SAN JOSE -– There were some seriously dark clouds hanging over the Sharks halfway through the team’s six-game homestand, and we’re not talking about the weeklong rainstorm that’s suddenly flooding parts of California.
San Jose dropped shootout losses to non-contenders Florida and Arizona, following by a 2-0 defeat to the Calgary Flames, a team they are directly fighting to overcome in the Pacific Division. It wasn’t a stretch to think major changes could be coming if the losses continued to mount.
Instead, the Sharks are now playing their best hockey of the season, and for the first time have won three straight regulation games in a row after a 7-4 triumph over Boston.
The best home team in the Western Conference last season, the Sharks have at least temporarily made SAP Center a difficult place to play again, even if they failed to sell out any of the six games of the homestand.
“Third period we heard the ‘Let’s go Sharks,’ and that‘s probably the first time we heard it all year,” said Joe Pavelski, who was the San Jose’s best player against the Bruins, with two goals and one assist. “That’s on us as players that we haven’t created that kind of atmosphere, but we put up  shots there and we get to a good goalie.”
That goalie was Tuukka Rask, and he didn’t have much of a chance on five of the Sharks’ seven goals. Both of Tommy Wingels’ scores came on deflected pucks from the slot, including one on the power play; Tyler Kennedy scored one off of his skate and another on a redirection from the high slot, and Pavelski’s second goal went in off of Milan Lucic.
Kennedy’s markers were particularly noteworthy. The 28-year-old has had a difficult run in San Jose since a trade from Pittsburgh in the summer of 2013, including sitting as a healthy scratch in the playoffs last season and missing most of training camp this year with an upper body injury. A former 21-goal scorer, Kennedy had just four last season in 67 games, and had tallied just once in 11 games before Thursday night.
It’s never been a lack of effort with Kennedy, who had missed the last two games with a lower body injury. He’s hopeful that he’ll now finally be able to build off of a productive night with linemates James Sheppard – who assisted on both his goals – and Matt Nieto.
"Let's hope so, eh? It felt good to get those two goals and help the team,” Kennedy said. “Hopefully I can get better every game, and that's my biggest focus is trying help the team and trying to get better every day.”
Todd McLellan said: “TK worked hard over the last couple of days. I thought he and Nieto used their speed well to complement Sheppard.”
The Sharks, who have appeared fragile at times throughout the first part of the season, also showed some mental fortitude in erasing an early 2-0 hole and then a 4-3 deficit in the second period despite outplaying the Bruins up to that point.
Boston scored its first two goals in the first 2:35 of the first period on rare misplays by Justin Braun. The Sharks went into the dressing room still down a pair, but a late first period power play gave them some momentum that they carried over into the second period. It was tied on markers from Wingels and Kennedy just three minutes into the middle frame.
“They get two, and that’s kind of the number you can’t get away from. Three gets to be pretty distant,” Pavelski said. “Tommy and that line gets us going again. It kind of went rolling from there, and we have a big second.”
“Tonight was a good morale boost to fall behind and then come back and really have everybody contribute,” McLellan said.
The Sharks scored the final four goals of the game, including two from Pavelski, and one each from Kennedy and Tomas Hertl. Getting scoring from more players than just the big guns is encouraging.
“The guys that are doing it right are scoring,” McLellan said. “They're keeping their nose over the puck, deflections, tips, playing on the inside. So that's real positive. We have to have it from everybody. That's just the way it is.”
The Sharks should feel as confident as they have all season as they head into an Alberta road trip, beginning in Calgary on Saturday and continuing the next night in Edmonton. They will return home to face the lowly Oilers on Tuesday to begin another five-game homestand.
Building off of what is now a 5-4-2 home mark will be vital.
“I think we’re learning what it’s about again,” Pavelski said. “Took a little bit longer than what we thought. Not that it’s there now for sure, because there’s a lot of effort that has to go into that for it to be there every night.”