KANATA, Ontario – It probably says something about the Sharks and where they are at the moment as a team when they can play a less than perfect game and still come out with a victory.
That was the case on Thursday as they lost 24 shots in the last two games and managed only one goal with equal power and managed a 2-1 win over Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tyre Center.
A powerful second-period Kevin Labbank goal proved the difference as the Sharks improved to 3-0-0, their fastest start to a season since 2015-16 when they won their first four games.
Labank, who was held near the top of the circuit to the right of the Senators’ net, made a pass from Eric Carlson and smacked goalkeeper Matt Murray at the 14:36 mark of the second half in favor of the 2-1 sharks. Leadership.
Logan Couture also scored a goal and goalkeeper James Reimer saved 30 times, including 11 in the third half.
“We didn’t have our best legs, we didn’t have our best things,” Couture said. “We flipped a lot of pucks during that game. (Reimer) saved some big balls, especially early in the third inning. But we just worked and blocked the shots at the end.
“(Reimer) stepped up from the huge stuff and held us together as a team.”
The Wild Sharks’ ride continues Friday in Toronto against the Maple Leafs,
Some takeaways from Thursday’s game.
death penalty: The Sharks and Senators were playing 4v4 in the middle of the third period when Brent Burns was whistled for interference. The sharks were completely gassed at the time that Burns and others were there for more than 90 seconds.
Then the Sharks went out and killed Burns’ penalty kick, with Kotor winning a defensive zone at the start. San Jose Senators then limited themselves to a single shot on goal.
The Sharks were 3 for 3 in the penalty shootout on Thursday and are now 8 for 8 on the season. Reimer saved three knockout saves and made seven more during 4 on4 play.
More belief: The Sharks were 8-17-3 last season when they let in the first goal and 3-16-2 when they were late after the first half. Now, the Sharks are 2-0 on both fronts after Ottawa opened the scoring at the 10:06 mark of the first half with a wrist shot from the right circle that passed through Reimer.
The Sharks also dropped the Winnipeg Jets 1-0 after one stint in the season opener on October 16.
“Instead of trying to do it on our own and getting away from our chassis, we stick together as a team,” Couture said. “Play the game the coaches want. Make smart decisions with the disc. Find a way to win.”
flipped target: Labbank scored what appeared to be his second goal of the season just over six minutes ago in the first period as he fired a wrist shot past Senator goalkeeper Matt Murray. But after the coach was challenged by Ottawa, it was decided that Nick Bonino was an offside.
Happy return: Thursday’s game was the third time Carlson had returned to Ottawa to play for the Senators since being acquired by the Sharks in a massive deal in September 2018. The Sharks were beaten by the Senators 11-4 in visits in December 2018 and October 2019 , with Carlson not getting any points in and being saddled with a plus/minus -6 rating.
Karlsson now has five points this season and is one of five Sharks players to score in all three Sharks games so far.
Goal action: Reimer was solid in pre-season scoring 1-0-1, 0.915 saves, and 2.18 goals-to-average.
Adin Hill was solid in the first two games with a 0.932 save percentage, and entering on Thursday, his 21-blocked performance on Tuesday in the Sharks’ 5-0 win over Montreal Canadiens marked the only closing for any NHL goalkeeper so far this season.
Part of the credit for the Sharks’ success in their first two games was their shot suppression and overall defensive structure. They only allowed 44 shots in their first two games, and in the case of the Natural Stat Trick, they only allowed nine high-risk chances in that time.
The senators imposed the play at the Thursday Times as they picked up 13 shots in the second half and 11 more in the first 17 minutes of the third.
Reimer said it’s the sharks’ drive to compete right now that’s making the biggest difference.
“I think it’s that second try,” Reimer said. “That willingness to get in a way, this willingness to put pressure on guys and not hold back. That was what was really encouraging to see.
“More than anything, this really pays off on your end.”
By Thursday, Reimer, in 16 career games in Ottawa, had a 9-6-1 record and 0.929 save percentage. He was particularly dominant at the Canadian Image Center in the first half of his career when he was with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“It goes back so long, obviously, that the fun rivalry between foliage and senescence goes back to today,” Reimer said. “So coming here has always been so much fun.”