To make a run at the Stanley Cup, teams usually can’t afford lackluster play and extended breakdowns. While the San Jose Sharks were able to get away with a couple of sloppy periods and still win last time out, they realize this formula probably won’t work in the playoffs.
Looking for a fourth straight victory, the Western Conference-leading Sharks try to for a more complete effort when they host the Florida Panthers on Saturday.
San Jose (43-14-9) entered Thursday’s home game against Nashville off a four-day break and looked rusty from the start. The Sharks were outshot 34-11 through two periods and trailed 4-2 heading into the second intermission before coming out with a more aggressive attitude to start the third.
San Jose dominated the final 20 minutes and matched a franchise record with six third-period goals to rally for an 8-5 victory. Manny Malhotra(notes) had a goal and two assists in the third, while Joe Pavelski(notes) had four points in the final period, including two tiebreaking goals, to help the Sharks win their third straight and move two points ahead of Chicago atop the West.
Despite Thursday’s thrilling third period, coach Todd McLellan wasn’t pleased. He was more concerned with his club’s listless play the first 40 minutes.
“We were clearly outworked, outplayed, outhustled for two periods and that’s very disappointing,” McLellan said. “The positive is that they did respond in the third, but I’m disappointed in the first two obviously.”
The team understood McLellan’s frustration.
“It was a lack of work in the first two periods,” Malhotra said. “We took shortcuts. They beat us to a lot of loose pucks. We didn’t close gaps quick enough in the defensive zone and they took advantage of us. We’ll definitely look to clean that up.”
San Jose hopes to build on the effort it displayed in Thursday’s third period in the finale of a five-game homestand. After this contest, the Sharks play 10 of their next 13 on the road.
San Jose hasn’t played the Panthers since a 4-3 road loss Oct. 24, 2008, snapping its six-game winning streak in the series. The Sharks, hosting the Panthers for the first time since a 6-2 victory Dec. 8, 2005, have outscored Florida 18-3 in winning the last four games in San Jose.
Florida (27-29-10) is having similar problems away from home this season, going 3-9-1 on the road since Dec. 23.
The Panthers, eight points back of eighth-place Boston in the East, arrive in San Jose after losing to Colorado 3-0 on Thursday, snapping a three-game winning streak.
Thomas Vokoun stopped 28 shots in his 25th start in 26 games for Florida.
Although the Panthers haven’t had much success lately against the Sharks, Vokoun is 8-0-1 with a 2.18 goals-against average and one shutout in his last nine starts against them. Most of that success came when Vokoun played for Nashville, but he was in net for Florida in its last game versus the Sharks, stopping 47 of 50 shots.