Programming note: Flames-Sharks coverage begins at 7 p.m. Saturday night with Sharks Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California
DALLAS – It won’t get one million hits on YouTube, like Tomas Hertl’s fourth goal against the New York Rangers, but fellow rookie Matt Nieto scored one of the prettiest goals of the season for the Sharks in Thursday’s 4-3 loss to the Stars.
In the second period, Nieto took a lead pass in the neutral zone from Joe Pavelski and sped up the near boards. He left a cloud of smoke in his wake blazing by Dallas’ Trevor Daley, and released a quick half-slap shot from the high slot past Dan Ellis to give San Jose a 2-1 lead late in the first period.
The 20-year-old Boston University product described the goal after the game.
“Tommy [Wingels] made a great play on the breakout with the first forechecker and got it to [Joe Pavelski]. Pav made another great play to make an indirect pass to me, and the defenseman was flat-footed. I was able to generate a few strides, and I just tried to get the shot off and it went in.”
Nieto was given a reward of sorts later when he switched places with Hertl and skated on the Joe Thornton-Brent Burns line. Although they eventually switched back in the third period, it was a clear sign that the Sharks’ coaching staff was impressed with his game.
It was also the first notable elective line shuffling by Todd McLellan, whose club essentially breezed through its first six wins before having its first off night of the season. Nieto finished the night with three shots on goal and a -1 rating in 11 minutes and 43 seconds of ice time.
“We’ve gone seven games now being comfortable as far as lines go, and I didn’t think we had a lot of jump,” McLellan said. “I thought Matt Nieto was one of them that was really skating well, so we made the switch, and it’s a learning process for the young players, as well.”
[RELATED: Stars ruin Sharks' perfect record]
Nieto said: “Any time you get to play with those two players, you have to make the most of it. I just tried to get them the puck, let them do their magic, and get to the front of the net.”
The Sharks return home to face Calgary on Saturday, and start another road trip on Monday in Detroit. The week will include a couple of team practices in Nieto’s old home at Boston University’s Agganis Arena.
“Obviously, we wanted to get the win. But the past is the past, and we have to learn from this game and start a new streak,” Nieto said.