SAN JOSE -– It was the exclamation point on one heck of a homestand.
Playing against one of the more imposing teams in the league, the Sharks put together one of their more determined and resilient efforts in downing the Blues at SAP Center on Saturday night, 3-2. Marc-Edouard Vlasic tied it late and Brent Burns won it in overtime on the power play to give the Sharks 10 of a possible 10 points, including their eighth straight home win overall.
Although they hadn’t seen one another in a full calendar year, the talk on Saturday morning from both dressing rooms was how similar the Sharks and Blues were in terms of their styles of play. That proved to be the case, but for at least one night, the Sharks were a little bit better.
“Just a good all around game,” said Joe Thornton, who set up the tying goal. “I thought we played hard. They played hard. Just two good teams going at it.”
Vlasic said: “When we’re tough to play against we don’t give up much, and they’re the same way. They play hard, fast and it was a good game out there.”
It took the Sharks more than 16 minutes of the first period to register a single shot on goal, but they weren’t giving up a whole lot to the Blues, either. In the second, San Jose started to take over. Andrew Desjardins’ goal on a great setup by Justin Braun broke the scoreless deadlock midway through regulation.
The Blues responded to take the lead, and Steve Ott’s breakaway made it 2-1 on a play in which Burns and Thornton both erred. That didn’t get the Sharks down, though, and Thornton seemed even more determined afterwards to get the goal back after he stayed on the ice too long on Ott’s marker.
His setup of Vlasic on the tying goal was vintage Thornton, and he fended off Jay Bouwmeester along the wall and found his defenseman open at the point.
“You’ve just got to respond and play hard. That’s all it is,” Thornton said.
Vlasic said: “There was all that ice available and with Jumbo making that pass, he’s not going to miss.”
Special teams played a big role, too, as Burns cashed in on Alex Steen’s tripping minor in overtime. The defenseman was caught deep on Ott’s breakaway, but blasted a shot past Jake Allen with 38 seconds to go in overtime for his 10th goal.
McLellan said: "He's got a shot, doesn't he? He put himself in a good position, created a shooting lane. The pass was in his wheelhouse. He just pounded away at it. It's hard to stop a shot that fast and that quick."
Conversely, the Sharks stayed out of the penalty box for the first time all season. The Blues came in with a scorching power play, having scored 10 goals in their last 22 chances.
They never got a chance with a man advantage, though, and that could have been the difference.
St. Louis didn’t generate much of anything after the first period, getting just 12 shots on goal the rest of the way after eight in the opening frame.
“We knew it would be a hard game, a physical game, but didn't want to get into a situation where we put ourselves short, so give the guys credit,” McLellan said. "They accomplished that."
The Sharks opened a difficult stretch in which they will face the Blues twice more over the next three weeks, two games against the Ducks later this month, and matchups with the Kings and Canucks before the turn of the New Year.
They improved to 6-1-1 against teams currently ahead of them in the overall league standings. They way they’re playing, the Sharks -– now at in 10th overall in the NHL -– may be looking down on many them at some point soon.
“Guys bought in again tonight,” Pavelski said. “It’s fun to play that way.”