SAN JOSE, Calif. – After rolling to their first five victories, the San Jose Sharks are showing they can win the tight games, too.
Michal Handzus and Dan Boyle scored in the shootout to help the Sharks extend the best start in franchise history with their seventh straight win, 3-2 over the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night.
“That’s what good teams do, but we cannot make a habit of it,” Handzus said. “Obviously, we’ve got to be better than the last two games. We’ve got to work on it. The wins matter, for sure, but you cannot let it slide. You’ve got to still play well.”
Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski scored unassisted goals off turnovers 39 seconds apart in the second period against Devan Dubnyk to break open a scoreless game. Antti Niemi made 26 saves as the Sharks remained the only unbeaten team in the NHL with their second straight shootout win.
San Jose became the third NHL team to win its first five games by at least two goals, but things have gotten tougher the past two in the shootout wins against Anaheim and Edmonton.
The common theme has been Handzus’ shootout prowess.
He has no points this season but has opened the past two shootouts with goals, making him 7 for 12 in two seasons with the Sharks and 18 for 34 in his career—the third-best percentage in NHL history.
“He’s just so deceptive,” Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. “I’m not sure why. He sees a spot and he hits it every time. It’s fun to watch.”
After Handzus opened the shootout by scoring on the forehand, Sam Gagner and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins missed for Edmonton. Boyle then won it with his goal in the third round.
Gagner scored in the second period and Taylor Hall tied it in the opening minute of the third for the Oilers, who had won two straight including a 2-1 overtime victory the previous night in Phoenix. Dubnyk made 36 saves, including seven in an overtime that included a San Jose power play.
“I think we have to gain confidence from the way we battled back,” Gagner said. “It’s obviously a tough one to lose. Coming off a back-to-back against a team like San Jose, who’s playing so well, we have to learn from it and continue to develop.”
Hall got the equalizer at the end of a pretty give-and-go with Jordan Eberle 51 seconds into the third. The Sharks thought they regained the lead later in the period but Ryane Clowe was called for interference before taking a long pass from Couture and beating Dubnyk.
That’s where the game stood until the shootout.
The Sharks took advantage of two turnovers to get their two quick strikes midway through the second. Scott Gomez pressured Ryan Whitney near the blue line before his linemate, Couture, stole the puck. Couture skated in and beat Dubnyk with a wrist shot before showing that he has Super Bowl fever.
Couture, a Buffalo Bills fan, skated toward the boards, flexed his arm and kissed his biceps—what is known as Kaepernicking—in tribute to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
“It’s a Bay Area team that’s in the Super Bowl,” Couture said. “Just show some support for those guys.”
Less than a minute later, Pavelski took the puck from Ladislav Smid and beat Dubnyk with his own wrister, giving him a goal in his third straight game and a point in all seven this season.
Gagner cut the lead in half less than 3 minutes later when he tipped Mark Fistric’s point shot past Niemi, and the Oilers managed to earn a point thanks to Hall’s goal in the third.
“When you are on the road and you come back from 2-0, you’ll take the point for sure,” Hall said. “They are a team that’s not going to give away many points at home. It seems there have been parts of our game this year where we let up for several shifts and you saw that tonight where they got the two quick goals.”
After scoring six goals in the first period at Edmonton last week, the Sharks managed just seven shots on goal in a scoreless opening period in the rematch. It marked the first time they failed to score in the first period since the season opener at Calgary.
NOTES: The Sharks have scored first in six of seven games this season. … Edmonton captain Shawn Horcoff was scratched with a strained neck after being hit late in Wednesday’s game by Shane Doan. Anton Lander was called up from Oklahoma City of the AHL. … San Jose D Jason Demers was added to the active roster after being injured in Europe during the lockout, but did not play.