COVID-19 Protocols Purge Roster, Sharks Beat Jets Anyway 2-1

San Jose Sharks left wing Alexander Barabanov (94) and Winnipeg Jets left wing Nikolaj Ehlers (27) make contact while chasing the puck in the third period at the SAP Center in San Jose on Sat Oct 30, 2021 (AP News photo)

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE– The San Jose Sharks defeated the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 in overtime Saturday. Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier scored for the Sharks and James Reimer made 34 saves for the win. Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck made 34 saves in the loss. That could be the result of a Sharks game on most nights, but Saturday was distinctly different from regular regular season Sharks games.

Late Saturday afternoon, the Sharks roster looked a lot like a preseason game. A slew of players, eight in total, were pulled from the lineup at the last minute and seven were replaced by call-ups from the AHL Barracuda. Andrew Cogliano, Jonathan Dahlen, Erik Karlsson, Jacob Middleton, Matt Nieto, Radim Simek, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Head Coach Bob Boughner were all held out of the game due to NHL COVID-19 protocol. Logan Couture was alsoout due to illness but not in COVID-19 protocol.

Seven players had just hours notice that they would be playing Saturday. Defenseman Santeri Hatakka made his NHL debut, with Ryan Merkley, Nicolas Meloche, and Jaycob Megna making their season debut on the blueline. The forwards making their season debuts were RW Nick Merkley, LW Jonah Gadjovich and LW John Leonard. Mike Ricci stepped in behind the bench to fill out the coaching roster.

Sharks defenseman Brent Burns said that a crazy day like Saturday can be good for a player who is making a debut with an NHL team: “Sometimes that’s the best thing. So those guys got to play their first game with not a lot of time to think about it and they get a good result in it and I think that can just really help all those guys.”

After the game, Sharks assistant coach John Maclean talked about the team’s response to these strange circumstances:

“They had great energy and they all knew that they had to play. Everybody got ice. It was like, the bench was lively, they were pretty much coaching themselves. They were excited to get out there and play. So that’s always fun to see.”

The first period shot count was very close, 14-13 San Jose. The Sharks power play got two shots on net. In the face-off circle the Sharks struggled. Nick Bonino won 60% of his draws and Jasper Weatherby won 50%, but Tomas Hertl was around 20%. As a result, the Sharks won just 25% of their draws in the first.

The Sharks scored the first goal of the game, 54 seconds into the second period. Barabanov carried the puck down the wall to the goal line, where he spun and threw it at the net. The puck went off of Timo Meier’s stick and across the goal mouth to Tomas Hertl, who was able to put it away. Meier and Barabanov got the assists.

The Sharks out-shot the Jets 13-7 in the second period. The Sharks improved in the face-off circle to 54%, but Hertl still seemed outmatched, especially against Pierre-Luc DuBois, who he drew against 7 times in the first two periods, and won only once.

Sharks Defenseman Santeri Hatakka did something about that at 3:43 of the third period, drawing a high-stick from DuBois. DuBois earned a double-minor and Hatakka went to the box for cross-checking. Still, the Sharks did not get credit for a single shot during that power play, and their face-off numbers did not improve.

The Jets tied the game at 16:48 of the third. DuBois drew the Sharks defense to himself as he drove the net. His shot bounced into the slot, where Nikolaj Ehlers picked it up for another try. Reimer stopped that too but Kyle Connor found the puck and put it in the net before Reimer could get across. Assists went to Ehlers and DuBois.

By the end of regulation, the only Shark with a better than even win percentage was Jasper Weatherby, who only took nine draws. He won six (67%) of those. Bonino had dropped from a high of 60% to 41% and Hertl went from 20% to 21%. All around, it was not a good night for the Sharks in the face-off circle. In shots, the Jets out-shot the Sharks 15-6 in the third.

Thirty seconds into overtime, Nikolaj Ehlers was called for interference on Brent Burns and Timo Meier scored the game winner 1:07. Burns sent the puck to Labanc near a face-off dot. Labanc skated with it to the top of the slot and then made a subtle touch-pass to Meier for the winning shot.

The Sharks next play on Tuesday, in San Jose against the St. Louis Blues at 7:30 PM PT.