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WASHINGTON – After a 6-5 shootout win that was about as entertaining as an NHL game can get, the Sharks’ record remains perfect.
Their performances, though, have been far from flawless through the first trio of games in the regular season.
The Sharks jumped out to a 3-0 lead for the third straight time, but allowed the Capitals back into it in the second. They regained the momentum in the third, but still saw a 5-3 advantage with less than six minutes to go evaporate. They got the extra point in the standings courtesy of a Joe Pavelski shootout goal to improve to 3-0-0.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Sharks blow lead, beat Capitals 6-5 in shootout]
“Right now we’re a team that’s winning that needs a lot of work,” coach Todd McLellan said. “I guess that’s a good thing when you’re not playing as well as you’d like in a lot of areas, you’re still winning games. We’ll take it and we’ll continue to grow as a group.”
Tommy Wingels, who scored his team-leading third goal, said: “We started out really well. I’m really happy with our start. Then they picked it up and our game fell off a little bit.”
In each of the Sharks three matches, their game has raised and dipped rather dramatically. Against the Capitals, it was the second period that was concerning. The Sharks began the middle frame with a 3-0 lead but saw Washington record eight of the first nine shots on goal, including a Marcus Johnasson power play marker that got them on the board. Pavelski made it 4-1 shortly after Johansson's goal, but the comeback was on anyway.
In the season opener in Los Angeles and Saturday’s home game against Winnipeg, the Sharks nursed their leads and were content spending most of the third periods on their heels in the defensive zone.
Yes, it’s natural to sit back and not attack as much with a lead, but that’s not what’s going on here.
“We’re trying to find our identity, we’re trying to find line combinations, we’re trying to establish momentum and then maintain it,” McLellan said. “We seem to give it back too often, as was the case again tonight.
“We haven’t played a complete game yet.”
Wingels’ early third period marker looked for awhile like it would be the final nail in the Capitals’ coffin, but a tripping penalty to Brent Burns led to Alex Ovechkin’s power play goal at 14:09, and soon after that Matt Irwin fell down in the defensive zone allowing Troy Brouwer to waltz towards the crease to deposit the equalizer with 4:35 left in regulation.
“It’s disappointing to lose the 3-0 lead, and 4-1, and 5-3,” Pavelski said. “They’re a dangerous team. … Give them a little credit, but at the end of the day we feel and we believe that the group in here can control games.”
Irwin admitted he misplayed Brouwer’s goal, but the defenseman can still hold his head high after his season debut. He scored two goals in the first five minutes of the game, equaling his output from all of last season. He finished the night with an even rating in a little more than 19 minutes of ice time in place of rookie Mirco Mueller, who was a healthy scratch.
“That’s a good feeling,” Irwin said of his two goals. “Just looking to build on it now. Not be satisfied with that, and just be consistent in the lineup every night.”
His team is searching for the same thing.
“That’s what a season is about and that’s how you grow as a team,” Wingels said. “If you have success after success it’s hard to work on things. Tonight was a game where we were tested.
“For a lot of that game they had momentum but we were able to withstand it and find a way to win the game. That’s what matters.”