The “Shark Tank” was listless early, watching the Devils take the first seven shots and draw a power play. It groaned when goaltender Martin Jones didn’t seal off the post and let in a soft first goal eight minutes in.
But by the end of the first 20 minutes, they were cheering as the Sharks (16-11-5) outshot New Jersey (10-13-6) 11-4 and outscored them 2-0 the rest of the period, waking up from an early-game slumber to cruise to a 5-2 win over the hapless Devils on Monday at SAP Center.
The Sharks have won four of their last five games to rebound from a four-game losing streak, while the Devils have dropped eight of their last nine games.
Head coach Pete DeBoer said:
“The first 10 minutes, we looked a little slow and then we got going. That first goal could have led to a downturn and it didn’t. We just kept working. It was a good effort tonight.”
Joe Pavelski netted his 20th goal of the season to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead late in the first period, cleaning up the rebound into a gaping net off a shot by Brenden Dillon. The goal came less than three minutes after Timo Meier evened the score on a solo rush down the right side, staring down Devils goaltender Keith Kinkaid before burying it past his right blocker.
Meier wasn’t done, though, scoring a near-identical goal in the second period, except rushing down the left side. Meier buried his 15th and 16th goals of the season, showcasing his killer wrist shot. The goal gave the Sharks a 4-2 lead and some separation heading into the third period, as the Devils had cut the lead to one earlier in the second.
“It’s always a shot that I like, coming on that wing. It’s one of my strengths. It’s been working for me.”
Meier, whose 16 goals have come in 30 games, has become a critical part of the Sharks’ offense. According to linemate Logan Couture, Meier has always had a wicked wrist shot, but the third-year forward is learning to take it from better spots on the ice and trusting his teammates, resulting in better opportunities for himself:
“He’s turned into a top-six player for us. Plays the right way, plays hard, creates offense.”
Tomas Hertl added an insurance marker on the power play in the third, his ninth of the season. Hertl commented on how dangerous the line with himself, Couture and Meier can be:
“It’s pretty fun, if [Meier, Couture] and I can play a good game we can score a lot of goals.”
It was fitting that three of the Sharks’ top-four goal scorers provided the spark to a win. The Sharks have been looking to find consistency to their game all year long, riding ebbs and flows to an average season thus far. They have struggled to play a full 60 minutes, oftentimes taking an early lead only to have the opponent come back.
On Monday, they showed no such letdown.
“Our guys weren’t feeling 100 percent, and we found a way to put in 60 minutes of work and get a win.”
The Sharks take on the Dallas Stars (16-11-3) at home on Thursday. San Jose fell in Dallas last Friday by a 3-2 final.
Joe Thornton played in his 1,515th career game on Monday, passing Steve Yzerman for 18th on the all-time NHL leaderboard. … Rookie defenseman Radim Simek netted his first career goal for the Sharks.Pavelski’s 20th goal puts him on pace for 51 goals on the season — his career high is 41. It marks his 10th season of 20 goals or more and moves him into a tie for fourth among NHL goal-scoring leaders this season, two goals behind league-leader Alexander Ovechkin (22). DeBoer hopes that this isn’t the last time the veteran will reach the 20-goal plateau:
“I said from day one I don’t think he’s dropped off at all. Age is just a number for a guy like him. He works so hard. His game isn’t about speed. It’s about all the other things. You don’t lose those things when you get older.”