CALGARY – Throughout the Sharks’ five-game winless streak, loose play and mistakes in the defensive zone were all too common.
Against Calgary on Tuesday, the Sharks put on a clinic in how to quickly get the puck out of their zone and put pressure on the opposition, especially for the first 40 minutes. Although San Jose eventually surrendered a two-goal lead it had to start the third, the end result was a much-needed 3-2 overtime victory.
Alex Stalock picked up his second win in as many starts, needing only 11 saves, as the Sharks outshot the Flames 35-13.
“You look at the stat sheet, and it’s pretty evident that we played a pretty good defensive game,” Stalock said. “We kept their chances to very few. Offensively, I think that showed. It starts in the d-zone. Keeping the puck out of the d-zone we can play fast, and it showed tonight.”
The game-winning goal came from an unlikely source. Defenseman Brad Stuart, a healthy scratch on Sunday in Winnipeg, drove the net and saw a Joe Thornton slap shot deflect off of his upper body and thorough the legs of goalie Reto Berra at 1:13 of overtime.
It ended a 65-game goalless drought by Stuart in the regular season. His last regular season goal with the Sharks came before he was part of the trade for Thornton on Oct. 29, 2005, also against Calgary.
There was a brief video review of Stuart’s goal after both teams left the ice, which could have prompted a “not again” type feeling after the Sharks had two apparent overtime goals controversially waved off recently against Buffalo and Winnipeg.
“I knew there was no way they could wave it off unless something crazy happened,” Stuart said.
Thornton, who had two assists, talked about the game-winner.
“Stuey just driving the net. Just one of those you shoot and it banked off Stuey and in,” Thornton said. “It was a crazy one tonight, but we needed the two points.”
The one area of concern is that Sharks did allow the Flames back into the game in the third. After two periods, the Sharks held a 28-6 lead in shots, and whopping 56-14 advantage in shot attempts when combining missed and blocked shots.
The comeback began with a questionable-at-best interference penalty to Justin Braun at 6:46 of the third. Todd McLellan was still arguing with an official when Kris Russell’s blast beat Stalock to make it 2-1.
“Tonight, if I had a red flag, I would have thrown it as far as I could,” said McLellan, referencing the NFL’s coach’s challenge rule. “I think that’s a good case for that type of situation. … I think that the official knows that he erred on it, so we’ll leave it at that.”
Mike Cammalleri’s goal tied the game midway through the third, erasing the advantage that the Sharks had after the first on goals from Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau (power play).
“You felt comfortable, and all of a sudden ‘boom-boom’ and they’re right back in the game,” Thornton said. “We were still a confident group in here. We were playing good all night and coach just kind of said ‘hey, just stay with it, we’ll be fine.’ We did, and got the two, so it’s nice.”
The Sharks had a lead in each of their five losses leading up to Tuesday’s game, including twice in the third period.
Stuart said: “We really have to focus on closing those types of games out.”
The win was the Sharks’ first of the month of November, and they are 1-0-1 on their current five-game road trip. Perhaps more importantly, they can use most of Tuesday’s effort as a template for how to play in their own zone.
“It is a sense of relief,” McLellan said. “But, when you take the win away from the game and look at the way we played, we have to be fairly happy with the effort – the puck support, the speed that we played with, [and] the amount chances we generated.”