Bob Stanton/Icon Smi)
With seven games remaining on their schedule, the San Jose Sharks may be snapping out of their funk and jumping back into the hunt.
Two big weekend wins over defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston and divisional rival Phoenix allowed the Sharks to keep pace with the Kings, Coyotes and Stars for first place in the Pacific.
Those four clubs remained separated by just one point, which also could signify the difference between hosting a series and missing the playoffs.
“Every shift counts, this is playoff hockey, there’s a couple points separating who’s in and who’s out,” defenseman Douglas Murray said.
The Sharks have sputtered throughout the past two months, tumbling from a comfortable division lead into playoff purgatory. Still, a hot finish could land them right back in that third position.
Captain Joe Thornton, who has displayed a calm, steady demeanor through a frustrating period understood the importance of the win against Phoenix. The Coyotes did earn a point for going to the shootout to stay one ahead of the Sharks.
“We didn’t panic. We felt like we deserved the two points. We played well,” Thornton told reporters. “We have to play solid these last seven games.”
San Jose even had its fortunes turn a bit with their trade acquisitions. To this point, the departed Jamie McGinn had easily been the best performer in either deadline deal San Jose made, scoring eight goals and 12 points for the Avalanche since the move.
This weekend, the Sharks got a game-winning goal against Boston and a game-tying goal against Phoenix from Daniel Winnik, who came over from Colorado with T.J. Galiardi for McGinn.
San Jose also showed outstanding discipline, taking just one minor penalty in each contest with their often shaky penalty kill coming through both times.
Against Phoenix, they rallied from 1-0 and 3-2 deficits to win in the shootout.
While the Sharks have grown accustomed to a warm-up jog to the playoffs rather than a full sprint, their goal remains the same: get in and see what happens.
“The last two games, I like how we’re going,” winger Ryane Clowe told reporters. “When something happens we just forget about it. When we play with this sort of moxie we make it hard on other teams.”
Pacific Division Notes
The Ducks lost to Boston 3-2 with a controversial disallowed Matt Beleskey goal finishing their comeback hopes against Marty Turco, who won his first NHL game in well over a year … The Kings also fell to the Bruins 4-2 Saturday, pestered by Tim Thomas’s 40 saves and Zdeno Chara’s strong play in his 1000th NHL game. Justin Williams competed in his 700th game for the Kings … Coyotes captain Shane Doan will return from his suspension this week while Radim Vrbata is day-to-day with a lower-body injury that held him out of the shootout loss to San Jose Saturday and Sunday’s 4-0 loss to St. Louis. Ray Whitney had his point streak snapped at seven games… Sharks forwards Michal Handzus and Tommy Wingels missed five and six games respectively before coming back to the San Jose lineup Saturday … The Stars Mark Fistric missed Saturday’s 4-1 win over Calgary with an abdominal strain. Kari Lehtonen made 35 saves, Jamie Benn scored twice and Michael Ryder added a goal to his career-high total (33). The Stars also paid tribute to former Star and Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crash victim Karlis Skrastins in a pregame ceremony.