Road wins haven’t come easy lately for the San Jose Sharks, but they got one in their most recent contest.
Looking for consecutive wins away from home for the first time in nearly a month, the NHL-leading Sharks wrap up a three-game trip Saturday against the struggling Vancouver Canucks.
San Jose (30-5-5) began the season by winning nine of its first 12 road games, including a five-game win streak from Nov. 16-Dec. 15. Since that streak, though, they’d dropped five of six (1-2-3) away from home entering Friday night’s contest in Edmonton.
Patrick Marleau’s scored twice and Devin Setoguchi had a goal and two assists against the Oilers as San Jose won 4-1. In doing so, the Sharks reached 30 wins one game before their season’s exact midway point. They didn’t reach the 30-win plateau in 2007-08 until their 55th game on Feb. 9.
“We don’t look at it is as 30, or 31 or 32, we look at it as the input into the game, the process and did we compete hard enough,” first-year San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. “It was more rewarding that way than the win itself. Playoffs are a long ways away. … What we are trying to do right now is build so that we are prepared to play these type of games night in and night out.”
The Sharks have defeated the Canucks five straight times, including a 5-0 victory at home on Dec. 23. They’ve also won their last two visits to GM Place, but have not played there since Oct. 15, 2007.
San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov has been a big part of the recent success, compiling a 1.21 goals-against average while winning his last five outings against the Canucks (22-16-5).
Vancouver had a chance Friday for its first consecutive wins since Dec. 17, but gave up two goals in the final 2:10 of a 6-4 home loss to St. Louis. Jason LaBarbera gave up all six goals, tying his season high. Since coming over from Los Angeles in a Dec. 30 trade, LaBarbera is 2-1-2 with a 2.72 GAA.
Meanwhile, the Canucks’ more-celebrated recent acquisition may be paying dividends. Mats Sundin hasn’t scored in his first two games with Vancouver, but the Canucks have totaled four goals in each contest with Sundin - something they’d failed to do in the last seven games without him.
On the down side, Sundin committed a costly late penalty in his first home game as a Canuck when he slashed Tyson Strachan’s stick in half. St. Louis scored the game-winning goal on the ensuing power play.
“It was a battle for a puck,” Sundin said. “That’s the rule, when the stick breaks it’s a penalty so there’s not much to say.”