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Quick Bites: Labanc cashes in with hat trick

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Joe Thornton catches Gordie Howe in the record books

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - JANUARY 16: Brenden Dillon #4, Kevin Labanc #62, Joe Thornton #19 and Evander Kane #9 of the San Jose Sharks celebrate after Kane scored a goal against the Arizona Coyotes during the second period of the NHL game at Gila River Arena on Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Another dominant win by the Sharks. The 5-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers makes it five straight for team teal and they’re starting to get closer to the top of the Western Conference standings.

Let’s kick things off with the milestones, because there were a few of them last night. Not to play down Kevin Labanc’s first ever career hat trick, but Joe Thornton is now tied with Gordie Howe for all-time assists. Jumbo has helped out on 1,049 goals in his career, including two last night. Stanley Cup or no, Thornton is most definitely a first ballot Hall of Famer.

Okay, back to Labanc, who notched the first hat trick of his career. Labanc could probably tell you the same thing Jonathan Cheechoo would tell you: playing with Thornton certainly doesn’t hurt when it comes to scoring goals. Thornton assisted on two of Labanc’s three goals.

Not a milestone, but certainly worth mentioning is the play of Aaron Dell. He was a large reason the Oilers didn’t make it a closer game. Dell came up big when he needed to and the Sharks offered him the run support that he needed. Dell ended the night with 21 saves and a .913 save percentage.

Despite the final score, the Edmonton Oilers are still very much in the playoff race, just four points away from the second wildcard spot, but last night you could see why there is a 20 point difference between these two teams.

Looking at score- and venue-adjusted 5-on-5 Corsi For, you’ll see the Sharks were dominant almost from the drop of the puck.

Natural Stat Trick

Edmonton fared better after about the middle of the second period, but by then it was 3-1 and the Sharks were playing shutdown hockey. It never felt like the Oilers gave up in the game, it just felt like they were out-classed.

The Connor McDavid line was negated by Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Timo Meier, which left the Sharks’ depth to do the heavy lifting and that’s where Kevin Labanc shined.

“We’ve had guys step up and have big nights and Kevin had a good one for us tonight,” said Captain Joe Pavelski after the game.

Labanc was also happy with the results, but didn’t take credit for his goals.

“Everybody’s on the same page, our details are perfect and it’s resulting with these wins,” said Labanc. “We just have to keep that structure and keep it going and don’t let the momentum stop.”

In the first period, the Sharks took a few minutes to get their legs going. With the 4 p.m. start, the Sharks did not have a morning skate, so it took some time to get into a rhythm. When they did, they picked up right where they left off in Calgary.

The Sharks started the scoring off at the 6:10 mark of the first period when Kevin Labanc was the beneficiary of a Joe Thornton pass in the Oilers’ zone. Labanc snapped the puck past Cam Talbot and scored his first of the night. Jumbo received the primary assist on the play. It was assist number 1,048 in his storied career, putting him just one assist away from tying Gordie Howe on the all-time assists list.

The Sharks continued to put the pressure on Edmonton, throwing out the line of Evander Kane, Joonas Donskoi and Tomas Hertl. Once again, the move paid off for Head Coach Pete DeBoer and Kane scored to make it 2-0.

The play started out with Hertl bringing the puck into the Oilers’ zone. He drew two guys to him and the dropped it back to Donskoi, who was trailing on the play. Donsoki passed it across ice to Kane, who had already beat his man to the side of the goal. It was an easy tap in for Kane. That’s seven points (five goals, two assists) in the last five games for Kane.

The first period ended with a 2-0 Sharks lead.

The first period was tough for both teams in terms of injuries. Part way through the first, Melker Karlsson was crosschecked a few times by Kevin Gravel. The second one sent Karlsson into the boards awkwardly and he stayed down. Karlsson went to the dressing room and did not return to the game.

With time winding down in the first, the Oilers’ Ty Rattie went down to block a shot by Tim Heed. It hit Rattie on the side of the foot and he needed to be helped off the ice after the whistle. Rattie did not return to the game either.

In the second period, the Oilers turned things up, outshooting the Sharks 13-6. Despite the disparity on the shot clock, the Sharks managed to extend their lead. At the 6:10 mark, Labanc notched his second of the night to make it 3-0.

On the power play, Labanc found some empty space and took the shot. Top shelf again and it was 3-0 Sharks. Meier and Kane had the assists.

But Edmonton would not go down without a fight. At 12:00 of the second period, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins notched a power play goal of his own to make it 3-1.

That’s the way the second period would end.

The Oilers came out in the third period pushing for that second goal of the night, but it ended up being Labanc that scored next.

It seemed like a simple entry into the Oilers’ zone, Thornton dished it off to Labanc who wasted no time snapping another shot past Talbot. At 1:36 of the third period, the hat trick was complete.

At 4:24, Hertl put the game away with some quick hands and an even quicker shot.

The goals forced the Oilers to push even harder and they peppered Dell with shots. At the 14:03 mark, it finally paid off with a goal from Zack Kassian.

Edmonton continued to try and get within striking distance, but couldn’t get that third goal.

The Sharks wrap up this road trip in Vancouver, where they’ll face the Canucks on Monday night.