The San Jose Sharks have not lost a home game in 2020 after defeating the red-hot Columbus Blue Jackets twice in the last five days by a score of 3-1. Coming into Thursday’s game, Blue Jackets were two points away to be tied in the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Blue Jackets were tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second-best record (7-1-2) within the last 10 games in the NHL prior to Thursday’s game.
Just to rain more on their playoff chances, Sharks captain and leading scorer Logan Couture is expected to miss approximately six weeks after fracturing his ankle against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night.
Sharks have made the playoffs 14 out of the last 15 years and have only missed the playoffs in 2015. Missing six weeks would mean a return would not be likely until late February/early March.
“It’s a good time for other guys to step up,” Sharks defenseman Brent Burns said. “It’s tough when you lose a guy who does everything.”
The Sharks have six remaining games after tonight in January and play 13 games in February.
“You got to just stay in the moment,” Sharks forward Kevin Labanc said. “Make sure you are giving it your all in practices [and] games, and the rest will take care of itself.”
Labanc opened up the scoring in the second period with his 10th goal of the season with perfect positioning for the loose puck.
In between a commercial break, the jumbotron announced that former Sharks captain Joe Thornton had tied Ray Bourque for 11th place for most games played in NHL history (1,612).
Thornton decided to join in on the fun as he rifled his 2nd goal of the season past Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins eight seconds into the first power play and the crowd goes into a frenzy.
Later in the second period, Burns was heavily pressured and forced to turn the puck over to Blue Jackets forward Sonny Milano and dangles his way to score his 5th goal of the season to cut the deficit 2-1.
Burns was extra aggressive in Thursday’s game and it paid off when he jumped in a play, backhands the rebound to pad the Sharks’ lead, 3-1.
“That is our focus, try to be a defense-first team,” Sharks head coach Bob Boughner. “We are not a team that is going to score 5 or 6 a night, we realized that.”
One aspect that has been fairly consistent throughout 46 games is the penalty-kill unit. Sharks have the best penalty-kill in the NHL killing off 88.7% of their penalties. Also of note is that after the game, the Sharks power play success rose to 5 goals out of the last 9 attempts.
Sharks will welcome Joe Pavelski for the first time this season with the Dallas Stars on Saturday night at 7:30 PT. Hopefully, the Sharks continue their journey for points with vigor.