PHOENIX – It was a long day for the San Jose Sharks, who boarded their team plane early on Friday morning, and needed yet another shootout to beat the Phoenix Coyotes later that night, 4-3.
Sure, the Sharks surrendered a third period lead for the second straight game, but the team has now won three in a row, all via the tiebreaker.
[Instant Replay: Sharks top Coyotes in third straight shootout win]
“I feel great right now, a big win. Obviously we got the extra point, which is important,” said Joe Pavelski.
The legs were not there for San Jose early, not exactly a surprise with the odd routine, which was necessary due to three mandatory days off for Christmas. The Sharks, who took off from the Bay Area around 7:00 a.m., seemed to get better as the game went along and dominated the first half of the third period.
The Sharks erased deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 before taking their first lead on Brent Burns’ marker at 10:10 of the final frame, set up by Pavelski.
“It was a nice effort for guys battling back tonight, being down by one, not letting it lead to two or three,” Patrick Marleau said.
Todd McLellan said: “I thought they had a little more jump and better execution than we did early in the game … But, I was pleased with the way our guys stuck with it and fought through it.”
Still, the Sharks couldn’t preserve that 3-2 lead late in the game. A Tommy Wingels interference minor led to Radim Vrbata tying it up with 6:25 to go in regulation.
San Jose has just three regulation/overtime wins in its last 11 games, and 18 on the season. It’s early enough, though, that that’s not much of a concern.
“We would have liked to close that one out, up 3-2 late in the third, but it’s good that we got the two points,” Logan Couture said. “Obviously, we would have liked to not give them one, but we got two, so move on.”
Couture and Marleau, for the second straight game, were the shootout heroes. Couture is 6-for-11 on the season in the shootout, while Marleau improved to 2-for-7.
Overall, the Sharks are 6-5 in shootouts, but have now won five of the last six.
Is the team confident when a game moves past overtime?
“I think guys are starting to be, yeah,” Marleau said. “We want to try and close teams out in regulation or overtime, but to have that confidence is nice.”
McLellan said: “I remember meeting with you guys (the media) about a month ago and we were talking about how poor we were in the shootouts. It’s trends, some of it’s luck, some of it’s getting a bounce. The same guys that were missing are now scoring. Hopefully it stays that way, but it can ebb and flow throughout the season.”
The Sharks’ top line of Pavelski, Burns and Joe Thornton carried the load offensively, scoring both of San Jose’s even strength goals. Burns recorded his second straight multiple-point game with a goal and an assist, while Thornton had two more helpers to increase his league-leading total to 37.
Pavelski has seven goals in his last eight games.
“Pav has always been a good utility guy for us,” McLellan said. “He’s been able to play on different lines and in different positions. He’s a left-winger now. Going up there, he understands how Jumbo plays. He’s played enough with him to find the spots, to get the shots off. Burnzie’s watching and learning, as well.”
The flip side is the Sharks are struggling to find an effective bottom six. On Friday, the line of Matt Nieto, John McCarthy and Tyler Kennedy had a night to forget, and was a collective minus-six.
That blemish from their performance aside, it was a solid the win after the club had every excuse to not have the energy to compete.
“Coming off three days, we were excited to get playing again, and guys felt pretty good,” Pavelski said.