No NHL team this season knows how important it is to start a lengthy road trip with a win quite like the San Jose Sharks — especially when that trip might be shorter than they anticipated.
The Sharks will look to take a step toward locking up another winning road trip Tuesday night, when they visit the New Jersey Devils in Newark, N.J.
Both teams were off Monday after earning wins Sunday night, when Timo Meier scored both goals as the Sharks started their third five-game road trip of the season by blanking the Chicago Blackhawks 2-0, and the host Devils scored three times in the third period in a 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Sharks, who were coming off a 4-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night, were outshot 29-22 by the Blackhawks — including 11-4 in the first period — and didn’t break the scoreless tie until Meier scored with 6:21 left in the second. San Jose was outshot 9-3 in the third and nursed the one-goal lead until Meier’s empty-netter with 1:31 remaining.
“It’s important that we’re not digging ourselves a hole at the beginning of a trip, so tonight was great to get two points,” Sharks head coach Bob Boughner said. “I know it’s been a lot of travel and we got in here fairly late last night, so I think it took us a little while in the first period. We didn’t look like we had any legs.”
The third and final five-game road trip of the season for the Sharks — they went 3-2-0 while playing four Eastern Conference teams and one Western Conference foe from Oct. 19-26 and 2-3-0 during a Western Conference trek from Nov. 9-18 — might end up being only four games.
San Jose is scheduled to continue the trip Thursday against the New York Islanders, whose season was paused Saturday due to a COVID-19 outbreak. The Islanders need to have three consecutive days of negative tests before reopening their practice facility, which means any positive tests will likely force Thursday’s game to be postponed as well.
“Need a better effort to beat Jersey,” Boughner said. “And we’ll see what happens with the announcement on Thursday.”
The Devils got a much-needed better effort Sunday, when they squandered a pair of one-goal leads before Jesper Bratt, Nathan Bastian and Andreas Johnsson scored in a span of 5:07 late in the third.
The win was just the second in the last seven games (2-3-2) for the Devils, whose performance in a 4-2 loss to the Nashville Predators on Friday was called “… probably the worst game I’ve seen us play” by second-year head coach Lindy Ruff.
“We needed a bounce-back game after the performance we pitched against Nashville and thought we got it,” Ruff said Sunday night. “A lot of good stuff from the game.”