For a team aching for consistency and aiming to play up to its potential to finish off a season-high six-game homestand, the Sharks’ 4-0 win over Vancouver Friday was just what the doctor ordered.
Looking to jumpstart a power play that is too talented to rank near the bottom third of the league, San Jose (12-7-4) converted three times on the man advantage. And Aaron Dell, the trusty backup who may see more playing time if he keeps up this stellar season, made 19 saves to earn a shutout in his second straight start.
Add that up while facing the Canucks (10-13-2), losers of eight straight, and San Jose recorded a strong finish to a 4-1-1 stretch at SAP Center to reclaim first place in the Pacific Division before heading out for a five-game road trip that begins Saturday in Las Vegas.
Head coach Pete DeBoer is happy with the homestand:
“A lot of good stuff. It’s never perfect. Heading on the road, we’re going to have to be better to win games, but I thought we accomplished what we wanted to on this homestand.”
Everything has been there this homestand, according to DeBoer: the penalty-killing solid, the defense tightening its screws and the power play — which has potential to be potent — warming up.
“We want it to be elite. We need it to be elite. It was elite tonight. In the league standings, it’s not at an elite level yet. It has the capability of being there.”
Defensively, the Sharks clamped down. Despite only outshooting the Canucks 24-19, the Sharks won two-thirds of face offs and kept the puck in the Vancouver zone for most of the night. Dell made a few big saves, but otherwise wasn’t tested much in goal:
“Most of the shots they had were long, ones that I could see all the way. I don’t think they had any second opportunities the whole night. It goes to show how solid defensively we were tonight.”
When he was tested, he denied Vancouver’s bids to get on the scoreboard. Joe Pavelski said:
“When he gets those chances, he’s a gamer. He makes those saves and he’s battling. … On those breakaways, those chances, he was solid for us.”
Right away, the Sharks induced the Canucks — who entered the game leading the league in penalty minutes with 269 — into penalty trouble, drawing four power plays in the first period alone. After going scoreless on the first one, the Sharks struck six seconds into their second man advantage, as Logan Couture wristed one into the net to give the Sharks 1-0 lead.
They doubled it with time winding down in the first, this time on the second half of a four-minute penalty when Derrick Pouliot was whistled for high-sticking. With 10 seconds left in the period, Joe Thornton took two shots in close from the left side, the second deflecting off the body of Timo Meier and in.
The Karlssons tacked on some insurance markers in the third period. Erik Karlsson scored his second goal in a Sharks uniform on the power play on a wrister from the point, and then he assisted on Melker Karlsson’s goal at 9:35 of the third.
After a slow start to the season, Erik Karlsson’s three-point night on Friday gave him eight points in his last five games. He has 15 points on the season, second amongst Sharks defensemen but far behind Brent Burns’ 23 points. Karlsson said his production will improve with more time spent with his new team:
It’s going to get better and better. We’re going to start figuring things out, get to know each other a little bit more. It’s a work in progress and it’s a long year. There’s been no panic in anyone, especially not in me.
Lukas Radil, who was called up from the San Jose Barracuda earlier in the week, made his NHL debut as Antti Soumela was scratched. … Before the game, Joe Thornton was recognized for tying Mario Lemieux for 11th on the all-time assist list on Tuesday, a week after he scored his 400th career goal. He passed Lemieux on Friday, recording his 1,034th assist on Meier’s goal.
The Sharks embark on a five-game road trip that begins on Saturday at Las Vegas before heading they head east for the remaining games.