Things started poorly for the Sharks on Thursday night. Jason Demers scored twice in the first period to give the Florida Panthers a 2-0 lead after San Jose controlled most of the possession in the very early going. Just as Florida looked poised to take over the contest for good, the Sharks got the breakthrough they needed.
Brent Burns, in a phenomenal display of skill and strength, drove the length of the ice and beat Demers and James Reimer to make it 2-1. From there, the Sharks took over and won the game 4-2 thanks to Tommy Wingels’ third period tally. The win showed a different, albeit still impressive, side of the Sharks.
One of my favorite things about last year’s San Jose team was its resiliency. No lead was safe for the opposition because the Sharks’ offense boasted enough fire power to make its opponents pay for sitting on a lead. While the Sharks have struggled to score, especially at even strength, this season, I felt the goals would come.
Now they’re coming. San Jose entered the game fourth in the league in even strength expected goals per 60 minutes according to corsica.hockey. They were also 28th in even strength goals scored. I’m not saying expected goals is a perfect metric, but it’s not off by 25 spots. The Sharks are a better offense than they’ve been rewarded for this season — but it seems like that might be changing.
Burns’ goal showed how much an individual moment of skill can still influence what is very much a team game. Then Joe Pavelski demonstrated much of the same by dipping to one knee and flicking the puck over Reimer’s right shoulder. Wingels’ goal came right after a faceoff as the fourth line was rewarded for a decent showing.
Then Couture, who still doesn’t have an even strength goal this year, got the empty netter. He has taken the ninth-most shots of any player without a goal this year at even strength. That’s happened before for Couture because it happens with every NHL player. Scoring is naturally streaky and it works both ways — you know, like when he set the NHL afire in the playoffs.
San Jose never looked out of Thursday’s game for a moment. Even down 2-0 I felt the Sharks had a route back in the game if they could take advantage of some of the chances they created. It didn’t need to all come at once, and it certainly didn’t, but the Sharks were content to chip away at their deficit until it was gone.
That’s the kind of thing a good team does. Even the best teams will make mistakes and find themselves in holes at times and I love the way the Sharks respond when they do get down in a game. Banking another two points on this six-game road trip doesn’t hurt, either.
The Sharks now have four points out of a possible four with four games to go. That’s not too shabby. Not too shabby at all.