SAN JOSE – The Sharks knew all too well they needed to start off their post-holiday stretch of games on the right foot. They also knew it would be a challenge.
Not just because the rival Anaheim Ducks were in town and they always play San Jose tough, but because Thursday's game kicked off a string of contests against division rivals the Sharks are sitting ever-so-close to in the standings.
San Jose managed to snag two points on the evening with a 4-2 win. While the effort wasn't the Sharks' cleanest or their most dominant, they found a way to come out on top.
"We'll take the win," coach Peter DeBoer said after the win. "I think it was what an after-break game would look like. It was a little sloppy and a little messy. But we found a way. We got saves at the right time and we got some timely goals."
The "timely goal" he no doubt was referring to was Brent Burns' game-winner in the third period. Just shy of seven minutes earlier, Anaheim winger Kiefer Sherwood eluded goaltender Martin Jones' blocker with a wrist shot that dribbled into the back of the net and knotted the score up 2-2.
From the looks of things, San Jose was headed to overtime for the third straight game – and if you recall, the previous two trips into the free hockey zone didn't end in the Sharks' favor. But Burns came up big with a lethal slap shot through traffic that Ducks goalie Chad Johnson had no chance of stopping.
Not too shabby for a guy playing in his 1,000th NHL career game.
"What a great career," DeBoer reflected. "Just the way he approaches the game and what he brings to the rink every day. It's a great accomplishment for him from where he's come from, [and] it looks like he's still got a lot more games left in him."
Burns has been getting on the scoresheet plenty this season, but he's mostly played the role of the set-up guy. Finding the back of the net on his own was a nice touch, especially because it meant he contributed to a victory.
"It's just nice to score a goal again, it's been a while," the defenseman told the media after the game. "It's nice to contribute and feel good about that."
"Obviously a pretty special game for him, and to get the game-winner – especially on a goal like that," Jones added. "He's so good at doing that. He's scored I don't know how many goals like that. It was great to see."
Jones himself came up with some pretty big saves on the evening, stopping a few lethal looks from Anaheim that could've gone into the back of his net. His most impressive was, without a doubt, a glove save on Ducks winger Jakob Silfverberg during 4-on-4 play that easily could've tied the game.
At the end of the night, though, the Sharks are happy to start the next stretch of games with a couple of points. The victory over the Ducks keeps them in second place in the Pacific ahead of the Vegas Golden Knights – who also won on Thursday – and keeps pace with the division-leading Calgary Flames. Those same Flames round out this current stretch of games San Jose will play against division rivals, and the Sharks will want to take two points every opportunity they get.
Yes, even if it isn't the best game they've ever played.
"We'll take the good from it," DeBoer concluded. "The real good from it was the two big points."