The San Jose Sharks’ up-and-down season took another positive turn in the Nation’s capital. Now we’ll see if they can ride the momentum into the upcoming long break.
After two consecutive subpar performances, including an embarrassing loss to Tampa Bay, the Sharks rebounded and beat the Washington Capitals 4-1 on Jan. 26. San Jose started a very tough four-game eastern road trip which leads into a 12-day break.
This one featured great goaltending for the Sharks, some uneven play due to turnovers and balanced scoring. That was enough to get back in the win column.
Sharks Continue to Avoid Long Losing Streaks
This season has been tough to figure out most of the time, but there’s one consistent trend in the Sharks’ favor. They have been able to avoid long losing streaks.
Since starting the season with four wins and immediately losing three in a row, they have not lost three consecutive games since. This game was a moment when there was a strong possibility that the streak might end. San Jose lost to the expansion Seattle Kracken on the road and followed up by taking a 7-1 beating at the hands of the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning at home. The Sharks had to take the 3,000-mile road trip and try to avoid a third consecutive loss against Alex Ovechkin and the Caps, which is far from an easy assignment.
The Sharks responded by once again getting things in order before the losses started to pile up. This is a critical time in the schedule, with trips to Florida, Carolina and Tampa Bay before the long layoff.
“I don’t know if I’d say it’s the biggest (win) of the year, but it was definitely a response game,” San Jose coach Bob Boughner said. “That’s what we stressed the last couple days: showing up, responding and picking ourselves up off the floor.”
The Good Reimer Shows Up in Washington
No Shark has been more unpredictable in the past few weeks than veteran goaltender James Reimer. He was having a great season, suffered a few injuries and has become inconsistent. Before the trip to Washington, Reimer had failed to finish three of four starts.
Against the Caps, he was fantastic, looking as good as he has all season. Reimer had 32 saves, only allowing a goal to Daniel Sprong 14 seconds into the third period. Other than Sprong’s offering, he handled Washington with surprising ease.
“Any time things don’t go your way, you want to come back and play well or do what you can,” Reimer said. “Obviously, you never know what’s going to happen out there, but you want to try and bring your A game and let the chips fall where they fall.”
Reimer improved to 13-8-1 this season. His performance was particularly important to the Sharks since Adin Hill was out with a lower-body injury. Zach Sawchenko served as San Jose’s backup goalie.
Meloche Gives Mother a Nice Birthday Gift
Rookie defenseman Nicolas Meloche scored his first NHL goal, and he did it on his Mom’s birthday. He gave the Sharks a 2-0 advantage in the second period, scoring on a rush after Matt Nieto intercepted a pass by Trevor van Riemsdyk in the neutral zone.
“I’m for sure calling her right after I’m done here. It’s just special that it’s on her birthday,” Meloche said. “We talked earlier. She’s in Florida right now, so I’ll be able to give her the puck tomorrow or in two days, so it’s just great timing, I guess, and it feels unbelievable.”
Meloche was paired up on defense with Jaycob Megna. Meloche has played 21 games with the Sharks over the past two seasons.
Sharks Productive Without Goal From Top Line
San Jose won this game without a goal from Timo Meier or Tomas Hertl, and that’s an overall good thing. The Sharks scoring attack in recent weeks has come primarily from the first line Alexander Barabanov, Hertl and Meier. Barabanov and Meier each had an assist and Meier did everything he could to get on the scoreboard, firing nine shots at Washington goaltender Ilya Samsonov.
Noah Gregor scored his first goal since Nov. 30 (21 games), and Jonathan Dahlen lit the lamp for the first time since Dec. 9 (15 games). Gregor opened the scoring 7:41 into the game, and Dahlen pretty much finished off the Caps when he scored with 3:09 left in the contest. Nick Bonino tacked on an empty netter in the final 21 seconds.
Hopefully, it’s a sign that the Sharks will not continue to be a one-line scoring threat.
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Scott Linesburgh has been a sports writer for 35 years, and has spent more than 15 years as a pro hockey beat writer. He has covered some of the biggest sporting events, including the Super Bowl and Indianapolis 500. A native of Long Island, N.Y. who grew up as an Islander fan, Scott cover the San Jose Sharks for THW, and is always looking for the stories beyond the box scores.