SAN JOSE (The Sports Xchange) — Micheal Haley was toiling in the American Hockey League until recalled for Thursday’s game. And while he didn’t find his way into the scoring column, teammate Joe Thornton said he was the reason the San Jose Sharks got going.
Haley’s early-game fight with Florida right winger Shawn Thornton sparked the Sharks to a 5-2 win over the Panthers at SAP Center. Five San Jose skaters scored goals, and backup goalie Alex Stalock earned his first victory of the season.
“He stepped up for us, and I know our line fed off his fight,” Joe Thornton said of Haley. “Really that energy he brought early on kind of gave us all a kick in the butt, and we really responded off of that. He started that all himself.”
The Sharks (7-6-0) scored two goals less than seven minutes after Haley’s fight 2:48 after the opening faceoff. While the Panthers rallied to within a goal twice, San Jose never surrendered the lead to win for the third time in nine games.
Florida (5-5-3) was trying to rebound from a disappointing shootout loss in Anaheim the night before, a game in which the Panthers were less than six seconds away from victory in regulation.
“You fall behind 2-0 and it’s tough to come back,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said of the team’s rough start against the Sharks. “We didn’t play our game. We played a loose game and gave them too many opportunities. We didn’t create enough chances. We just didn’t play well. Almost everything they got was from us giving them the puck. We weren’t sharp.”
Stalock stopped 31 shots while getting his third start of the season in place of starter Martin Jones, who was pulled from Tuesday’s loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets after two periods. Stalock, who began play Thursday 0-2 with a 3.94 goals-against average and a .847 save percentage, won for the first time since April 1.
“I felt like the first two games I (started), but I got a bounce and they hit a crossbar late,” Stalock said. “Obviously, you have to play good to win, but a bounce here or there makes a difference.”
The Sharks scored first for only the second time in eight games, then scored the next one for good measure. However, the Panthers managed one just past the halfway point of the opening period to trail by one at the first intermission.
Defenseman Brent Burns was the benefactor of a giveaway by Florida defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, and he promptly fired his fourth goal of the season from the right point past goaltender Al Montoya at 6:37.
Sharks rookie left winger Joonas Donskoi, who narrowly missed capping a tic-tac-toe passing play before the Burns goal, influenced a rebound with a screen in front of Montoya, got knocked down in the crease, got back up and punched home his second goal at 9:26 on a goal-mouth scramble for a 2-0 San Jose lead.
“The last two games, he’s played the best I’ve seen him play,” Joe Thornton said. “He’s really fit it, creating things off loose pucks and coming to pucks to make things happen.”
A third consecutive goal was scored at even strength when Florida center Vincent Trocheck pounced on a turnover by Sharks defenseman Paul Martin following a defensive zone faceoff. Trocheck swept his fifth goal of the season past Stalock at 10:54 to make it 2-1.
In the middle period, the Sharks scored twice and had another apparent goal wiped out when video review confirmed a coach’s challenge for offside as the hosts took advantage of a tiring Panthers team.
Left winger Patrick Marleau scored his 460th career goal on a great individual effort 3:46 into the second period to give San Jose a 3-1 lead. Marleau drove the left side, ducked his head inside Alex Petrovic when the Florida defenseman reached with his stick and backhanded his fourth of the season past Montoya.
“We just made mistakes against a good club and they capitalized,” Trocheck said. “We left Monty out to dry. We all hate losing. We just need to come together and play our game.”
Florida converted 40 seconds into its first power play when left winger Brandon Pirri one-timed a cross-ice feed from defenseman Brian Campbell following a faceoff win at 14:06 to make it 3-2.
However, following the disallowed goal, the Sharks struck again at 19:00 when Marc-Edouard Vlasic capped a three-on-two break by one-timing a Nikolay Goldobin feed past Montoya for San Jose’s first goal this season by a defenseman other than Burns.
“I liked our push-back,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. “Every time they got one, we didn’t sag, we battled back, and that’s how we have to play in this building.”
San Jose center Chris Tierney scored his second goal of the season into an empty net at 18:54 of the third period.
“I liked our energy right from the start,” DeBoer said. “Getting the first two goals were key. We did a lot of good things.”
“It’s tough when you’re defending all the time,” Panthers defenseman Willie Mitchell said. “We looked like a very young hockey club. Things you can get away with in junior hockey won’t cut it here. San Jose has been to the playoffs, and they know how to play.”
NOTES: The Sharks recalled LW Nikolai Goldobin and RW Micheal Haley from AHL affiliate San Jose while assigning LW Barclay Goodrow to the Barracuda. Goldobin joined the third line, forcing LW Matt Nieto to the fourth line where Haley lined up on the opposite wing — replacing RW Mike Brown, who is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury — with C Bryan Lerg in the middle. … The Panthers cap a three-game road trip on Saturday at Los Angeles. … Florida C Dave Bolland sustained a hand injury late in Wednesday’s game at Anaheim and did not play Thursday. D Steven Kampfer and C Connor Brickley were Florida’s healthy scratches, while C Ben Smith, D Karl Stollery and Brown did not dress for San Jose.
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