Patrick Rissmiller and Milan Michalek scored in the opening five minutes and the Sharks kept up the pressure from there, getting points from 12 players in a 6-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night.
“We’re usually relying on one or two lines or one our two guys every single night to score,” said defenceman Kyle McLaren, who had a goal and an assist. “Any time you have a chance to spread the scoring out from our first line to our fourth line and even our defence, it gives more confidence to the guys that haven’t been scoring. Everybody did it tonight.”
The Sharks didn’t miss last season’s leading goal scorer in the NHL a bit, scoring their most goals in 24 games all-time against the Flyers to win for the sixth time in seven games. Cheechoo sat out with an injured left leg.
San Jose scored on six of 18 shots against Robert Esche, who was knocked out after allowing a goal to Curtis Brown at the 12:25 mark of the second period.
This was the type of performance the Sharks were looking for after a four-game road trip in which they were outshot by more than 16 shots a game. They won three of four on the trip, but coach Ron Wilson wasn’t happy with the way his team played.
“We did a lot of the little things that we hadn’t been doing,” said Mike Grier, who scored a short-handed goal in the first period that turned the momentum in San Jose’s favour. “We had guys driving to the net, we had guys putting pucks on the net and getting traffic. A lot of the games when we were getting outshot, we were not putting pucks on the net and driving the net and making it hard on the other team.”
Rissmiller, Brown and Ryane Clowe also had a goal and an assist for the Sharks.
Vesa Toskala made 17 saves, including a spectacular sequence in the first period when he stopped Geoff Sanderson from in close and then while on his back kicked up his leg to save a shot from Derian Hatcher.
“I don’t like those because those are kind of desperation saves,” Toskala said. “Hopefully, I don’t need a lot of those. … I got lucky.”
Philadelphia, which had won its first two contests in a three-game California swing, reverted to form against San Jose by allowing six goals in the first 32:25 of the game. The Flyers have given up an NHL-worst 81 goals on the season.
Sanderson scored the lone goal in the first period for the Flyers, who have the worst record in the Eastern Conference at 5-13-2.
“They jumped out to a lead and outplayed us from the beginning,” Flyers forward Peter Forsberg said. “We gave away too much speed in the neutral zone. They buried their chances but we couldn’t do anything with ours.”
It was a feisty game with San Jose’s Mark Bell getting called for two fighting penalties – one with Ben Eager in the first period and again with Boyd Kane in the second. Bell was also called for boarding and high-sticking and accumulated 14 minutes in penalties.
The Sharks took control right from the start, scoring two goals before Philadelphia could even manage to get off a shot.
Rissmiller opened the scoring when he deflected a shot from the point by Ville Nieminen past Esche just 2:35 into the game for his second goal of the season.
Just over two minutes later, Michalek and Joe Thornton pulled off a nifty give-and-go move with Thornton sliding a backhand pass across the crease to Michalek, who tapped it in for his ninth goal.
That prompted Flyers coach John Stevens to call a timeout. The Flyers responded with Sanderson’s power-play goal at the 8:16 mark and had a chance to draw even when Thornton was called for boarding about a minute later.
But Forsberg gave the puck away in the offensive end to Brown, who sent Grier off on a breakaway for the short-handed goal that made it 3-1.
“That short-handed goal really got us,” said defenceman Mike Rathje, who played his first game against his former team. “It just killed our team.”
San Jose broke the game open with three goals in the second period, started by McLaren’s power-play goal at the 3:52 mark. The Flyers have been outscored 33-10 in the second period this season.
Notes: Philadelphia is 0-11-1 when giving up the first goal, joining New Jersey as the only teams who have failed to win a game when allowing the first goal. … The Sharks are 14-2-0 against Eastern Conference teams the past two seasons.