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Sharks edge Jets on Vlasic's late goal

by Patrick Williams /

WINNIPEG -- At the morning skate before their game against the Winnipeg Jets on Monday, San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan stressed several objectives for his struggling team.

McLellan wanted a better start and a "higher commitment level to the team game" from the Sharks, who were fresh off a five-goal loss at home against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.

McLellan's players followed through, delivering him a 3-2 win at MTS Centre on Marc-Edouard Vlasic's goal with 4.5 seconds left in the third period. The win began a three-game road trip through the Central Division that continues Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild.

Vlasic took a pass from Logan Couture off a faceoff inside the Winnipeg zone before he beat Jets goaltender Michael Hutchinson with a high shot from the left circle.

"I was in the right spot at the right time," Vlasic said. "We played hard against a very fast and physical team. It [was] nice to finish it off before overtime."

The win pushed the Sharks past the Los Angeles Kings into third place in the Pacific Division. The Sharks and Jets are tied with Los Angeles at 47 points; Los Angeles holds the first Stanley Cup Playoff wild-card spot in the Western Conference, and the Jets have the second wild-card spot.

"We couldn't be happier to get the win and fix what was broken," McLellan said. "We didn't play very well against St. Louis, and [Winnipeg] plays a similar game. Heavy, hard, a lot of pinching."

"I thought we got [a better commitment to the team game]," McLellan said. "We needed to get back on track tonight. We needed to become the competitive group that we can be, and for the most part we got that.

"I thought we did a much better job tonight, so to get the reward at the end of the night was icing on the cake, and now we have to keep that recipe going."

Brent Burns and Melker Karlsson also scored for the Sharks (21-14-5), who were without center Joe Thornton (upper body) for the second consecutive game. Thornton's 33 points (nine goals, 24 assists) rank second on the Sharks in scoring.

Couture and Joe Pavelski each had two assists for San Jose.

Jets captain Andrew Ladd and Jay Harrison each had a power-play goal for Winnipeg (20-13-7). The loss concluded a four-game homestand that saw the Jets go 1-3-0.

Five Winnipeg defensemen are out with long-term injuries after the Jets announced Monday that Grant Clitsome will likely be out on a week-to-week basis because of an upper-body injury.

Antti Niemi started for the Sharks for the eighth time in the past nine games and made 17 saves.

Hutchinson continued his transition toward taking over Winnipeg's No. 1 goaltending job. Hutchinson had 34 saves in his fifth start in the past six games.

San Jose outshot the Jets 37-19, and penalties continue to be an issue for Winnipeg. The Jets surrendered seven power plays to San Jose and their 161 times shorthanded are the most in the NHL.

"Our margin for error is thin," Jets coach Paul Maurice said. "Our special teams has really been the difference in this stretch of games. Our power play has been great, [our] penalty kill has been outstanding. Tonight, I just didn't think we were at the level we've been at pretty much all year in the first 30 [minutes of the game]."

The problems extended into the third period for the Jets. With the score 2-2, Winnipeg was shorthanded three times in a 7:37 span in the third period.

"We've got to do a better job with our sticks and staying out of the [penalty] box," Ladd said.

The Sharks used their struggling power play to build a 1-0 lead. The Sharks, who had one goal in 20 attempts in their past four games, had four minutes of power-play time to work with after Mathieu Perreault took a high-sticking double-minor 1:14 into the game.

San Jose forward Patrick Marleau won a faceoff to the point, and Burns beat Hutchinson with a low slap shot at 2:53. Burns leads all NHL defensemen with 11 goals. The assist ended Marleau's stretch of nine games without a point.

The Jets used their own power play to tie the game at 9:17 when Ladd placed a low wrist shot from the high slot past Niemi. Ladd's 15th goal tied him with Bryan Little for the Jets lead.

The Sharks regained the lead on Karlsson's third goal of the season 4:13 into the second period when Pavelski flung a shot on net from the right boards that Karlsson tipped through Hutchinson's pads.

An offseason signing from Skelleftea AIK of the Swedish Hockey League, the 24-year-old Karlsson has seven points (three goals, four assists) in his first 11 games since he made his NHL debut Dec. 9 after the Sharks recalled him from Worcester of the American Hockey League.

The Jets again used the power play to tie the game when Harrison's second goal of the season made it 2-2 on a shot from between the circles 4:03 into the third period. The goal was Harrison's first with the Jets, who acquired him from the Carolina Hurricanes on Dec. 18.

The Jets will play five of their next six games on the road beginning Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes. Cleaning up the penchant for penalties and other issues that have crept into their game will be the task at practice Tuesday.

"It's going to sting tonight, but we don't have time to sit here and sulk," Ladd said. "We'll chalk it up as a learning experience and make sure that it doesn't happen again."

Discipline is an issue that Maurice stressed when Winnipeg’s injury problems start, and he will continue to emphasize that message.

"Even if you kill [the penalties], you're at a disadvantage and you're burning the candle pretty hard," Maurice said. "We're not scoring at a high 5-on-5 rate. We need that 5-on-5 time."

In Minnesota, the Sharks face another opponent that they are attempting to fend off in the Western Conference race in a bid to reach the Playoffs for the 11th consecutive season. Minnesota is seven points behind the Sharks and has three games in hand on San Jose.

"[Tuesday] is another day, and we can't be like a yo-yo, up and down all the time," McLellan said. "We've got to find some consistency."

However, Vlasic and his teammates have aspirations beyond holding off Minnesota, Winnipeg and other teams chasing them in the Western Conference.

"[Regulation wins] are good, but we're chasing [the] Anaheim [Ducks] right now," Vlasic said. "We're worried about chasing Anaheim, [though] obviously we want to stay ahead of Winnipeg, but our objective is to finish better than fourth [in the Pacific Division]."

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