MONTREAL – Sharks defenseman David Schlemko had 52 shots on goal headed into a game against the Canadiens on Friday at Bell Centre. Somehow, though, he was still looking for his first goal.
It finally came in the first period on the power play on shot number 53, when he beat Carey Price with a wrist shot from the top of the circle.
"Definitely nice to see one go in," Schlemko said. "It was getting pretty frustrating."
Timo Meier was making his NHL debut. It took him precisely one shot to get his first goal, when he found the rebound of a Schlemko blast at 13:18 of the first period, upping the Sharks’ lead to 3-0 in an eventual 4-2 win.
“Must be nice scoring your first shot, your first game,” Schlemko quipped.
The Sharks jumped all over Montreal early, thanks to goals by the two aforementioned players sandwiched around a Patrick Marleau power play marker. Melker Karlsson added another in the second period, chasing Price from a game for the first time in more than two years, and San Jose handed the first place Canadiens just their second regulation loss of the season at home (14-2-2).
After needing a shootout to secure wins in Toronto and Ottawa on the first two games of their road trip, and not seeming all that pleased with their overall performance in either game, the Sharks were much more content with how they played against the Canadiens – even if they only did get five shots on backup Al Montoya over the final 33 minutes of play.
“We really didn’t like our last two games, to be honest,” said Joe Thornton, who beautifully set up Marleau for his goal. “We felt we had better. I think tonight we showed in the first two periods that that’s how we need to play. It’s an encouraging game tonight for us.”
Pete DeBoer said: “That was much more of a solid effort. … I didn’t think we gave them much room in the first two periods, and capitalized on our chances.”
Getting a pair of power play goals before the midway point of the first period was key, especially considering the Sharks were just 1-for-25 on the power play in their last seven road games. That includes an 0-for-7 in Ottawa on Wednesday.
After an early power play still looked disjointed, the second unit got one from Schlemko at 6:50 of the opening frame on their second chance, while Marleau’s was shortly after that at the nine-minute mark.
“If you can get that lead early, especially on the power play where it kind of makes that team not want to take penalties…it gives us some confidence to get going,” Joe Pavelski said.
Meier’s goal, though, was the official game-winner. The 20-year-old, who is the Sharks’ best prospect since maybe Logan Couture, looked comfortable in his surroundings, and you can bet he’ll still be in the lineup on Sunday in Chicago, too.
As for scoring in what is typically known as the arena with the best atmosphere in the NHL, Meier said: “In that building, scoring the first goal on the first shot, it’s hard to describe in words. I’m happy, but at the same time, I know I can do much more.”
“What an awesome start,” Pavelski said. “It’s fun to see him score. He was really good. You saw he wanted to make a difference with the puck, he was strong on it, made some plays. It’s not an easy situation coming here, but it’s exciting. He was definitely ready for the game. You could tell.”
Despite trailing 4-0 entering the third period, the Canadiens made a push. The momentum seemed to change after Shea Weber slammed Pavelski to the ice at 3:13 of the third, earning him an interference minor, but seemingly waking up his teammates, too.
Bryan Flynn made it 4-1 at 10:28, and Jeff Petry brought the Habs back to within striking distance about three minutes later. The Sharks were icing the puck and scrambling in their own end for the majority of the final 10 minutes.
But, no one seemed all that distraught in the visiting dressing room with how that all unfolded. After all, the Sharks were playing their third road game in four nights, while Montreal had been at home and off since Monday.
“That’s part of the momentum throughout a game,” Pavelski said. “You’d like to be down [in the offensive zone] all night. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. Guys handled the situation well, though.”
Thornton said: “You knew they were going to push, so they made a push. We’ll leave here with two points.”