ANAHEIM – To a man, the San Jose Sharks said that this had little to do with the wake-up call trade of popular defenseman Douglas Murray.
It was difficult not to call a 5-3 win Monday against the Anaheim Ducks a turning-the-page game, though, particularly after the way it unfolded. Martin Havlat broke a 15-game scoring slump. Joe Pavelski got his first goal in 10 games. James Sheppard scored for the first time since Dec.11, 2009.
This for a talented team ranked 30th in the League in scoring.
"It's been a – I guess you could say -- a difficult day," Logan Couture said. "Obviously losing a teammate is tough, but guys fought hard and we played one of our better games and fought through that adversity."
Hours earlier, the Sharks said goodbye to Murray, who was sent to the Pittsburgh Penguins. San Jose has stumbled badly since a 7-0-0 start and players talked at the morning skate about how they almost expected a move. But they didn't draw a line to their performance.
"Really, we don't think about it too much, to be honest," captain Joe Thornton said. "We're all pros. We got to go out and play. It doesn't matter who gets traded. You got to out play and work hard, and we knew they were coming off back-to-back games and we wanted to start quick, and we did and it worked out in our favor tonight."
Anaheim is 0-3 since its victory Wednesday against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Ducks pulled to 3-2 and 4-3 on goals by Francois Beauchemin and Corey Perry in the third only to give up an empty-net goal to Dan Boyle.
This can't really be called a spiral for Anaheim, which outplayed the Detroit Red Wings for much of the game Sunday. But it is starting to show cracks in its defense, and at least one player acknowledged that they have lost some edge.
"We've got to just get a bit of a sense of urgency back in our game," Sheldon Souray said. "We're starting these games possibly thinking it's going to be an easy night. We've got to understand that we've played well all year to put ourselves in the position the other teams are going to be ready for us.
"We should have a little bit of swagger, for sure, and we deserve to be where we are because we've played really well. But we've gotten away from that a little bit."
San Jose coach Todd McLellan had Pavelski center Sheppard and T.J. Galiardi on the third line for balance, and it paid dividends in the form of Pavelski's first goal in 10 games. Sheppard made it happen when he took the puck off Perry's stick and fed Pavelski for a quick shot in the high slot for a 2-0 lead at 7:10 of the first.
Pavelski had one goal in the previous 18 games.
"I thought the three of them meshed real well and allowed us to roll those three lines consistently, so it was a good move for Pav to be back in the middle, and we need more games like that from him," McLellan said.
Sheppard lifted a shot from the left side that arced through traffic and over Havlat in the third period. It was only the third time in 26 games that San Jose scored four or more goals, and it came with diversity.
"It was huge, and for [Sheppard] to score too – that's how we're going to win games if everybody contributes," Thornton said. "We've got four good lines. It's just sometimes the puck doesn't go in for some reason, so hopefully they start going in for those guys."
Anaheim could have been down more than 3-1 going into the third period if not for an error-prone second period in which it killed three power plays and needed Viktor Fasth to turn aside breakaways by Sheppard, Burns and a partial breakaway by Tommy Wingels.
Poor starts have troubled Anaheim the past three games. The Ducks been outscored 12-4 since the Chicago game. Fasth denied that they're fatigued and when asked if a lull was inevitable, "that's not what you want, but you have to work even harder to get back."
The teams play again Wednesday, and coach Bruce Boudreau knows the first step is a better start.
"We haven't handled it very well," Boudreau said. "We knew that they were sitting here waiting and that they were going to come out in the first period. We knew all these things and we didn't come out and meet their push. Some things we have to address. For some reason lately, they're not ready at the start of the game, and we have to figure out why."
Anaheim was 7-1-1 against San Jose in the previous nine meetings.