SAN JOSE – Six different players scored goals for the Sharks in their 7-0 demolition of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday at SAP Center, but the two most important contributors may have been a pair of guys that didn’t manage to light the lamp.
Martin Jones made 28 saves, including several point blank stops in a scoreless first period, while Tommy Wingels set up a key shorthanded score and fought Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf in the second, as the Sharks got a much-needed victory in their own building to close out a five-game homestand.
Jones’ shutout was his fourth of the year, and first at home since his very first game as a Shark at SAP Center on Oct. 10. Thanks to one bad change and some dubious decisions in the defensive zone, Jones was forced to make a pair of difficult stops on P.A. Parenteau, and another on Joffrey Lupul just outside of the crease in keeping the game scoreless in the opening frame.
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Pete DeBoer said: “I thought he was our best player, especially early. I thought we were a little tentative in the first. He made some big saves and got us going.”
Trailing 1-0 in the second, the Maple Leafs were threatening to tie the game after Paul Martin went off on a high-sticking minor. Jones made a few more saves, though, and Wingels took advantage of a disastrous change by Peter Holland to put the Sharks up 2-0. He raced past Holland into the offensive zone with only the puck in front of him, and found Matt Nieto with a pass through the seam after freezing Jonathan Bernier for an easy score.
Wingels said: “I went out to push out at the defenseman and there wasn’t one there. I looked at the other side and there wasn’t one there, either, and I saw [Nieto] coming late. I’m not exactly sure what happened there, but we had to capitalize on the opportunity and we did.”
Prior to that goal, Brent Burns made the highlight-reel play of the night. He juked around Nazem Kadri in the neutral zone and then humiliated Phaneuf in the circle before flipping in his 17th goal, leading all NHL defensemen.
That gave the Sharks the all-important first score. They improved to 6-0 when tallying the first goal at home, and are 0-12 when falling behind.
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"That was huge because I thought we were a little tentative. We were almost in that waiting-for-something-to-go-wrong mindset,” DeBoer said. “[Burns] just said ‘screw it’ and took the puck. That changed the game for us.”
Jones said: “Any time you can get a lead, it’s a good thing. It was a great goal he scored. Definitely got the guys fired up.”
Phaneuf, perhaps embarrassed by getting left in the dust by Burns, tried to get his team going after Nieto’s goal. He targeted Logan Couture, taking a run at the Sharks center and giving him couple shots after hammering him into the wall.
Wingels stepped in at the whistle and tossed his gloves aside, despite giving up three inches and 14 pounds to the sizeable defenseman. The fight didn’t really go anywhere, but that was beside the point.
“It's critical from a team point of view,” DeBoer said. “We know that we've got guys who are going to stand up for each other. That's not an easy job. That's as tough as it gets, taking on guys bigger than you in defense of other guys. I give him a lot of credit for that."
Burns said: “That’s huge for us, to have a guy step in like that. It gives us a lot of big energy. Sometimes the game is crazy and that can settle the game down. … It gives everybody else on the ice an extra inch, an extra 10 pounds.”
The most encouraging aspect of the game for San Jose is that several players that have had trouble finding the scoresheet in recent weeks found a way to contribute. Tomas Hertl’s two-goal performance stands out, but Nieto, Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson also managed to beat Bernier, who was left in for all seven scores.
That depth scoring will have to continue if the Sharks are going to find any long-term success.
Hertl, who entered with two goals in his last 34 games, said: “I’m not just happy for me, I’m happy for [Donskoi], [Nieto] and Melker. Everybody needs to score, and all four guys [scored]. It was a great game for everybody.”
“We had four dangerous lines out there,” Wingels said. “If we’re going to make a run and string a lot of games together, that’s what we’re going to need. Certainly a lot of guys feel better about their games today than games past. Myself [and] other guys will be happy with it and gain some confidence, and continue on to the next game.”