SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP)—As the bloody scars on his brow attest, Wayne Primeau is a tough checking forward who’s expected to complete thankless tasks for the Sharks.
He slipped out of that role Sunday night just long enough to score the biggest goal of San Jose’s magical season.
Primeau scored 2:57 into overtime and the Sharks reached 100 points for the first time in franchise history, beating the Dallas Stars 2-1 in a game ended by a defensive forward’s first goal since Feb. 19.
Primeau beamed through a trickle of blood on his cheek when he took his curtain call as the game’s first star. The Sharks’ worst-to-first turnaround has even stretched the belief of coach Ron Wilson, so it really wasn’t a surprise when yet another unlikely hero emerged.
“The 100 points for this team, the way that people expected us to really falter coming into this season, it feels great,” Primeau said. “We felt that we had a good overall season. I think we’ve been peaking all year.”
Evgeni Nabokov made 20 saves, and Nils Ekman also scored for the Sharks, the NHL’s third team to reach 100 points this season. By beating their closest division rivals, San Jose also moved five points ahead of Dallas in the Pacific Division with three games to play.
After presiding over the final four months of the Sharks’ collapse into 14th place last season, Wilson hoped his team would challenge for one of the final playoff spots this spring. Instead, the Sharks are six points ahead of Colorado for second place in the Western Conference after their 13th home victory in 15 games.
“There’s no better feeling than to win a game like this in overtime,” Wilson said. “I thought the right guy scored, too. He kind of epitomizes our team—a bunch of guys looking for redemption. I think we’ve got a little more than redemption, but we’ve still got a lot of work left.”
Pierre Turgeon scored as the Stars nearly hung on for a tie despite the absence of goalie Marty Turco, who’s halfway through a four-game suspension. Ron Tugnutt, Turco’s seldom-used backup, made 29 saves—but he was fooled by Primeau’s low shot.
After noticing that the Stars had three forwards on the ice during the four-on-four overtime, Primeau skated down the right side and deked Valeri Bure out of position before beating Tugnutt. The Sharks stormed onto the ice to mob Primeau.
“It’s nice, especially doing it against Dallas,” Sharks center Vincent Damphousse said. “We knew the importance of this game. We talked about it for a couple of weeks, about how it’s probably going to come down to this one.”
Nothing was decided, but the Sharks can clinch their second division title in three seasons with one win in their final three games.
Dallas lost for just the second time in 11 games against San Jose but the tired and undermanned Stars weren’t terribly disappointed with the result. Dallas, which dropped an overtime decision at Vancouver on Saturday, hadn’t lost in overtime all season before this weekend.
“We’re chasing points right now, and we didn’t get them tonight,” Dallas coach Dave Tippett said. “The schedule certainly wasn’t in our favor, but we wanted to try and hang around this game, give ourselves a chance. We did that, but we needed a big play from someone. We didn’t get it.”
Turco, the NHL leader in victories and games played for goalies, was banned at the most critical point of the season after high-sticking Edmonton’s Ryan Smyth. Tugnutt made just his eighth appearance of the season, and though he appeared exhausted in the third period, he hung on to make several big saves.
“The good thing from this is we now have a two-point lead over Vancouver (for fourth place in the conference,” Tugnutt said. “It’s late in the year. Everyone is tired. It’s a tough travel schedule, but you have to play.”
Turgeon got the game’s first goal, slipping behind Sharks defenseman Kyle McLaren to deflect home Philippe Boucher’s pass 90 seconds into the second period. But a few minutes later, Ekman batted his own rebound over Tugnutt forhis 22nd goal.
The Sharks had their eighth sellout of the season. … Dallas didn’t get a shot in the first 6 1/2 minutes. … Tugnutt’s backup was Jason Bacashihua, who’s never played in the NHL. … Sharks D Jason Marshall played his 500th NHLgame.
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