With their longest road trip of the season already in the books, the San Jose Sharks are looking to use the momentum gained in their last three come-from-behind wins to catapult them to the top of the Pacific Division.
In their first four games of the trip, things didn't go as planned for Team Teal. A 0-3-1 record was all they had to show during that span in which they played two very close games with Detroit and Nashville. But it was Marco Sturm's game-winning power play goal in Dallas that started the ball rolling and now the Sharks are in the midst of a three-game winning streak.
"I think you can see the confidence, even in the locker room right now," said Sturm. "Everyone is pretty loose. It was a big road trip and to end it like we did and come from behind and beat the teams we did, it makes you feel good."
Scoring three extra-attacker goals in the past three games shows a never-say-die attitude that teams love to have.
"I think it shows some character," said Wayne Primeau. "When you're down by some goals you can just easily quit, but our team has dug down deep and found a way and we were able to get some big wins."
But don't expect these "Cardiac Kids" to keep up their current streak of come-from-behind heroics. They're always looking to carry a lead into the closing minutes, but it's reassuring to know they're able to come from behind if they have to.
"You want to change it a little bit, but we won some games and that's the most important thing," added Sturm. "Now we're home for awhile and I think everyone is feeling very comfortable."
Their current win streak can be attributed in no small part to the play of rookie goaltender Nolan Schaefer. Since Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala went down with injuries, Schaefer has kept the Sharks in contention in all three contests.
"I've been kicking out a few too many rebounds and playing the puck a little shaky," Schafer said. "But our defense and forwards have been getting back and clearing pucks away which makes it easier on me. At the end of the day, whether we got a win or not is all that matters."
As Coach Ron Wilson explains it, no lead is safe in the NHL anymore.
"It's hard for teams to defend leads now," he said. "You get penalties for things you used to do in the past, but you're going to get your scoring chances. It's a completely different feeling when you go into the third period of a game now if you're down a goal or two because you know you can get back into it really quick. You also know you can be out of it in a hurry too if you give up anything. It's a different league and we're starting to adjust."
Imagine the pressure of knowing that if you don't sink the next shot or if you don't stop the next shot, your team will lose the game. That was the pressure that both Sturm and Schaefer were faced with Saturday night against Calgary.
"There was definitely some pressure in that shootout," said Sturm, who's shootout goal tied the shootout before Nils Ekman won it in sudden death. "I thought, 'Oh no, why me?' But it ended up good and it was very exciting."
Schaefer is no stranger to shootouts. The rookie holds the AHL record for winning the longest shootout in history, a 16-round duel in which he stopped 14 penalty shots to send the Cleveland Barons to victory.
"Shootouts are a lot of pressure and the more practice you get, the more it helps and the more comfortable you feel," said Schaefer.
CHURCHILL QMJHL DEFENSEMAN OF THE WEEK
Saint John Sea Dogs goaltender Jason Churchill was named Defensive Player of the Week. In two games, he notched both wins against steady opposition, while managing a 1.00 goals-against-average. He also had a .972 save percentage, while facing an average of 35.5 shots per game. Last Thursday, he stopped 37 shots in a 3-2 win against a very skilled Acadie-Bathurst Titan team. Then on Sunday, he blanked the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, winners of nine straight games, 2-0. It was his first shutout of the season and the seventh of his career.
The Sharks face the Nashville Predators on Wednesday at at HP Pavilion. Tickets are still available through the HP Pavilion Ticket Office or via Ticketmaster.com and the game can be seen on FSN PLUS and heard on 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.
Wednesday's game can be seen on FSN PLUS. If you have DirecTV, tune in to channel 655. Comcast cable subscribers can watch the game on channels 11, 14, 27, 32, 33, 69 or 77.