Though they held their own with Brent Burns sidelined, the San Jose Sharks immediately showed how much better they are with him on the ice. Even worse for opponents, Burns' absence allowed for the emergence of Tommy Wingels.
Seemingly overloaded with offensive weapons, San Jose aims for its fifth win in six games Saturday night when it hosts the surging New Jersey Devils.
The Sharks (14-3-5) were 6-3-4 without Burns, who was lost for 13 games after taking a puck to the mouth in an Oct. 19 win over Calgary. He finally returned in a 5-1 home win over Tampa Bay on Thursday, notching his fifth goal and ninth point in nine games this season.
With Burns in the lineup, San Jose is 8-0-1 with a 44-16 advantage in goals.
Wingels was moved to the club's top line alongside Tomas Hertl and Joe Thornton in Burns' absence, but he was shifted back to the second line with Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture on Thursday. The unit flourished as Wingels recorded his first career two-goal game, Marleau had a goal and two assists, and Couture was credited with three assists.
Wingels has seven goals on the season, one shy of his 80-game career total entering 2013-14. He owns a plus-7 rating in 11 games since Oct. 27, the team's best mark during that stretch.
"He's playing with so much confidence right now," said Thornton, who has four goals and six assists in his last five games versus New Jersey. "That line looked dangerous all night long. Good for Tommy to keep it going. Patty looked great, Logan looked great. They did a good job for us."
After a woeful start, the Devils (9-8-5) have won five of six overall and are 4-0-1 in road games after losing eight of their first nine. They're concluding a three-game road trip after capturing their second overtime victory in as many nights with Thursday's 2-1 win at Los Angeles.
Jaromir Jagr tied Gordie Howe's NHL record with his 121st game-winning goal halfway through the extra period Thursday. He scored the tying goal late in regulation to force overtime in Wednesday's 4-3 victory over Anaheim.
Jagr improved his league record with his 18th career overtime goal - and 690th overall to tie Mario Lemieux for ninth all-time - but preferred to praise netminder Cory Schneider as the Devils won despite a 35-15 disparity in shots.
"We were outplayed and outshot. We shouldn't have been in the game," said Jagr, the league's second-oldest player behind only Teemu Selanne. "But Cory was excellent and he kept us in the game - especially in the first period. We should probably have lost 5-0."
The 41-year-old winger leads New Jersey with 18 points and a plus-10 rating. He has six goals and two assists during the team's 6-1-1 run, though he has only one goal in his last seven games versus San Jose.
"It's amazing what he is doing at his age, with the minutes we are loading him up with and the responsibilities we are asking of him," coach Peter DeBoer said. "... He's been incredible."
Patrick Elias has tallied seven points over his last six games against the Sharks.
Thornton's 18 goals versus New Jersey are his second-most against any team, trailing his 20 versus Phoenix.
New Jersey is 8-2-1 in the series dating back to Nov. 25, 2000.