Bryan Lerg, making his NHL debut after seven years in the minors, scored the game-winning goal with less than three minutes to go the third period to help lift the Sharks to a 3-1 win over Edmonton at Rexall Place on Thursday night.
The 29-year-old Worcester Sharks captain received a pass from Logan Couture, and found the back of the net past a diving Laurent Brossoit at 17:08 in what was the penultimate game of the regular season for the Sharks.
Patrick Marleau’s goal earlier in the third tied the game at 1-1, while Matt Nieto’s empty-netter put it away for the Sharks (40-32-9, 89 points).
The Sharks outshot the Oilers for the game, 52-27.
Edmonton broke a scoreless tie in the second period. Justin Braun gave the puck away to Nail Yakupov in the Sharks’ defensive zone, and the Oilers’ forward zipped in his 13th of the season.
The goal came right after a stellar save by Brossoit, who closed up his five hole just in time to deny Tomas Hertl.
Brossoit kept that lead intact in the third period, stretching to his left to deny Matt Irwin with 17:34 to go. Midway through, he stopped Joe Thornton on a two-on-one rush with Joe Pavelski, after Pavelski fed his center for a prime scoring chance.
The Sharks finally managed to tie it seconds after Thornton’s chance, though. Justin Schultz fell over, Patrick Marleau swooped in and took control, and made a brilliant deke before flipping in his 19th goal at 10:32 of the final frame.
Lerg played the majority of the game on the fourth line with Ben Smith and John Scott. He finished with a game-high eight shots on goal, the most shots for a Sharks player making his NHL debut.
Brossoit and Oilers winger Curtis Hamilton were also making their respective NHL debuts.
The Sharks finished 3-1-1 in the season series vs. lowly Edmonton.
The Sharks were 0-for-1 on the power play, but it was a five-minute major after Hamilton hit Lerg from behind two minutes into the game for a boarding penalty. San Jose registered just two shots on goal.
Edmonton finished 0-for-2 on the man advantage.
In what could have been his final game in net for the Sharks depending on who plays on Saturday, Antti Niemi made 26 saves. The 31-year-old is a pending unrestricted free agent, and is unlikely to be re-signed by San Jose.
Brossoit, 22, was recalled after posting a 22-21-4 record with a 2.65 GAA and .916 SP in 49 games with Oklahoma City (AHL). He made 49 saves on 51 shots, including all 33 he saw through two periods.
Scott returned to action after sitting out the previous three games, replacing Mike Brown. Sharks defensemen Marc-Edouard Vlasic (lower body) and Scott Hannan (facial injury) remained out.
Barclay Goodrow was reassigned to Worcester on Wednesday.
Edmonton’s second-leading scorer Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was among the injured scratches.
The Sharks close out their season at Staples Center on Saturday. The game will be meaningless for both teams, as the defending champs lost to the Calgary Flames on Thursday night, 3-1, ending their playoff hopes.
San Jose has failed to qualify for the postseason for the first time since the 2002-03 season.