SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Nick Bjugstad was given fair warning that he could be part of the shootout gang. It helped get him into the right state of mind.
Bjugstad scored twice during regulation and added the winning goal in the shootout as the Florida Panthers won their fourth straight in San Jose, beating the Sharks 3-2 on Thursday night.
“Knowing what you’re going to do is the main thing,” Bjugstad said. “You don’t think too much. You’re just trying to put the thing in the net.”
Florida coach Gerard Gallant said the decision was made easier because of Bjugstad’s productivity during the game.
“He was hot,” Gallant said. “I thought we’d go with him. He was putting the puck in the net, and he hit a couple of posts, too.”
San Jose’s Patrick Marleau tied it with 33 seconds remaining in regulation, taking a pass from Joe Thornton and firing it past Roberto Luongo, who had stopped Marleau’s penalty shot earlier in the third period.
“I was just trying to get it on the net as quickly as possible,” Marleau said. “I knew he’d be at the near post, so I was looking for a spot.”
Luongo stopped 28 shots and won for the fourth time in his last five games against the Sharks. The Panthers swept the season series.
Logan Couture ended a season-worst eight-game, goal-less streak with a power-play tally for the Sharks, who played at home for the first time in two weeks.
Antti Niemi made 26 saves for the Sharks, who failed to win for the third time in their last four at home.
“I’m pleased with the point,” Sharks’ coach Todd McLellan said. “It didn’t look so good with a minute left. We were back on our heels a little bit in the third period.”
The Sharks opened a six-game homestand after becoming the first NHL team to play 16 of its first 21 games on the road. The Sharks, who have scored two or fewer goals in seven straight, fell to 2-3-1 at home.
Bjugstad opened the scoring 24 seconds in, redirecting a shot by Dmitry Kulikov past Niemi. Kulikov, playing after missing four games because of a knee injury, earned an assist in his third straight game.
“We got the first goal out of the way right away,” Bjugstad said. “Kuli made a great shot, and I was able to get my stick on it.”
The Sharks tied it early in the second period. Couture tapped in a loose puck in front of the net after Luongo blocked a couple of pokes by Joe Pavelski.
Bjugstad scored with under three minutes to play in the second period on a power play. His slap shot from the top of the right circle flew past Niemi.
Florida scored a power-play goal in a season-best fourth consecutive game.
“Those goals change games in this league,” Bjugstad said. “It’s a big point for us to make sure we’re scoring goals on the power play and that we’re playing well on the penalty kill.”
The Panthers improved to 4-2-4 on the road and won for the second time in three games played in California. The Sharks are 3-6 in their past nine.
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