EDMONTON – It wasn’t just that the San Jose Sharks got their first road win in over a month, it was how they did it that was most important to head coach Todd McLellan.
Dany Heatley led the way with two goals and an assist as the Sharks survived a late charge, defeating the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 on Saturday.
Benn Ferriero and Joe Pavelski also scored for the Sharks (11-7-4) who are now 4-4-2 on the road and captured their first victory away from San Jose since they also won in Edmonton on Oct. 23.
“Any win is important for our team right now, but obviously we hadn’t won since we had been here a few weeks ago,” McLellan said. “The way we won is probably more important than the win itself.”
San Jose was down to four defencemen for most of the game with Niclas Wallin going down early in the first period and Kent Huskins joining him in the dressing room late in the opening frame, forcing the Sharks to buckle down and play the kind of hockey that McLellan has been looking for.
“All of a sudden we didn’t turn the puck over,” he said. “All of a sudden we didn’t give up too many out-numbered rushes. All of a sudden we won a lot more face-off battles. It’s funny how the game changes when you have to play it the right way. They raised the bar and have proven to each other that they can do it. Now they have to choose to do it all the time.”
Heatley agreed that the team did a good job pulling together.
“I thought we were able to get through a little bit of adversity tonight with going down to four defencemen so early,” he said. “I thought the whole team did a good job of dealing with that and playing the way we can play.”
Sam Gagner, Shawn Horcoff and Jim Vandermeer scored in response for the Oilers (6-12-4), who have only won two of their last 10 games.
But coming back from a three-goal deficit to make a game of it was another small step for the rebuilding Oilers in the eyes of rookie Taylor Hall.
“We can take some solace that we battled and came back,” he said. “A three-goal lead, a lot of teams, us included, have given up and thrown in the towel at that point. But we didn’t give up and made it interesting in the end.”
Oilers defenceman Ryan Whitney tempered his enthusiasm.
“There was no quit but we were still out-shot badly at times,” he said. “We still have to get so much better in different areas.”
It only took the Sharks 1:10 to start off the scoring. Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk was able to make a pad save on a shot by Justin Braun but Ferriero was left untouched to backhand in the rebound.
It was the first goal of the season for Ferriero, who was called up from San Jose’s AHL affiliate in Worcester, Mass., for the game.
Edmonton was able to even the ledger just three minutes later on the power play. Gagner made a nice move on Braun to get a backhand shot on Sharks starter Antero Niittymaki and then shovelled home his own rebound.
Edmonton out-shot San Jose 9-5 in the opening frame, the first time in seven games the Oilers have had more than five first-period shots.
The Sharks regained the lead two minutes into the second period on the power play. Joe Thornton spotted Heatley poised to unleash a slapshot and he blew his 10th of the season past Dubnyk to make it 2-1.
San Jose earned a two-goal advantage with three minutes left in the second as Heatley got his second of the match, banking a backhand shot from behind the net off of Dubnyk’s heel and in.
The Sharks completely turned around the shot totals in the second period, out-shooting Edmonton 14-3.
The Sharks gave themselves a three-goal cushion midway through the third as the Oilers coughed it up deep in their zone and Patrick Marleau nudged the puck to Pavelski, who beat Dubnyk high to the glove side.
Edmonton made a game of it with two goals less than a minute apart with seven minutes to play.
Niittymaki made a save on a Jordan Eberle shot but Horcoff was there to send the big rebound into the net past the diving Sharks’ goalie.
It was suddenly 4-3 when Vandermeer scored 57 seconds later on a long blast from the point.
Edmonton had several good chances late in the game with their extra attacker out for Dubnyk, but the Sharks were able to hang on for the victory.
The Oilers begin a three-game trip in Ottawa on Monday. The Sharks return home to face Detroit on Tuesday before embarking on a five-game road swing.
Notes: It was the second of four meetings between the two teams this season. The previous game was captured 6-1 by the Sharks. . . Forwards Ferriero and Tommy Wingels were both called up for the game with injuries keeping forwards Devan Setoguchi and Scott Nichol from the Sharks lineup. Ferriero is second in scoring with Worcester with 16 points. . . Edmonton remained without the services of forward Ales Hemsky and goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, but neither is expected to be out long term. . . Edmonton forward Dustin Penner recorded his 100th NHL assist in the contest.