When the going gets tough, it helps when a team can turn to the captain to lead the comeback. And boy, did Sharks captain Joe Pavelski lead the charge on Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings.
The captain was the driving force behind San Jose's 5-3 come-from-behind victory over Detroit. From standing up for his team on the ice to scoring a natural hat trick, there was no denying Pavelski was the first star of Sunday's matinee.
Pavelski didn't just score three goals on Sunday, he scored them all in unique fashion. Pavelski scored his first, a power-play goal, from his knees and deposited the puck past sprawling Detroit netminder Jonathan Bernier.
Here's @jpav8's 33rd on the season. #SJSharks tied at 3. pic.twitter.com/RUWRS8PXm9— Brodie Brazil (@BrodieNBCS) February 24, 2019
On his second, Pavelski's redirect of Marc-Edouard Vlasic's shot eluded Bernier's blocker up high.
34th on the season for @jpav8 #SJSharks lead 4-3 pic.twitter.com/7Q45hTNmND— Brodie Brazil (@BrodieNBCS) February 24, 2019
With neither goal contested by the Red Wings, Pavelski completed the natural hat trick with a backhanded shot into Detroit's empty net with just a minute left in regulation. No matter how Pavelski shot the puck, it found its way to the back of the net.
That's been the case all season. Pavelski is converting on a career-high 21.6 percent of his shots this season, and he attributed that to improved health.
"The hands are feeling good," he told Sharks broadcasters Randy Hahn and Jamie Baker in a postgame interview. "Last year I had a few little issues there. And then, just picking (my) shots a little bit better and getting them closer to the net. If you look at your goals, they're always around the net a little bit closer. To be honest, I've shot the puck at times and not really looked where I'm shooting – just kind of going off feel."
Of course, the change in San Jose's game didn't just come from them finding the back of the net. Pavelski admitted that the team discussed needing to get their act together during the first intermission.
"After the first, we talked about (how) this group has always responded well," he said, referencing San Jose's previous loss against the Columbus Blue Jackets as something that also motivated them. "We came out of the first period and (the bad play) kind of continued over. So we had a job just to start competing and win more battles. As we did that, we started to take over the game."
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As the Sharks took over the game, Pavelski took over the score sheet and boosted his stats on the season. The captain has now tallied 18 points in his last 12 games, and leads the team with 35 goals on the 2018-19 campaign. Plus, he now has five hat tricks as a member of the Sharks, the second-most in the franchise's history.
San Jose's come-from-behind win on Sunday may have been a full-team effort. But, there's no denying the role Pavelski's performance played.