SAN JOSE – From the rafters above the ice at SAP Center, Friday's contest between the Sharks and the Colorado Avalanche had a bit of a playoff feel. Instead of a high-scoring standoff, San Jose's defense had to be stingy in holding off a fast Colorado offense, and the counter-attack had to be just as confident.
But did it feel like a playoff game down on ice level?
"Yeah, it did," Kevin Labanc said after Team Teal's 4-3 victory. "They're fighting for a playoff spot and we're fighting to win the Western Conference. Every inch of ice is hard to get."
Indeed, the Avs entered the Sharks' house right on the outskirts of a wild-card spot. Their top forwards are fast, their netminder is a brick wall, and their power play was clicking. There was no room for San Jose to get back on its heels, even after jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the second period.
But even as Colorado cut its deficit to a goal 6:33 into the third period, San Jose buckled down and kept the opposition from knotting up the score. That's exactly what this team needs as the regular season winds down, and the playoffs come into clearer view.
"I thought our group came together and played a real solid game," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said after the game.. "I thought all four lines were effective. I thought all our defensemen were good."
Defense played a huge role for San Jose against a high-flying offense boasting top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen. San Jose's defense came up big halting MacKinnon, who was dangerous offensively all night. While all three got on the score sheet in one form or another, the Sharks did a good job overall at stymying Colorado's forward attack.
"Obviously MacKinnon and Rantanen and Landeskog are a real tough group to handle, and you saw what they're capable of when you give them a little bit of room," DeBoer said. "I thought, for most of the night, we did a pretty solid job on them. And Jones made some saves when we needed to."
There were, of course, a few areas the Sharks bench boss would like to see cleaned up.
"I would have liked for us to turn a couple of the counter-attacks into some more goals," he said. "I thought we could have extended the lead at a couple different points instead of letting them hang around."
Overall, though, being able to contain a fast team like the Sharks did is a positive sign. Plus, it's a nice statement to make at the start of a four-game homestand that continues Sunday against the Chicago Blackhawks.
"We've got to keep this thing rolling and get ready for Chicago on Sunday," Labanc concluded.