SAN JOSE — More than one streak ended for the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night. Not only did they snap their six game losing skid, their longest since the 1995-96 season, with a 4-2 win over the St. Louis Blues but their third line winger Jamie McGinn scored his first goal of the season in his 45th game.
And just like most MLB teams do when players haven’t hit a home run for an unusually lengthy period, the Sharks gave “Ginner” the silent treatment.
“We were all on the bench and Jumbo (Joe Thornton) was going ‘sit down! sit down!'” joked Logan Couture.
Some good natured fun from the Sharks players was definitely a good change of pace from the recent mood in the room.
As for the goal scorer himself, McGinn talked about keeping his game the same and how eventually, the goal(s) would come.
“It frustrates you a little bit (not scoring) but I’m a guy who has to stay positive and just keep playing hard,” he said. “I knew it was gonna come, just didn’t know when but you got to keep the same game every night.”
While McGinn’s goal wasn’t the winner, it added necessary insurance in the third period. San Jose has fell victim to more than their usual share of third period collapses this season and extending the lead to 4-2 at the 12:47 mark of the third gave the Sharks some much needed breathing room. St. Louis would pepper Antti Niemi in the final minute and change with Jaroslav Halak pulled for an extra skater.
Niemi was up to the challenge though, stopping 28 out of 30 Blues shots and preserving the Sharks’ first win since defeating the Kings 1-0 back in Los Angeles on Jan. 1. Both goals allowed were of the questionable variety but for the first time since Niemi shut-out those Kings, the Sharks found a away to overcome a facet of their game that wasn’t up to normal standards.
In the first period, the Blues took a 1-0 lead when B.J. Crombeen’s slap shot from the left wing popped high up off Niemi’s blocker, fell down behind him and trickled in at the 5:23 mark. St. Louis’ second goal from defenseman Erik Johnson slid through Niemi’s pads from a bad angle to the tie the score 2-2 but the four Sharks goals would more than make up for it.
“The two goals that Nimo (Niemi) let in, I don’t think were great goals,” said head coach Todd McLellan. “but you could hear the guys on the bench ‘c’mon, let’s take care of him, let’s play for him’ and that’s a good sign.”
After falling behind 1-0, the Sharks would tie the game on a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play on the man advantage. Joe Pavelski, in just his second game back from a three week injury, found Joe Thornton down low to the left of Halak and then Thornton slid the puck in front to Dany Heatley for the tap in goal at 14:18.
The score remained the same till midway through the second when the Sharks would once again convert on the man advantage. Both Thornton and Heatley were there to swat home the rebound of Dan Boyle’s point shot. Heatley would originally get credit for the goal but it would later be changed to Thornton’s upon further review.
Unfortunately for the Sharks, with just 2:07 remaining, Niemi would allow a second straight fluky goal as bad angled shot from the boards by Johnson found it’s way through the pads to tie the score. But despite the tie score being tied, there was a noticeable buzz around the building as it felt like Sharks were turning a corner against the Blues.
In order to snap the streak though, it was clear the Sharks would have to find a way to score five-on-five in the final 20 minutes.
And wouldn’t you know it, one of the most criticized Sharks over the course of this season, Heatley, would be the man to break the 2-2 tie, with an even strength tally.
One of Heatley’s clear attributes were shown off on the goal as he redirected Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s point shot out of the air, down to the ice, bouncing just inside the left post. Incredible hand-eye from the two-time 50 goal scorer as he deposited what would hold up as the game winning goal.
As for the difference in the victory versus the previous six straight losses, Thornton replied simply, “scoring four probably…tonight we finished in the back of the net.”
Niemi bailed his team out in their last victory prior to Saturday and this time around the offense bailed out the netminding. Most games won’t be perfect so seeing the offense snapping out of the funk was huge, especially Heatley, who had been struggling to find the back of the net.
“Yesterday was a good day for us, I think we kind of took a deep breath,” mentioned Heatley. “Had a team dinner last night. Kind of got back to basics, felt good to get that win tonight.”
With the win the Sharks pickup a huge two points as they try to move up in the standings and back into the playoff picture. Coming into the game they sat in eleventh place, two spots and one point behind the Blues who have two games in hand. Not only do the Sharks gain ground themselves but also prevent one of their direct combatants from gaining ground as well.
San Jose can’t relax too much though after snapping the skid however, especially with games in Phoenix and Vancouver coming up on the schedule.
“We go on the road for a couple, so it’s important to get this win” chimed Thornton. “Been awhile since we won, so now everybody can exhale for a little but we still gotta work hard, this doesn’t stop here, now it’s just everyday, you just gotta build off this.”
Ryane Clowe missed his first game of the season with a lower-body injury.
Joe Thornton’s assist on Heatley’s power-play goal gave him his 390th assist, passing teammate Patrick Marleau for the franchise lead.