Alex Stalock’s first start in more than two weeks mirrored the play of the rest of the San Jose Sharks: a shaky start followed by a strong finish that led to a much-needed victory.
Stalock made 44 saves in regulation and overtime before stopping all five tries in his first career shootout to help the Sharks overcome a two-goal deficit and beat the Dallas Stars 3-2 on Saturday night.
"Obviously it wasn’t the start I wanted to get off to," Stalock said. "I just stuck with it and just gave the team a chance to win."
Joe Thornton helped deliver the victory by scoring the lone shootout goal in the fifth round. That gave Thornton two shootout game-winners this season on his only shootout attempts since 2009, even if he wasn’t enthused about getting the opportunity.
"I’ve seen him win two games for us," coach Todd McLellan said. "We may call it more often. That’s what you expect from your captain, to step up in those situations and deliver, and he did."
Thornton also assisted on Joe Pavelski’s tying goal early in the third period. Jason Demers added his first goal of the season for the Sharks, who had lost six of eight before rallying for this win.
Ray Whitney and Antoine Roussel scored for the Stars, who were in position to win their third straight game but couldn’t hold a third-period lead. Kari Lehtonen made 37 saves.
"It’s always frustrating to lose, and tonight it felt deeper for whatever reason," Roussel said. "They push back and find a way to win. That’s why they keep going to the playoffs every year. It’s still a learning curve for us. We played a great game but we couldn’t get the big bounce."
After neither team scored in the first four rounds, Thornton beat Lehtonen. Stalock sealed the win when he stopped Whitney.
"I just wanted to be as patient as I could," Stalock said. "They have so many guys with some talent and I didn’t want to be aggressive and go poke check them because they’ll just go around. I just wanted to stay back, and it all worked out."
After a lackluster start that led to a 2-0 deficit, the Sharks fought back and tied the game early in the third period, shortly after failing to convert on the power play.
Thornton did a good job keeping the puck in the zone at the blue line and fed Pavelski, who skated from the boards to the middle and beat Lehtonen with a backhand for his 14th goal.
"We haven’t won many thirds in the last stretch," Pavelski said. "We kind of talked about being ready at the start of the third."
Stalock got his first career start at home in place of Antti Niemi, who got a night off after allowing four goals in a loss at Los Angeles on Thursday night. Stalock had four road starts this season, mostly playing on the back end of back-to-backs.
He was shaky at times as the Sharks fell behind 2-0 early in the second period. It is the second straight game and fifth this month that San Jose has allowed the first two goals after not doing it in the first two months.
Whitney, who played on the original Sharks team in 1991-92, capitalized on a bad clearing attempt by San Jose. He sent a backhand from the circle through Brad Stuart’s legs and over Stalock’s shoulder to give him points in 10 straight games against his former team.
Dallas struck again early in the second on a delayed penalty when Alex Goligoski’s centering pass from a bad angle deflected off Roussel and into the net.
The Stars nearly added another but referee Mike Leggo blew his whistle even though the puck was loose in the crease, negating a potential goal by Colton Sceviour.
"I think we could have put the game away in the second period," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "We had five or six grade A opportunities but we couldn’t get a foot on the head of the snake."
The Sharks picked up their play after that and got on the board midway through the second when Tyler Kennedy fed a trailing Demers, who beat Lehtonen with a one-timer to end a 44-game goalless streak.
NOTES: Dallas D Sergei Gonchar left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury. … The Sharks will be without rookie F Tomas Hertl for at least a month after he was hurt in a knee-on-knee collision with Los Angeles’ Dustin Brown on Thursday. … F Vern Fiddler (upper body) was activated from IR to take the place of injured D Aaron Rome (lower body).