BROOKLYN – There were no drastic alterations to Aaron Dell’s routine in the lead up to his first career NHL start. The 27-year-old goalie said that he actually felt more nervous in the preseason than he did before Tuesday’s game at Barclays Center, when he would be counted on to help the Sharks get over an unsightly loss to the Rangers the night before.
Dell’s teammates, though, were a little standoffish.
“They kind of left me alone a little bit today. I’m not sure I liked that,” said Dell, through a wide grin.
On the ice is where it matters, of course, and Dell’s Sharks brethren played their most complete game since the opener against Los Angeles. They held the Islanders to just four shots in the first period in securing a 1-0 lead, and although New York responded with a pair of unanswered goals in the second, the Sharks found the energy to tie it up late in the middle frame and win it in the third on a Joe Pavelski deflection with 2:11 to go.
The winning goal was something that Pavelski has essentially patented at this point, getting open in the slot and perfectly angling his stick blade to redirect a floating puck.
It was even sweeter in that it secured Dell, who made 21 saves, his first NHL win.
“It was great to get a win for him and for the guys,” Pavelski said. “[Second] game on a back-to-back night, it’s not an easy position for any goalie. He came in and he did a good job for us.”
The Sharks quickly put Monday’s 7-4 loss to the Rangers, in which they were soft and confused in the defensive zone, behind them. Coach Pete DeBoer was critical of his team’s competitive level, and the Sharks looked like they weren’t really into it mentally, either.
Against the Islanders, San Jose dominated the opening frame, getting a goal from fourth liner Melker Karlsson and then not allowing a single shot to get through to Dell for about the final 13 minutes.
Dell said: “I thought the guys were going to come out and play, and they did. Especially in the first, they were real strong. They didn’t give me a whole lot of work.”
DeBoer swapped the rugged Micheal Haley in for Matt Nieto on the fourth line, and it paid immediate dividends when Tommy Wingels found Karlsson in front of the net after Haley won a board battle.
“I thought Wingels, Haley and Karlsson did a great job early in the game setting the tone, getting that first goal for us on the road,” DeBoer said. “We had contributions from a lot of different people.”
The top line also may be rounding back into form. Joe Thornton tallied his first primary assist late in the second period when he found Tomas Hertl in front of the net, and the puck ricocheted in off of Hertl’s right leg at 18:03 to make it 2-2. In the third, it was a puck off of Thornton’s stick that was in the perfect place for Pavelski to angle it through.
That line didn’t have much time to work together in training camp due to the World Cup, but if Tuesday is any indication, they are getting over their early struggles.
“It’s going to keep coming,” Pavelski said. “We just forechecked a lot better tonight. Held on to a few pucks. Hertl was around it all night. It was just a heavier game from our line, I think.”
Hertl said: “Today worked. Now just keep going. We played [the] last half season really good, and I believe we can be the same and maybe even better.”
The night, though, belonged to Dell. The Sharks were forced to kill off the final 1:06 with the Islanders on a power play and goalie Jaroslav Halak pulled for an extra attacker, to make him officially 1-0 in his career.
“You could see the guys at the end were real happy for him,” said DeBoer, mentioning shot blocks by Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Logan Couture on the late PK.
Dell said: “It took right to the very last second to make it real there. … It’s nice to get that one out of the way.”