Steady Stars slide past revenge-minded Sharks

The Sharks cached their playoff-clinching aspirations for a third-straight game during Saturday’s 4-2 slide against the Dallas Stars, engaging instead in a more visceral battle against the current Western Conference leaders.

Tension sparked early when Dallas’ Antoine Roussel, a villianous figure in Sharks lore after his 2014 hit on former goalie Alex Stalock, suffered vicious back-to-back hits courtesy of Roman Polak and Tommy Wingels. The solace of the penalty box did little to calm Roussel, who would become re-aquainted with the enclosure twice more throughout his prolonged pursuit of conflict with Wingels.

Tommy Wingels said:

“I’m embarrassed to have been a part of that on-going fiasco the entire game. You’re allowed to hit in this game since you’re a pee-wee. The fans don’t want to see after every whistle having to be broken up. I don’t think that belongs in the game.”

Stars center Mattias Janmark managed to sneak a tipped puck past Sharks goaltender Martin Jones in the aftermath of the first-period skirmish, granting the visitors a 1-0 advantage at the end of a frame in which they were outshot 12-5.

Janmark furnished the Dallas lead with another goal early in the second period when he tapped Jason Spezza‘s breakaway feed past a drawn-out Jones and between the vacated posts.

Joe Pavelski added to the growing list of confined Sharks midway through the second, committing a boarding penalty that would lead to a Stars power-play score. With the 5-4 player advantage, Dallas (45-22-9, 99 pts) played keep away until Patrick Sharp found the space to wrist one past Jones from the point.

Joe Pavelski said:

“It was borderline really. I feel he’s going to keep going, it’s a puck race and I was trying to finish the check-off. It was good to see him pop up right after.

San Jose’s most level-headed period was also their most productive. Joel Ward opened up scoring for the Sharks (41-28-6, 88 pts) with an unassisted tap-in to a vacated Dallas net after intercepting a wayward Stars pass.

Joel Ward said:

“I just kinda went behind the net. (Stars goalie Antti Niemi) played it. Their guy kicked it back, and it just popped off my stick. I think it might’ve even went straight in to be honest.”

Tomas Hertl buried a Joe Pavelski put-back just minutes after Ward’s score to bring the Sharks within striking distance at 3-2. San Jose peppered their former goalie Niemi with shots for the remainder of the contest, prodding the fire-up Stars into two more penalties along the way.

Ultimately, it was Dallas’ top scorer Jamie Been who would add an empty-net goal to put the game out of reach at 4-2.

Joe Pavelski said:

“We saw a lot of intensity from a lot of guys. It’s a game where you come back into the room and wonder how you didn’t get a couple more goals out there. That’s what the Shark tanks about, that energy, that belief. There was never one second where we didn’t think we were going to tie that game up.”

The Sharks return to the tank Tuesday for matchup with the Los Angeles Kings, the most difficult test remaining on their regular-season schedule.