VANCOUVER -- Through two periods, the Sharks offense wasn’t generating a whole lot offensively against Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks.
Towards the end of the first period, head coach Todd McLellan started tinkering with three of his four lines, eventually finding some success in the third when he put Joe Pavelski with Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau. The Joe Thornton line with Tomas Hertl and Tommy Wingels was left alone, but the bottom six forwards were all over the map.
“We were scrambling, trying to find different combinations and different players,” McLellan said after the game.
The trickle-down effect from not having Brent Burns for the past month is perhaps most notable on the third line. Rookie Matt Nieto, 20, is scoreless in his last five games and may have hit a bit of a wall. Marty Havlat, instead of looking progressively better in his return from offseason pelvic surgery, seems to be trending the opposite direction. Havlat has just one goal and one assist in his first seven games, with both coming against Buffalo on Nov. 5. Nieto skated for nine minutes and 39 seconds Thursday, while Havlat’s 11 minutes and 27 seconds was a season low for the 32-year-old.
The result of Nieto and Havlat’s reduced ice time meant more action for wingers John McCarthy and James Sheppard. McLellan was asked specifically about those two players after the game.
“Johnny Mac does play hard all the time. I thought Shep played hard. But that’s not enough. We need more than that.” McLellan said. “We need a lot more than that [Friday night in Edmonton].”
Pavelski, who has points in seven of his last eight games, seems to miss Wingels at even strength. On the veteran forward’s three even strength goals this year, coming in three consecutive games from Oct. 27 – Nov. 2, Wingels earned an assist on all three. Pavelski's last three points have come on the power play.
Early in the game against Vancouver on Thursday, the ineffective trio of Pavelski, Nieto and Havlat didn’t last very long, forcing McLellan’s hand and eventually landing Pavelski on the wing of one of the top two scoring lines in the third.
Vancouver held a 28-17 advantage in shots after the first two periods. After that, the Sharks outshot the Canucks for the rest of the game, 13-7, and pulled out a 2-1 overtime win.
[RECAP: Sharks 2, Canucks 1 (OT)]
“Nothing else was working. We had no sustained attack in the offensive zone,” McLellan said. “I thought [Couture, Pavelski and Marleau] got us going. Other players followed their lead, and maybe changed the momentum. The third period was our best period, so maybe it worked.”
Pavelski, who earned the primary assist on Dan Boyle’s overtime power play goal, didn’t seem to mind getting moved around all night.
“You’ve just got to play. You can’t worry about that too much because we’re trying to accomplish the same things out there,” he said.
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Marc-Edouard Vlasic finished with six shots on goal against Vancouver, tying a career high. He had another seven attempts blocked, and missed the net on three more, giving him 16 attempts total. No one else on the Sharks had more than seven shot attempts.
McLellan praised the eight-year NHL defenseman after the game.
“He’s been arguably maybe our best player from day one on through. I thought he was aggressive tonight. He was on his toes, he was jumping up, wanted the puck in the offensive zone. They block a lot of shots, obviously, so he did get a few through. You’d like to see some of those other 10 get to the net, but I thought he played a hell of a game.”
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Alex Stalock is expected to start in net against Edmonton, although that is yet to be confirmed. Stalock has won both of his starts this season, including Tuesday in Calgary.