We have to get some depth scoring, some chip-ins if you will, some unusual suspects to be successful.
That was Todd McLellan earlier this week, discussing what the Sharks would need down the stretch to move back into playoff position and, ultimately, clinch a postseason berth. If anyone on the San Jose roster qualifies as an unusual suspect, it's center Andrew Desjardins, he of the 13 career goals coming into tonight's game. In what was essentially a must-win contest for the Sharks, Desjardins came through in a big way, scoring twice in the second period to lead San Jose to a 5-2 victory in Big D.
A revamped, goon-free fourth line featuring Tomas Hertl and Chris Tierney alongside Desjardins proved to be the Sharks' best, consistently establishing a presence in the Dallas zone despite being tasked with defensive-zone faceoff work. Efficient board play led to both of Desjardins' goals as Hertl picked the puck off the boards and fired a shot that Desjardins tipped past Kari Lehtonen to give the Sharks a 2-0 lead before a subsequent puck battle victory by Hertl set the gears in motion for Desjardins to beat Lehtonen five hole just under three minutes later.
Antti Niemi stonewalled the Stars, particularly as they came on in the third period outshooting San Jose 15-4, stopping 37 of 39 Dallas shots for the win as the Sharks moved past Los Angeles and back into a playoff spot. The puck drops on a potentially season-defining game two nights from now at Levi's Stadium but, thanks in large part to Desjardins and Niemi's efforts, the Sharks can go into their outdoor tilt with the Kings feeling slightly more secure about their place in the standings.
- Despite referring to them as the "fourth" line, Desjardins' line actually saw slightly more even-strength ice time than the trio of Matt Nieto, James Sheppard and Tyler Kennedy. That's the benefit of having both a third and fourth line staffed exclusively with useful hockey players; there's no need to shelter either line with reduced minutes and they can be in constant game-to-game competition to earn ice time.
- Speaking of line combinations, Melker Karlsson on the first line has gone from "great story" to "how the hell is this still going on?" in the span of like three weeks. He was probably the biggest reason Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau barely had an impact on this game, turning the puck over three times on one shift during routine exit and entry plays which was typical of his overall night.
- You know things are getting desperate standings-wise for the Sharks when Thornton shoots the puck on a 2-on-1. His first period odd-man rush with Karlsson might be the first time he's never even given the appearance of wanting to dish it in that situation.
- This is probably the end of the line for the Stars' playoff hopes but it's worth mentioning that Jason Spezza is absolutely terrifying whenever he touches the puck. Good thing he spent most of his prime in the East.
FTF Three Stars
1st Star: Andrew Desjardins
2nd Star: Antti Niemi
3rd Star: Tomas Hertl