OTTAWA – Alex Stalock waited a long time for his first NHL start, but says it was well worth it.
The 26-year-old stopped 38 shots and was instrumental in leading the San Jose Sharks to a 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators Sunday night.
Stalock, who previously had made just three appearances in relief of starter Antti Niemi, admitted he was nervous and excited.
“I think it helped a lot being a five o’clock game for me and not having to sit around all night and come to the rink and go through the routine,” he said. “It was a little easier than sitting around all day in my hotel room.”
Stalock made 16 saves in the first period and helped the team jump out to a 3-1 lead after 20 minutes of play.
“Maybe it’s a good thing that I saw a lot early and was able to feel it,” said Stalock. “They were kind of shooting it from everywhere, which I was kind of expecting they would, but not being in a game yet I was lucky enough to make saves.”
Stalock’s teammates were happy to see him pick up the win and were thrilled to be able to give him a few early goals to help with his confidence.
“He’s been patiently waiting behind (Niemi) and to come out with a performance like that was huge for us,” said Sharks captain Joe Thornton.
Tomas Hertl, Andrew Desjardins, Tommy Wingels, James Sheppard and Joe Pavelski scored for the Sharks (10-1-1), who were playing their fourth of a five-game road trip.
The Senators (4-5-2) received goals from Erik Karlsson and Marc Methot, who picked up his first of the season. Craig Anderson made 24 saves in defeat.
This marked the first time this season that the Sharks had been outshot in a game.
The Senators have few answers for their play of late, but realize things have to change.
For the second straight game Ottawa allowed the opposition to jump out to a 2-0 lead.
“We can’t spot good teams leads,” said Senators’ captain Jason Spezza. “We get behind and then it doesn’t matter what we do, we’re chasing the whole game.”
The Senators lack of urgency proved costly as the Sharks scored two early third-period goals to put the game out of reach.
Sheppard scored his first of the season as he beat Anderson far side and Pavelski made it 5-2 after burying a big rebound.
Trailing 3-1 to start the second period, the Senators gave the home crowd something to cheer about when Methot closed the gap with a bullet from just inside the blue line.
A poor start by Ottawa proved to be the difference yet again.
“I just thought we chased the game the whole night,” said Ottawa coach Paul MacLean. “I’m very concerned about the way that we’ve played to this point in the season.”
In the past the Senators would often struggle at the start of games, but were resilient and became known for their ability to come back late.
“Our identity in the past has been a hard-working group that’s very competitive and comes to play the whole game and plays hard the whole game,” added MacLean. “Right now we don’t do that. So what is our identity?”
The Senators were chasing the Sharks nearly from the start of the game.
Hertl opened the scoring at 1:16 as the puck bounced over Senators’ defenceman Joe Corvo’s stick, allowing Hertl to quickly put it between Anderson’s legs.
Just over five minutes later sloppy play by the Senators in their own end allowed Desjardins to make it 2-0 as he picked up a rebound and scored off his backhand.
Ottawa cut the lead in half midway through the period, as Karlsson was able to score through traffic. With Senators’ forward Cory Conacher creating a screen Stalock barely had a chance to see the shot until it was behind him.
Any momentum from the Ottawa goal was lost after giving up a short-handed goal with less than two minutes remaining in the period.
Karlsson bobbled the puck at his own blue line and San Jose’s Logan Couture took off on a breakaway. While Anderson made the initial save the puck rested in the crease and Wingels banged it in to restore the two-goal lead.
“Right now we make a mistake and it ends up in our net,” said Anderson. “I’m not sure how you change that. Obviously you need a little bit of luck, but at the same time you’ve got to limit the amount of mistakes you make.”
This was the second and final meeting between the two teams this season.
Notes: Ottawa’s LW Clarke MacArthur missed Sunday’s game with what the Senators described as a minor injury, LW Matt Kassian and D Eric Gryba were healthy scratches for the Senators…San Jose remains without RW Brent Burns (puck in the mouth, day-to-day). RW Marty Havlat (pelvis, undetermined), and D Dan Boyle missed his sixth straight game. LW Matthew Nieto was a healthy scratch.