VANCOUVER – The San Jose Sharks are far too desperate right now to be intimidated by an opposing team’s place in the NHL standings.
“We don’t care who we play,” Joe Thornton said after Thursday’s 2-1 shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks that left him with a four-stitch cut near his right eye and blood smeared on his cheek.
“We’ve just got to get points. That’s the bottom line. We’ve got to win games and get points and get back in this race.”
The effort was certainly there as the Sharks scored their third straight victory after a six-game losing streak cast them out of the playoff picture. They are now a point behind seventh-place Colorado and Chicago in the Western Conference.
The Sharks didn’t seem to care that Vancouver sits atop the West as they rebounded from a slow start to outshoot the Canucks 25-9 in a momentum-changing second period.
“We’ve been scoring more goals,” Thornton said of the game that followed a pair of 4-2 wins over Phoenix and St. Louis.
“I know we didn’t score too many tonight but we’ve been playing better defensively and it gives us a chance to win every night.”
Thornton, who was clipped by the stick of a falling Alex Burrows late in the third period, had the game on his stick late in the game but Canuck goalie Roberto Luongo got a glove on one shot and smothered another.
Henrik Sedin gave Luongo a first-period lead to work with, but talented rookie Logan Couture took advantage of a defensive zone giveaway in the second period to put his own rebound behind the Vancouver netminder.
Luongo (45 saves) and Sharks goalie Antti Niemi (36 stops) were brilliant.
Only Joe Pavelski scored in the shootout, beating Luongo with a low stick-side shot.
“I’ve tried glove (side) in games before and I haven’t really beat him glove much so it was one of those things,” Pavelski said.
“We’ve found ways to win the one-goal game and that’s the biggest thing. Tonight was a different way. The penalty kill was tremendous and Nemo, great goaltending.”
Coach Alain Vigneault said the Canucks had a good start after a five-game road trip.
“I thought we came out strong, skating, considering it was our first game back,” he said.
“I’m not quite sure what happened in the second (period) there. I’ve never been part of giving the opposition (25) shots in a period. But we gave it a good push in the third and we gave it a push in OT.”
Sedin scored a spectacular goal on a play that he finished on the seat of his pants.
He took brother Daniel’s break-in pass, froze Niemi and finessed the puck past him and inside the far post as he slid backwards.
“I think we had a lot of chances from the slot,” Henrik Sedin said.
“It was just a matter of bad shots and the goalie making the save. I think we had enough chances to score a few more.”
Niemi provided Vancouver with several scoring opportunities off rebounds, but he would save the second chance or the Sharks defence would get in the way.
“Most definitely I was seeing the puck well and when I didn’t see it we were able to block it so I felt pretty good tonight,” he said.
University of British Columbia goalie Jordan White was on the Sharks bench as an emergency replacement for Antero Niittymaki who suffered a groin injury at the morning skate.
The six-foot-two, 22-year-old native of suburban Surrey was signed to a one-game amateur tryout to back up Niemi.
“I knew I was going to get to stop some shots (in the warmup) and be out on the ice with the guys and that Nemo was going to be in goal for the night,” said White who had three years of major junior experience in the WHL.
“It was just exciting. It was an experience I’ll remember for a while.”
Notes:Centre Kyle Wellwood made his Sharks debut against his former team … He spent half the season with the Kontinental Hockey League’s Atlant Moscow Oblast, was signed by the St. Louis Blues and claimed a day later off waivers by San Jose. Joining him on the third line was Ben Eager, another addition acquired from Atlanta for a fifth-round draft pick … Vancouver’s Alex Edler, who’s fourth in Canuck scoring, played his 300th NHL game … Canuck players will be accompanied by their brothers and sisters on a road trip to Dallas and Phoenix after the all-star break.