SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Sharks showed they have what it takes to win close games as well as laughers.
Rookie Tomas Hertl scored his league-leading seventh goal before leaving with an injury and Brent Burns got the tiebreaker in the third period to lead the Sharks to their fifth straight win to open the season, 3-2 over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night.
Patrick Marleau tied the game with a power-play goal late in the second period and Antti Niemi made 21 saves as the Sharks won a nail biter after outscoring the opposition by 16 goals in the first four games.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be the same way every night,” Marleau said. “It was going to be ups and downs, and tonight was a good challenge. We looked at it as a challenge.”
Zach Smith and Bobby Ryan scored for the Senators, and Robin Lehner matched a franchise record with 47 saves in his first start of the season. Ottawa has lost three straight after winning the first game on their season-opening six-game road trip.
“I thought for a lot of the 5-on-5 time we did a good job,” Ryan said. “Not early but we found our way. We did a lot of good things, just not enough to win.”
After trailing for less than a minute in their last three games, the Sharks showed they could play from behind after Ottawa took a 2-1 lead late in the first period.
With the Senators playing the front end of a back-to-back, coach Paul MacLean gave backup Lehner the nod and saved starter Craig Anderson for Sunday’s game in Anaheim.
Lehner played well, stopping a breakaway by Brent Burns midway through the second period. But he had no chance when San Jose tied it on its first power play of the night.
Matt Irwin put a shot on net and the puck squirted out of the crease after a scramble in front of Lehner. Marleau got the puck alone to the left of the net and converted a backhander for his fourth goal of the season.
The Sharks took the lead just after the end of their third power play when Joe Thornton fed Burns, who was alone in front for a 3-2 lead with 12:52 to play.
“I heard him as soon as I got the puck,” Thornton said. “It was just kind of throw it in an area and he beat his defenceman back to the net and he buried it.”
San Jose played with the man advantage for more than 9 minutes of a 19-minute stretch spanning the second and third periods.
“Robin played real good,” MacLean said. “We just can’t continue to take penalties, especially the undisciplined kind, the ones we are taking. You can’t expect the goalie to keep killing them off.”
The game was not all positive for San Jose because of the injury to Hertl, who has become a teenage sensation in San Jose after scoring six times in his previous two home games. Hertl had to be helped to the dressing room after taking a hard hit from Clarke MacArthur late in the second period and did not return.
“He’s a little bit sore but I think he’ll be fine tomorrow,” coach Todd McLellan said.
Another rookie, Matt Nieto, replaced Hertl on Thornton’s line and got an assist on Burns’ go-ahead goal.
The Sharks got off to a fast start behind their sensational rookie when Hertl knocked in a rebound of Dan Boyle’s point shot for his seventh goal in five games this season.
San Jose controlled the play for much of the opening period but ended up trailing after one when Ottawa used a strong finish to score two goals. The first came out of nowhere when Chris Phillips’ shot hit off the end boards and came out into the slot to Smith, who shot it past Niemi.
Three minutes later, the Senators took advantage of a high-sticking penalty against Andrew Desjardins to take the lead when Ryan one-timed a cross-ice pass from Jason Spezza past Niemi.
NOTES: The Sharks’ 24 goals are their most ever through five games, surpassing last season’s total of 23. … San Jose has had at least 47 shots three times in five games. No other team has had that many in a game once. … D Joe Corvo was scratched for the Senators after being hit in the left eye by a puck in the morning skate. Eric Gryba played in his place.