SAN JOSE – Saying that the Sharks fought to overtake first place in the Western Conference on Saturday is probably a euphemism.
San Jose had to deal with a St. Louis blues team that staged a tight game at the SAP Center, all led by an out-of-the-ordinary effort from goalkeeper Jake Allen. If you did not know better, you might have thought that San Jose's 3-2 win over St. Louis was a playoff game.
"You fight for every inch of ice. It was unrelenting, "said Kevin Labanc, Sharks winger, at the end of the match. "They had two chances, we had two. It was a really uniform match, I would say. It was very fun to play.
No surprise, Labanc called the game "fun". After all, he scored the winning goal in overtime – just what the Sharks (41-19-8, 90 points) needed to outperform the Calgary Flames (41-20-7, 89 points) in the standings.
The win also completed the four-game series of the San Jose National Team, which Joe Pavelski pointed out as a boost for the team's climb up the standings.
"We took a step back, we won home a few times and Calgary lost two," the captain told the Sharks rivals, who lost four straight games.
But taking the top spot of the conference does not just mean defeating the Flames. Just a few months ago, San Jose went through a four-game losing streak and met with General Manager Doug Wilson. The Sharks have not lost the improvement in their performance since the start of the season.
"It means we have come a long way," said Logan Couture. "It was not so long ago that our team was going through difficult times. We were nowhere near the summit of the conference. It means we have found our game and played at the height of our abilities. "
Sharks coach Peter DeBoer agreed.
"I love where our game is at the approach of the latter part of the season," he said. "The road was long for us."
Now, San Jose must continue to play this way. With 14 games to play in the regular season and the playoff race still incredibly tight, the Sharks need to keep pushing.
"We know the (Calgary) match is coming," Pavelski said. "It's just playing hard every night and trying to put those points in our column."
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The Sharks can not enjoy the victory for long. They will take the road against the Winnipeg Jets (Monday) and the Minnesota Wild (Tuesday).
Yet that does not mean that they can not enjoy it at all.
"It's only a point. We still have a lot of work to do, "said Labanc, before adding:" But it's definitely nice to know you're at the top of the conference. "