russell directly on the visor, returned late in regulation. Wingels attempted to return late in the first period, but did not come out to the bench to start the second.
Regarding Braun, DeBoer said: “Shows you his character and commitment to try and help us win. … It looked like a nasty cut.”
Wingels was termed as questionable for Tuesday’s game in Winnipeg with an upper body injury.
The Sharks will try and make up for what was probably their worst game of the season on Jan. 2 against the Jets, when they make their one and only visit to MTS Centre Tuesday night. After Saturday’s blow out and last Thursday’s tough loss to the Red Wings in which they were pleased with their game, the Sharks are in a good place to try for their third straight win for the first time since sweeping a six-game road trip in November.
“It’s been better,” Couture said the Sharks’ recent efforts. “The game against Toronto is one where you can almost throw out. I thought we played well, but they struggled obviously. Tonight, at times, I don’t think we had our best. … Move on, take the positives and get ready for [Tuesday].”
Jones said: “We like the way we’ve played in the last [three] games.”