Fast starts have helped the Pacific Division-leading San Jose Sharks keep their franchise-record winning streak intact.
Looking to extend its division lead, San Jose goes for its 12th straight win on Sunday night against the last-place Edmonton Oilers.
The Sharks (42-21-8) haven't lost since a 3-2 defeat at New Jersey on Feb. 20, capping a season-high five-game slide - which included a 3-2 home loss to Edmonton six days earlier. San Jose's surge has pushed it two points ahead of second-place Anaheim and three in front of third-place Dallas.
It's also the longest winning streak in one season since the Devils won 13 straight from Feb. 26-March 23, 2001. Buffalo posted 15 consecutive victories spanning two seasons from April 8-Oct. 26, 2006
|The Pacific Division-leading San Jose Sharks hope to keep their franchise-record 12-game winning streak alive when they host the last place Edmonton Oilers on Sunday. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
San Jose is moving closer to joining those clubs by getting to opponents early. Milan Michalek scored on the first shift Friday and three other players scored in a 3:03 span later in the first period en route to a 4-1 win over St. Louis.
The Sharks have netted eight of 12 goals in the first period over the last four games, and are outscoring opponents 14-5 in the opening period during the streak.
"When you have the lead, you can afford to make a mistake here or there and you're not going to be behind," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "It keeps the other team on their heels and gets your crowd into it. When you have a first shift the way we did with three or four quality scoring chances before we scored you create in them, 'Oh no, here we go again.' You just have something to build on."
Joe Thornton, who has a team-high 83 points, has two goals and 13 assists in the last 11 games after only producting one of each during the five-game slide. The All-Star center had two assists against the Blues, giving him 64 this season to move one ahead of Boston's Marc Savard for the league lead.
Thornton, though, has been held without a point in the last two meetings with Edmonton (35-32-5), and has only one assist in the last three home matchups.
Evgeni Nabokov, who posted his league-leading 41st win on Friday, struggled against the Oilers on Feb. 14, making 15 saves on 18 shots after stopping all 13 shots against them in a 3-0 win on Jan. 29. He's been outstanding during the winning streak, recording 10 wins and a 1.77 goals-against average.
Edmonton is looking to build off a 5-2 win at Phoenix on Saturday behind 38 saves from Dwayne Roloson, who made his first start since Feb. 1 and got his first win since Jan. 20. The victory came two nights after a 5-1 loss at Colorado, during which Mathieu Garon was chased early in the second period for allowing three goals on 14 shots in his 17th start in a row.
"Roly was outstanding," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. "Just to see him handling the puck, batting the puck, flipping the puck out, you can tell he had a high confidence level."
MacTavish could use Roloson again. He won his last game against San Jose, making 28 saves in a season-opening 3-2 shootout win on Oct. 4.
Garon also had 28 saves in the last meeting with the Sharks after enduring a personal seven-game slide against them with a 4.13 GAA.
The Oilers have been efficient on the power play over the last 18 games, converting 22.7 percent of their chances (17-of-75).