San Jose Sharks fans are quickly learning not to discount their club, no matter how late in the game they are trailing.For the third consecutive contest, the Sharks pulled their goalie to earn an extra attacker goal and win the contest in extra time.
"I hope we start getting going a little earlier," laughed Jonathan Cheechoo."It shows that if we stick to it for 60 minutes, we can get the job done."
"I hope it's not a habit, but it's nice to know we can do it," said Brad Stuart.
The Sharks were playing their second game in as many nights and were coming off a six-game road trip.In fact, they had only played twice at HP Pavilion this year while every other club had played at least four home games.
"They (Calgary) were sitting here waiting and watching our game last night," said Ron Wilson."Obviously we were spent after the trip."
"It certainly was a good test for us playing in back to back nights," said Stuart."We killed a lot of penalties in the second and we were able to bounce back."
Cheechoo had a strong night, scoring the Sharks opening goal and setting up Stuart to send the game to overtime.
"We just got the lucky bounces," said Cheechoo."Patty made a nice play behind the net and I got in front so Kiprusoff couldn't see it."
Since moving to the same line three games ago, Marleau and Cheechoo have each registered multi-point scoring streaks of three games.
"Guys like Marleau and Cheechoo have really made a difference," said Wilson."Cheechoo is getting to the loose pucks and making plays while getting tackled."
For the game-winner, Stuart dropped down to the top of the left circle.
"Stuey gave me a call and let me know he was alone," said Cheechoo. "It was a good screen by Thornton and Michalek."Thorty gets his body out there and is willing to pay the price."
"I just yelled for the puck and he was heads up enough to see me and make a nice pass," said Stuart.
Stuart's goal was the result of a fortuitous bounce as it was redirected by the skate of Jordan Leopold.
"Sometimes you get lucky," said Stuart."It was not the shot I wanted, but it worked out.That was a tough way to lose for them.I'm glad I don't have to worry about that."
Nolan Schaefer is the first Sharks goaltender to start his career 3-0 and in the first shootout in Sharks history, he had the benefit of his AHL days.The American Hockey League used the shootout in 2004-05 and Schaefer was actually the winner of the AHL's longest shootout - a 16 round affair.However, that was against AHL talent.This time he was facing NHL stars.
"I think the AHL experience paid off," said Schaefer."It is tough playing in a shootout and you need all the practice you can get.It is a little different caliber of shooter when you have Kobesew, Iginla and Amonte."
Schaefer also stopped Amonte on a penalty shot in the first period.
And what is the key to his early success?
"I don't think too much on penalty shots," said Schaefer."I bought the NHL (Center Ice) package a couple of years ago, but that is the most I researched anybody."
Schaefer is enjoying the unbelievable ride he is on right now.
"It's really exciting," said Schaefer."I kicked out a few rebounds tonight, but the guys were there for me."
"Nolan settled down after the first," said Wilson.
Schaefer enjoyed the opportunity to begin his NHL career on the road, but he was thrilled with the HP Pavilion crowd's reaction Saturday night.
"Sometimes there is a little more pressure at home and that can be tough," said Schaefer."You don't see any crowds like this in the AHL though."
It should come as little surprise to Sharks fans that Team Teal has found another netminding gem.
"Wayne (Thomas) is a great coach and this is a great organization for goalies," said Schaefer."They know when to say the good things and when to say the bad things.I'm sure in the next couple of days we'll try to fix the mistakes I made."
Nils Ekman hadn't played a lot late in the victory, but he certainly came through in the clutch, scoring the game-winning shootout goal.
"I didn't play much the last five minutes so I was hoping for a chance in the shootout," said Ekman."I was hopping and jumping to stay warm and hoping he (Wilson) would notice me."
Ekman is one of the Sharks top shootout options, but not who Wilson initially thought he would go with.Coaches must write down their three initial shooters, and then it is whoever they call out.
"On my list, I had Michalek, then Ekman," said Wilson."Then I thought Ekman had the experience and maybe he had a move to give Kiprusoff trouble."
Ekman had a move for the goal, but he altered it as he skated in.
"I was going to come in with speed and pull back and go high," said Ekman. "I just shot it instead.It turned out pretty well."
The Sharks have moved above .500 for the first time this season, sitting at 6-5-1, and they currently sit three points out of the division lead.They are tied with Dallas for second in the division with 13 points.
"We're improving," said Ekman."We're a good team and haven't played as well as we should have.There is a positive trend in the lockerroom."
The Sharks will be off until Wednesday when they face the Nashville Predators at at HP Pavilions. Tickets are still available through the HP Pavilion Ticket Office or via Ticketmaster.com and the game can be seen on FSN+ and heard on 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.