HOCKEY

Improving San Jose Sharks enter deep water vs. Knights

Dec 10, 2023, 5:28 AM | Updated: 8:30 am

Nikita Okhotiuk #83, Nico Sturm #7, Marc-Edouard Vlasic #44, and Kyle Burroughs #4 of the San Jose ...

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - DECEMBER 07: Nikita Okhotiuk #83, Nico Sturm #7, Marc-Edouard Vlasic #44, and Kyle Burroughs #4 of the San Jose Sharks celebrate after Sturm scored a goal against the Detroit Red Wings during the second period at Little Caesars Arena on December 07, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

(Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

The San Jose Sharks reside at the bottom of the NHL standings, but they are serving notice that they no longer will go down easily.

As the Sharks head to Las Vegas on Sunday night, it’s on the heels of two consecutive impressive comeback victories. They erased a four-goal deficit to claim a thrilling 6-5 overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday, two nights after erasing a three-goal third-period deficit against the New York Islanders in a 5-4 overtime victory.

“We played 27 great minutes,” said forward Tomas Hertl, who scored twice against the Red Wings and spoiled Patrick Kane’s debut. “We had some bad breaks to get down 4-0, but we never quit, and lately that’s been important for us.”

The Sharks were cannon fodder in their first 11 games, managing only a single extra-time loss for their lone point and were shellacked in consecutive home setbacks in which they surrendered 10 goals in both games.

As they finish a six-game road swing on Sunday, they have won three of four games and five of their past seven. They now have the belief that they can compete.

Case in point was the Detroit game, in which Hertl’s short-handed goal with 5:52 remaining in the second period ignited a comeback.

“When we got our first goal, we knew that we were going to come back,” Fabian Zetterlund told the San Jose Mercury News. “And that’s a great feeling to have.”

“That first goal was so huge, and the timing of it under those circumstances was huge,” Sharks coach David Quinn said. “It gave us a ray of hope, and we weren’t able to dwell on being down 4-0 for long.”

The Golden Knights certainly will provide a tough test for the Sharks. Vegas, which sits atop the overall standings, is coming of an impressive 6-1 win over the Dallas Stars on Saturday.

“There was lots to like,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “I thought our checking game was terrific. We didn’t allow them a lot of time and space.”

The defending Stanley Cup champion Knights started the season 11-0-1. After a lull through much of November, they appear to have their game back in order during a 5-1-3 run.

In consecutive road wins over the St. Louis Blues and Stars, Vegas collected 12 goals from 11 different players.

“We’re a good team. We use everybody and need everybody, but everybody doesn’t have to score for us,” Cassidy said. “A lot of different guys have contributed for us.”

Making their trip even better was the fact almost all of the players had their fathers on the journey.

“They’re probably (happier) for us than we are,” said Chandler Stephenson, who opened the scoring early in the first period in Dallas. “That’s what it’s all about, them being a part of it and having fun, enjoying watching their boys playing in the NHL.”

With the win, Vegas swept the season series with the Stars.

“They’re a good team; they have a lot of stars,” Vegas forward Paul Cotter said. “We’ve pretty much built some bad blood between us, which is a good thing. These are the games you get up, you get excited for. You know these games aren’t going to be easy.”

–Field Level Media

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