Sharks' Defense-first Mentality Has Been Key to San Jose's Resurgence

SAN JOSE -- It took a while. The whole first month of the season and then some, to be exact. But now, as the Sharks approach the end of November, they're finally looking like the defensive-minded team they want to be.

San Jose won its second straight overtime game on Saturday night. Even with power forward Tomas Hertl out of the lineup once again, the Sharks imposed a heavy game on the red-hot Islanders and, despite racking up a whopping seven penalties, were able to hold the high-scoring opponent to a single goal. 

The Sharks won in overtime, 2-1, for the second straight night and moved above .500 for the first time this season. After sitting at 4-10-1 earlier this month, San Jose finally has begun to play like Peter DeBoer-coached teams of old.

"If you defend well in this league, you're going to have a chance to win every night, I think that's the moral of that story," DeBoer told reporters after the win. "It's great reinforcement for our group that, if you defend well and our goalies play well, we have a chance to win every night."

Perhaps the biggest key to the Sharks' win over the Islanders on Saturday -- and in their last couple of wins, honestly -- is that they didn't blow it late in the third period. San Jose could have gotten itself into trouble with all the penalties, but with a solid defensive effort and a perfect penalty kill, the Sharks were able to get the job done.

"We have to bear down late in games and I think lately we've done a good job of that," Mario Ferraro summarized. "Tonight was another example. It's really important -- the third period is the most important period of the hockey game. It's about finishing strong and we did that tonight."

It didn't hurt that goaltender Martin Jones was stellar between the pipes, both on the penalty kill and at even strength.

"Goaltending is huge," Ferraro said. "Jones, he played outstanding tonight. We don't win that game without him. Goaltending wins you big games."

Although a penalty-heavy game isn't a trend the Sharks want to fall into every night, their ability to overcome such an imperfect game says a lot about how far they've come since the rough start to their season. They've won eight of their last nine games, but not necessarily in the same ways.

"We found a way, and that's kind of been the story lately," DeBoer said. "We've been dealing with some injuries and some depth issues and we didn't help ourselves tonight be getting into the box. But we still found a way and I thought it was a pretty gutsy effort."

[RELATED: Why DeBoer, Sharks are open to using just 11 forwards]

The word "gutsy" has been used a couple of times now to describe how the Sharks are winning games. Even with injured players and trouble with penalties, San Jose has been doing a better job of buckling down defensively and preventing other teams from capitalizing on their mistakes.

That's a big change from the start of the season.

"We have a veteran team, and we have a veteran coaching staff. We just needed to be better individually and, usually, that leads to a better performance collectively. I think that's what has transpired."

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