After five straight losses, the San Jose Sharks have finally earned their first points of the season, besting the New York Rangers 3-2 with an overtime win at Madison Square Garden.
Improving on a hole in their game from last season, San Jose got on the board first thanks to a power play goal from Logan Couture midway through the first period. New York responded with two goals late in the second period, but defender Radim Simek tied the game at two apiece, scoring his first goal since Dec. 2021. Simek’s second-period goal couldn’t have come at a better time, as up until then, the Sharks hadn’t tallied a single goal in a second period on the season.
Following the win, head coach David Quinn, forward Matt Nieto and defenders Erik Karlsson and Radim Simek took to the mic to address the first win of the year, third period dominance and building on the momentum into the weekend.
Here’s what they had to say:
On his first win as head coach: I’m going to be 100 percent honest with you: you’re 0-5, a lot of adversity, not feeling great about your performance on Long Island — we felt good about practice yesterday. It just felt good. Our guys did a great job dusting themselves off and getting ready for tonight. I thought the practice carried over to today — obviously, there are still things we need to get better at. I mean, you give that team four power plays in the first period and still survive, come out 1-0, that was an incredible accomplishment. Some chances in the second, but we battled back and played a great third period. Very proud of our guys. It’s been a tough go of it. We’ve been a fragile group, but we showed some mental toughness tonight and we showed some perseverance and resolve. You’re going to need all of those things moving forward here. I’m just really happy for our group.
On the third period: We were doing things that we hadn’t done all year. We looked good, we were doing some things that we had been talking about. You talk about confidence — and I said this to the group yesterday — you become confident by watching people do the right thing over and over again. Even in the first period, we were doing things we hadn’t done all year, then all of a sudden, in the second, our transition was better, moving pucks in and out of our zone a bit better. I can’t go to CVS and buy confidence pills — you get them by playing the right way and doing the right thing and watching your teammates doing the right thing. It just started snowballing, and at some point in time, you have to say enough is enough, and I think that’s what they did after the second period. They understood what it was going to take for us to win, and they had a good third period.
We stayed on top of [the Rangers], we reloaded, we turned pucks up, we committed to the body, we spent time in the offensive zone. That’s something that we’ve been doing sporadically, not enough, and we did it for a full period.
On building on the win: It started yesterday. You talk to any of these guys, our practice yesterday was a good one, and it carried over into this game. If we’re going to be the team I think we’re capable of being — I know a lot of people doubt us, and I get that — I think there’s a lot of good hockey in this group, and we showed it tonight.
On the penalty kill: We inherited a great penalty kill — second in the league. Ryan [Warsofsky]’s done a great job of understanding that this is not a fixable situation. We kind of just wanted to put his touch on it a little bit. The guys have done a great job killing penalties all year, and that was huge for us tonight, obviously.
On Reimer’s performance: Right off the bat, he makes a great save early — listen, if you’re going to win in this league, you better get goaltending, I don’t care what situation you have — and we have good goaltending.
On the game as a whole: I think the game grew with us. They came out strong with all the power play chances they had and controlled the puck well. They’re a good team, there’s no question about it, but I think for the first time this year, we kind of stuck with it. We tried our best to play to win the game instead of sitting back and waiting to see what was going to happen. In the third especially, we did a good job trying to push the play even though we ended up with a lot of pucks overturned. It took us a little longer than we wanted, but we got it done in 61-and-a-half minutes — little less? Nice.
On his overtime goal: I got in a situation where I thought they were going to call a penalty, and when I realized they were not, it was either going to be what happened or a 2-on-0 the other way. I found my balance well, felt like I had control of the puck even though it might have not looked like it. Timo did a good job in staying patient and he found me for an easy goal.
I put myself in a tricky situation and found a way out of it without needing anyone else to make a decision. It was nice to get a win and it felt like we played to win. This is the way we’re going to have to try to play even though we’re not going to win every game. We can’t be afraid of making mistakes or sit on our heels praying that our goalie’s going to bail us out and we get an easy goal. Today was a good step for us, and it’s all about doing that consistently. Luckily, we have another game on Saturday.
On third period play: We kept going for it. We played to win it, we put a lot of pressure on them, we put ourselves in better positions to defend more — being first on pucks, things like that. That’s the way we have to keep going. We aren’t going to win all of them, but that’s the mentality we have to have. Even if they do end up scoring, we’re still in the game and can keep pushing it, find a way to win it somehow.
On the feeling in the locker room: We finally won. It’s a great feeling to win a game after five losses.
On his goal: It was a turnover on the blue line — great play by him. It was a little lucky, but I finally scored a goal and it was a good goal for us — 2-2 after the second period, I think we deserved it tonight.
On winning against the Rangers: We knew before the game that the Rangers are a great team. We said we have to play like five guys together, be ready for every shift — every guy has to be ready — and we did it.
Hopefully this is a turning point for us. It’s disappointing for us, five losses in a row, and I think a big win for us — especially against the Rangers — tells us we need to play the same way against New Jersey and the Flyers.
On the first period momentum: We completely shut them down. They had a couple of looks and we bent, but didn’t break and were able to shut them out in that department. That was huge. That first period was a lot of special teams — to get through that period, it was good for us.
On the third period: Yeah, that was probably our best period all year. Just sustained pressure all over the ice, didn’t really give them any room to make plays or create anything. On the other end of that, we were holding onto pucks and getting them to the net. We just have to get more consistent with that.
On the penalty kill: [The Rangers] got so many threats on [their power play] unit, so we just tried to keep them to the perimeter. We know they like to try to pass through our box and get chances that way, so we try to have good sticks, and I think we did a good job of that. Staying in lanes, we were able to keep them off the board that way.
On winning against the Rangers: There’s a lot of excitement in this room, a lot of relief for sure. We felt we’ve been working hard, gone through stretches where we feel we haven’t played our best hockey. Tonight we stuck with it. Hopefully we can build some confidence off of this, string a couple together before we get back home.
Any time you’re going through a stretch like we are now, to come out of it in this fashion is huge for the team. It definitely lifts morale and confidence in the group. You can already see it — a lot of smiles and laughs in here, and it’s back to work tomorrow. We have to finish this road trip with a back-to-back-to-back, so we’re going to be ready for that and try to end it the same way.
On the second period: That’s a really good team over there — they have a good line-up. We knew they were going to push us throughout the game and that second period kind of brought it on a little bit. In that second intermission, we really got together and came out, played a great third period. We needed that more than ever. Timo and those guys got the overtime, it was good to see.
*Lightly edited for clarity.