RALEIGH, N.C. – San Jose has had little trouble racking up wins so far this season, though it’s only in the last week or so the Sharks feel they’ve actually started playing well.
Kent Huskins and Brad Staubitz scored 1:22 apart in the second period, and Evgeni Nabokov made 25 saves as surging San Jose continued its strong recent play, beating the Carolina Hurricanes 5-1 on Sunday for its fifth consecutive win.
“We’re playing better and better each night and doing the things we need to do to win,” said Sharks defenceman Douglas Murray, who also scored. “We played very sloppy in the beginning of the year. We got wins because (Nabokov) stood on his head. We obviously have a lot of talent on this team and we were explosive and scored four or five goals here or there. I didn’t think we played very good hockey at all.
“We’ve started to play better. We can certainly play better, but we’re playing better now.”
Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Patrick Marleau also added goals for the Sharks, who sit atop the Pacific Division. San Jose got three goals from defencemen in its first win in Carolina since Oct. 24, 2000.
“I think that’s a part of our team,” Huskins said. “All of our defencemen can kind of get up in the rush and make it an odd-man rush. If we can chip in goals, that’s great.”
Brandon Sutter scored his second goal in as many games for the Hurricanes, who haven’t won in nine games and are off to their worst start (2-8-3) in franchise history.
“It’s not any one consistent thing through the bunch of games – it’s a different fire each day,” Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. “I probably can’t explain how frustrating that is.”
Sutter started the scoring early in the second period when he broke in on the left wing and wristed a shot past Nabokov’s blocker. The puck rang off the right post before ricocheting into the net. Sutter, who had one career goal coming into the weekend, also scored Carolina’s lone goal in its 6-1 loss to Philadelphia on Saturday.
The Hurricanes have been outscored 16-4 in their last three games.
“I think we’re all taken aback, and I think that’s part of it,” Maurice said. “I think that things that you’ve seen work well in the past haven’t worked well. Areas that you expected to be strong in – forechecking and controlling the puck in the offensive zone – (haven’t worked). That surprises the hell out of you.”
San Jose took over after Sutter’s goal, scoring two goals in rapid succession.
Huskins struck first when he beat Carolina goalie Cam Ward on a sharp angle 4:05 into the second.
“I just threw it at the net and got a lucky bounce there,” Huskins said.
A little more than one minute later, Jody Shelley set up Staubitz for an off-balance wrist shot from the slot. Murray added his goal late in the second period, converting a beautiful pass from behind the net from Joe Thornton. It was Murray’s second career goal and first in 109 games.
Vlasic’s goal in the third period came on an odd-man rush while Marleau finished the scoring by blasting a slap shot past Ward on the power play.
Ward made 20 saves for Carolina, returning to the net after sitting out his first game of the season Saturday.
Making matters worse for the woeful Hurricanes, Eric Staal left the game with an upper body injury and didn’t return.
“I don’t know the extent of it, but it was significant enough to take him out,” Maurice said. “He’ll play through most things but he couldn’t go.”
Notes: About the only good news for Carolina was the fact two of their regulars returned to the lineup. Erik Cole played after missing 10 games with a broken leg. Tuomo Ruutu suited up after being suspended three games for a hit on Colorado’s Darcy Tucker. Carolina F Ray Whitney was honoured before the game for playing in his 1,000th NHL game. F Scott Walker also played in his 800th NHL game. San Jose will play in Columbus and Detroit before returning home. At the end of the road trip, the Sharks will have played 12 of their first 17 games on the road, nine in the Eastern time zone.