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Adjustments, rookies help Sharks steal win

Carolina outplayed San Jose last night, but some key adjustments and strong rookie performances gave the Sharks a win.

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at San Jose Sharks Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

SAN JOSE — In the San Jose Sharks’ first matchup of the season against the Carolina Hurricanes a month ago, the Hurricanes’ aggressive play in the neutral zone stymied the Sharks, according to San Jose head coach Pete DeBoer. Ahead of San Jose’s 4-3 win last night, the Sharks’ coaching staff emphasized the importance of getting pucks behind Carolina’s pressing defense, DeBoer said after the game.

Twelve seconds into the game, San Jose did just that and opened the scoring. Joe Pavelski’s between-the-legs redirect to Joe Thornton caught Hurricanes defenseman Ron Hainsey flat-footed. That left Thornton and linemate Patrick Marleau with an easy two-on-one that Marleau finished with a tap-in.

“We wanted to do a little bit more of that tonight,” DeBoer said. “When we did, we got rewarded. We had some breakaways, [some] two-on-ones. That’s a team if you don’t put them away, they’re good at hanging around.”

The Hurricanes did more than just hang around. They tied the game 1:47 after Marleau’s goal, and would tie the game again in the middle of the second period. Neither tie lasted very long, but Carolina controlled possession to the tune of 58.7% of all shot attempts at even strength.

Still, the Sharks held off the Hurricanes, and escaped with the win.

“I think when you look at the week, of the three games we played, it was probably the poorest,” DeBoer said, “But we found a way to win, and the other two we lost, maybe we deserved better.”

A pair of rookies helped the Sharks find their way to the win. Goaltender Aaron Dell stopped 30 Hurricanes shots in his third win in four career starts. Kevin Labanc’s second period goal held up as the game-winner.

It was his second goal in as many games, and just the second time he’s scored points in consecutive games in his 15-game NHL career. His goal, scored off of a rebound from Dylan DeMelo’s point shot, was a “confidence booster,” according to Labanc

“It feels good [to contribute],” Labanc said, “It feels even better to win the game. We were in a little slump there, but we’re out and we played hard in the last minute. [It] was a full 60-minute game that we played, not 40, but we played hard until the end.”

Despite ceding the territorial edge to the Hurricanes, San Jose held Carolina without a shot on goal for 14:39 in the third period. The Sharks allowed three shots on goal in the frantic, final 1:39 of regulation.

Dell stopped all of them, including a strong seal of his left pad along the post as Victor Rask tried to jam home the game-tying goal with an empty net across from him in Carolina’s crease. Dell had no doubt Rask did not score in the midst of a quick video review, but the game’s final minute did not pass by quickly, he said.

“The last minute six-on-five is always a really, really long minute,” Dell said. “We did a good job. We had some big blocked shots out there. [We] didn’t really get too many clears, but we had some good sticks that blocked pucks out. I think we played it pretty well.”

When the Sharks play games like they did last night, they likely will lose the majority of them. But, after the third game in four nights, and ahead of a four-game, eight-day road trip, the Sharks and DeBoer are not complaining.

“We didn’t do probably enough of the things that we need to do, or we have been doing,” DeBoer said. “But, that’s the way hockey works. We did get some bounces tonight. We haven’t been getting them lately, so we’ll take them.”