McLellan: 'We can't let our game slip'
Joe Thornton's second period goal tied the game in St. Louis, where the Sharks eventually snapped a seven-game winless streak. (AP IMAGES)
ST. LOUIS – Whether or not the Blues’ out-of-order team plane played a role in Tuesday’s outcome in St. Louis mattered little to the San Jose Sharks following a 2-1 win at the Scottrade Center.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Sharks 2, Blues 1]
What was of utmost importance was that the Sharks finally snapped their 0-4-3 losing streak, and picked up their first win in regulation in more than three weeks, 2-1 over a tough Blues club. Tim Kennedy’s third period blast past Jake Allen broke a 1-1 tie, and after seven nervous minutes to close the third period, the Sharks breathed a collective sigh of relief in recording their first win in the month of February.
“They’re a tough team, and to come in here and grab two points is nice,” said Joe Thornton, who scored in the second period to tie it up. “We’ve got a three-game road trip here, and hopefully this will be the start of something good now.”
Dan Boyle, who assisted on Thornton’s goal, said: “It’s a very positive, very good step. I thought we played much better tonight. Short of putting a few more pucks in the back of the net, I thought it was a pretty good game from us, all around.”
The Sharks took advantage of a Blues team that returned to the Gateway City at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, after mechanical problems grounded their flight from Vancouver, which was originally supposed to arrive on Monday afternoon.
The Blues held a 1-0 lead after the first period on Patrik Berglund’s goal, in what was a fairly evenly played frame. According to Boyle, the Sharks started to wear down the Blues after that.
“I thought we took the game over in the second period,” he said. “In the first, I thought it was pretty evenly matched. We’ve got to start putting the puck in the net a little more, but I thought we took the game over.”
Antti Niemi, who finally got his seventh win, said: “It’s a similar game we’ve played, low scoring game and playing good [in the defensive] zone. Today we got two goals, and especially in the third, we were able to keep them away from our zone.”
Even since the beginning of the season when they won seven straight, the Sharks have been searching for scoring from players other than their big names. They may have found something in the journeyman Kennedy, who scored for the second time in as many games. Along with his two goals in three games, Kennedy has been around the net or generating scoring chances on a regular basis since he was inserted into the lineup. The diminutive winger was leading AHL Worcester in scoring at the time of his recall with 37 points in 37 games, after playing sporadically in the NHL with Buffalo and Florida earlier in his career.
His goal was one that Allen could have stopped, coming on a shot from high in the circle, but the Sharks were probably due for a break.
McLellan praised Kennedy after the game.
“He’s been a sparkplug for us. He’s got some offensive instincts,” the head coach said. “But, before that happens, he’s a very competitive guy. Not the biggest guy in the world, but battles, wins a lot of the races to loose pucks, he has good body position and is prepared to shoot the puck. He got rewarded for it again tonight.”
Kennedy was modest and stuck to the common team-first theme when asked about his strong play.
“The big thing is just getting two points up here and helping out any way you can,” he said. “It’s always nice to score goals and get points and help the team win, but as long as we get the two points, that’s all that matters.”
Regarding his goal, Kennedy said: “I was just trying to get the puck on net. [Allen] was just fighting the puck a little bit all night. I just tried to get it on him and it just found a hole.”
The game had a nastiness to it at times, with the Blues’ Ryan Reaves flattening Justin Braun in the first period and then taking a hit from Douglas Murray in the second. Tommy Wingels dropped the gloves with T.J. Oshie in the second period, too.
Murray was upset with Reaves for provoking Marty Havlat before he jumped up into the neutral zone to level the 6-1, 229-pounder midway through regulation.
“Spur of the moment, he’s hacking at Havlat on the faceoff, and you protect your players,” Murray said. “That’s the type of game he plays. You just deal with it as the game goes along.”
Boyle appreciated Wingels’ bout with Oshie, even though it more resembled a wrestling match.
“We need to play that way against those guys. You can’t get pushed around. Tommy Wingels did a great job with a fight, and got us energized a little bit,” Boyle said. “Guys backed each other up, and that’s the way we’ve got to play against a lot of these teams in the Western Conference.”
It won’t be easy for the Sharks to build off of Tuesday’s win, as they will visit the Chicago Blackhawks for the second time in a week on Friday night. Chicago beat Vancouver on Tuesday, tying an NHL record for points in consecutive games to start a season with 16 (13-0-3). They’ll go for sole possession of the mark against the Sharks, who will try and prevent the record-setting achievement.
The Sharks will practice in Chicago on Wednesday and Thursday. McLellan's message was obvious coach-speak.
“The relief is there that [the losing streak] is over, but we have to get back to practice tomorrow,” McLellan said. “We can’t let our game slip. We play against a real good team on Friday, and we know that coming up.
“We can’t let anything slip. I can’t explain it any other way than that.”