Programming note: Sharks-Sabres coverage starts today at 3:30pm with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California.
Former Sharks coach Todd McLellan used to have his own phrase for winning ugly, referring to such occurrences as “not a Picasso.”
Current coach Pete DeBoer didn't drop any modern art references after the Sharks' 3-2 win in Detroit on Friday, but he still recognized that the Sharks probably didn’t have their best game, generating just 14 shots on goal to the Wings’ 28. Still, the Sharks found a way to pull through thanks to solid goaltending by Martin Jones and a couple depth players getting on the scoresheet.
The Sharks entered the game with just three wins in their last 11 games, all coming against against weaker clubs Carolina, Florida and Colorado. The Red Wings aren't exactly lighting up the league, falling to 8-6-1 on the year, but it was still the Sharks' best victory since they reeled off four in a row at the outset.
“We needed a win. I thought we played a good road game,” DeBoer told reporters. “Obviously they outshot us, but we’ve been on the other end of those and haven’t won, so we know that feeling.”
There was a sense of here-we-go-again early in the night, when Tomas Tatar picked a corner on an odd-man rush a little more than three minutes into the first period. It was especially ominous for Martin Jones, who entered the night having gotten pulled in two of his last three starts, thanks to some early goals-against.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Jones hangs tough, Sharks beat Wings on road]
The Tatar goal didn’t rattle Jones at all, though, and he made some stops over the next several minutes while the Red Wings were playing with the puck in the offensive zone. Eventually his teammates settled in, too.
“Obviously you don’t like giving up an early goal, but it makes it all the more important to stick with it and keep it at one and we did a good job fighting back,” Jones told reporters.
“We needed him to bounce back. We needed a solid performance, and that’s what he gave us,” DeBoer said.
Jones is still just in his second month as an undisputed NHL starter, and DeBoer indicated he’s still getting used to being the main man in net.
“Like every starting goalie, he’s learning what it means to bring his A-game every night. That’s a process he’s learning to deal with, and I think he’s getting better and better,” said the coach.
The goal that got the Sharks going and was the first of three unanswered scores came from forward Melker Karlsson, playing in just his second game of the season. The majority of Karlsson’s 13 goals last season came from in and around the blue paint, and Friday’s was no different, as the 25-year-old snuck a loose puck through Jimmy Howard at 7:41 of the first.
“It’s nice having a veteran guy you can play in all situations,” DeBoer said. “He’s a smart hockey player. It’s nice to get a body like that back in the lineup.”
Goals by Matt Nieto and Joe Pavelski gave the Sharks a two-goal cushion midway through regulation. Pavelski’s goal was the highlight of the night, as the captain perfectly redirected a Paul Martin shot through Howard at 10:23 of the second period. It’s a play that he practices on end.
“I try to work with all the D on that, shoot for me if they can,” Pavelski said. “Good play by [Justin Braun] to get it over to Martin, [I'm] just trying to go through that lane. I turned around to just get enough of it, and it and it’s always nice when they go in.”
The Sharks will be right back in action on Saturday in a city that has given them nightmares for them over the years. The Sharks are just 1-15-1 all-time in Buffalo, where they will face the upstart Sabres, who were the worst team in the NHL last season. Both clubs bring 8-8-0 records into the tilt.
San Jose is still seeking its first back-to-back wins since the first week of the regular season. They have a chance to build in Buffalo.
“It was important to get off to a quick start on this road trip,” Pavelski said.