The San Jose Sharks can say they’ve finished this homestand on a high note, tallying the team’s first regulation win at home with a 5-1 triumph against the Ottawa Senators on Monday night.
Noah Gregor kicked off scoring with his first goal of the season, quite literally knocking the puck out of the air and setting himself up for a wrister that slipped past Cam Talbot. Tim Stutzle tied the game a little over halfway through the opening period off of a feed from Brady Tkachuk, which stood as the Senator’s lone goal in the contest.
San Jose followed up with a collection of goals in the second period from Timo Meier, Matt Nieto and Tomas Hertl (with Hertl’s coming on the power play). Logan Couture closed the game with a 200-foot empty net goal, where the back of one of his skates touched the dasherboards as he cleared the puck.
Following the win, head coach David Quinn, forward Noah Gregor, defender Erik Karlsson and goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen took to the mic to address a win on home ice, Kahkonen’s performance and where they can go from here.
Here’s what they had to say:
On the final score going their way: Very gratifying. I was really proud of our guys, great bounce-back win. We got better and better as the game went on — Kaapo did a great job in the first period keeping us in there. We were a bit loose on the puck, but once the second period got going, we really managed the puck well, we took away time and space. Really proud of our third period, it was a really smart third period — we didn’t give up much, managed the situation. Just really happy for our guys.
On the conversation between the first and second period: I liked a lot of the things we were doing, it was mainly just the puck management being a little loose. We cleaned it up after the first two minutes of the second and made the game easier on ourselves, and that’s what we have to do. Our special teams came up big again, power play got a key goal and our penalty kill was huge again — just a real solid effort.
On the power play goal: It was a hard-earned goal on the power play. Sometimes, when you get on the power play, you play power play instead of just playing hockey. You lose sight of the fact that you still have to earn it, still have to win puck battles, still have to get to the net, still have to do all the things that the game demands [at] 5-on-5 and carry it over to 5-on-4. We did a really good job of that on that power play.
On Kahkonen: As we’ve touched on, his confidence early on — about a week and a half ago — was not where it needed to b. He’s built his confidence up, he’s worked hard, he’s done a really good job — Tom Speer did a great job with him over the last 10 days to kind of get him right more mentally than anything. He was big tonight.
[I’ve had conversations] with him and Tom. It’s just watching him too, watching him in practice, you can just see him kind of feeling better and better about himself, just really happy for him.
On Gregor: Gregs played well. Not just the goal — I know we all look at that — it’s nice that he got on the scoresheet, but he did a lot of good things tonight.
On Couture’s comment about Karlsson being the league’s MVP: What can happen when you coach a player like that, you spend a lot of time with other people, and you just take it for granted. We talked today, and I just said to him, “You’ve been unbelievable, not only on the ice, but off the ice” — all the things that we need him to do in order for us to be the organization, the team we need to be. I’ve been floored by his play, it’s been unbelievable to watch him. I agree with what Cooch said.
On the third period: I loved our third period, it was managed as well as we have all year. Our situational hockey was really good, we made them go 200 feet. They had one chance [at] 5-on-5 in the third period — it was a really smart period.
On the Cicek hit: That should have been a penalty. You’ll look at it and it’s a headshot. They shrugged their shoulders when I asked them about it, but I know the league is really focusing on protecting our players.
On looking ahead: We feel like it should be better than that. We feel like we’ve played better than that, but it’s not like they’re going to re-evaluate the games and give us extra points. We just have to keep moving forward, build on tonight, keep plotting along. It’s a long season and we’re 21 games into this — we have a lot more hockey to play and we just have to keep improving. We improved tonight — we checked a box off tonight: how to manage a lead, which we haven’t been great at. Really proud of our guys.
On scoring his first of the season: It’s a little weight off my back there just to score — a bit of a frustrating start for me, so it’s really nice to see one go in. I got a chance — a little breakaway to start — and then the puck came back up top to Kunin and fired it and I was able to knock it down, turn, and fire it and luckily it went in.
On the conversation between the first and second period: Our game was pretty solid, but there were some things we had to tighten up a little bit. Overall, it was a pretty good start to the game.
On Quinn’s message coming into tonight: He wasn’t too happy with our game — we kind of stayed in longer than we probably should have. We haven’t had a home win in a while, so we just wanted to protect our home ice, get a big win tonight and move forward from that.
On Kahkonen: He played great tonight. I’ve been working with him a lot here and know the work he’s been putting in, so it’s really great to see him. He’s a great goalie, so we’re confident with him back there and he did a great job tonight.
On looking ahead: There’s a lot of good happening in our game — most nights, we’re in games and our team is a hard-working one. We play hard, we play the right way, it’s just game management, giving up goals late, things like that that have cost us some points, but our game is trending in the right direction. Tonight’s a big win and we can carry it through the rest of the month and into Christmas break.
On the third period: Having a lead going into the third, we did a good job of only giving them that one goal. They have some guys who can make plays and create chances, and we knew they would look to cheat a little bit, try to get back in the game, and we did a good job of containing them.
On the final score going their way: We started a little softly, but we cleaned it up fairly quickly. The last 40 minutes, we played like the better team and it was a nice win for us to get at home — it’s been a while.
We just started holding pucks more instead of trying to rush things, and it builds momentum. We had a couple of good shifts where we had some good pressure, and even though we didn’t score, we stuck by it. If you keep doing that, someone will eventually put it in the back of the net.
On Kahkonen: It’s great. Same as Reims last game, he played unbelievable for us and saved us an embarrassing night. We all want those guys to do really well. They work really hard every day and we want to see them succeed, we want to play well in front of them. When we aren’t, it’s nice to see that they’re there to back us up.
On the power play goal: We did a good job — we didn’t force anything, we moved the puck around until someone had a good opportunity to shoot it. You do that, everyone’s in position to retrieve it.
On looking ahead: We believe it’s possible to get back into this. I don’t think we’re thinking about anything but the next game. Trying not to look back too much, trying not to look forward too much, we have a lot of work to do and we know that. The atmosphere in this group has been good since day one even if we haven’t won as much as we want — that’s something we have to build towards and keep in mind until it’s time to really start pushing.
On Couture’s comment about him: That’s very nice of him to say. Unfortunately, we are where we are in the standings and you don’t win games by yourself or by having an individually good season, that’s the way I see it. I’m hoping that we can find a way to become a more competitive team and fight for a playoff spot. We’ll see where we are at the end of it and the rest will take care of itself.
On what he’s been fine-tuning: Little details — being square to the shots or being closer when I’m down. When you get a lot of practice time, you can work on little things. I felt good tonight.
On the final score going their way: They did a good job — we boxed out fairly well. Any time they got shots through, if I made a save, they were inside and picking up sticks so I could grab the puck or we cleared it. We shut it down really well in the third. We did a good job not giving them anything.
Every time you win a game in this league, I’ve learned there are no easy wins, there are no easy games, it always requires a huge effort from everyone on the team to win in the NHL. Every time that happens, it’s a great feeling.
On having a win song in the locker room: If we do, it’s a really bad one. Every time we’ve won a game — I don’t know who’s in charge of that — I’d hope for a little more consistency and maybe a better choice. I can pick up a song and it’s no problem, but so far it’s been a little weak. That’s something we can improve upon.
*Lightly edited for clarity.