SAN JOSE – Joe Pavelski is not your typical third line NHL center.
After a two-goal, two-assist effort in Saturday’s 6-3 win over Calgary, the 29-year-old finds himself second in the league in scoring with 12 points, behind only the prodigious Sidney Crosby. Pavelski battled in the corner and set up Brent Burns just 59 seconds into the game to stake the Sharks an early lead, helped his team to a three-goal cushion with a power play goal and slick assist in the second period, and tipped in an important insurance marker midway through the third.
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And, although he was on the ice for the Flames’ shorthanded goal early in the third that helped get them back in the game, Pavelski continued to be a key contributor on the penalty kill. He finished with three minutes and 35 seconds of shorthanded ice time, the most among forwards, and had a breakaway in the second period that he didn’t convert on but drew a hooking penalty to even things up.
It was just another day at the office for the Wisconsin native, a sure Olympian in February, and who signed a five-year, $30 million contract extension in the offseason.
“We use that term greasy-type player, and what that means is, he battles,” head coach Todd McLellan said. “The three or four feet around him is always a battle. It’s never a soft issue at all. He competes in that area and gets to his next job. Just a competitive guy that has real good hockey sense.”
Pavelski’s performance overshadowed teammate Patrick Marleau’s two-point night, as Marleau continues to be the only player with at least a point in every game, and is now tied with four others for the league lead in goals (7). Pavelski and Marleau teamed up for two power play goals in the second, with each earning the primary assist on the other’s marker.
Marleau set up Pavelski at 8:57 of the middle frame for a redirection to make it 3-1, while Pavelski found Marleau with a sly feed through the slot at 17:59 for what held up as the game-winner.
“The first one that Pav got, he’s just kind of set up in front of the net and I was able to slide one over to him,” Marleau said. As for the second, “he made an outstanding pass to me back door and right through the box there, and I was able to get it up and over the pad.”
Pavelski said: “Those were both moments our power play needed to do something, and we were able to get that lead.”
In a game filled with minor penalties, in which the teams combined for 15 power plays, the Sharks had a chance to put it away early in the third on Lance Bouma’s tripping infraction. Instead, Mikael Backlund directed in a big rebound of a Lee Stempniak shot at 1:33 for a shorthanded marker. Then, Jiri Hudler’s goal less than three minutes later brought the Flames back to within one, 4-3.
That part of the game was disappointing to McLellan. But the Sharks’ ability to regroup, and take advantage of yet another power play midway through the third, was encouraging.
“I’m disappointed that happened, but I’m happy with the way we responded after that,” McLellan said. “The next power play, they meant business.”
Pavelski was the one who cashed in, on a set play, when he got his stick on a Logan Couture blast in the slot that slid through Karri Ramo at 9:38. It was his 20th career two-goal game.
“We work on that on the power play almost every day. … Pavs was in a great spot, I was just trying to get it there,” Couture said.
Ten minutes and a Couture empty-net goal later, the Sharks remain on top of the NHL with a 7-0-1 mark. They are a perfect 5-0 at home, and start a five-game road swing on Monday in Detroit.
In a season that has already seen so many players make headlines, Pavelski is the latest to find his name on the marquee.
“I think three, four or five guys on our team are right there,” Pavelski said, downplaying his league point standing in typical fashion. “It’s good to win. It’s really good to win.”