The San Jose Sharks have learned the value of jumping on a team early, especially when it is a squad that is floundering as badly as the Edmonton Oilers.
Patrick Marleau had a goal and an assist and Joe Thornton had three helpers as the Sharks won their third straight on a five-game road trip, defeating the last-place Oilers 3-1 on Friday.
“Coming off back-to-back nights, you want to get off to a good lead and we were able to do that with two early first ones,” Thornton said. “We just kind of rolled on after that. It is always nice to get a 2-0 lead like that when you are playing back-to-back.”
It’s been a positive trip for the Sharks who were 0-1-4 in their previous five games before winning three straight.
“We feel good,” Thornton said. “We weren’t playing bad, even if we had a few extra-time losses. We’ve got points in nine of our 10 last games. We have a good team in here.”
Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said that Thornton continues to play a major role in determining the team’s direction.
“We know he can make plays and run the offence and all of that type of stuff, but it is the back check, the tracking, the defensive play, the face-offs and shot blocking that really fulfills his game,” he said. “It is not always about the score sheet, it is about all the little things he does.
“When he is doing them properly everybody seems to fall in line and follow.”
Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl also scored for the Sharks (13-2-5) who moved one point back of the Anaheim Ducks for the Pacific Division lead.
Nail Yakupov responded for the Oilers (4-15-2), who have lost six games in a row and have gone 1-9-1 in their last 11 games. Edmonton has been outscored 23-3 in their last six contests at home.
The Oilers are a distressing 1-7-0 on home ice this season and have fallen into dead last place in the NHL, with the Buffalo Sabres defeating Toronto 3-1 on the night.
“I’m so tired of coming in here after games and giving a reason why we lost,” said Oilers forward Taylor Hall. “You have to win. It doesn’t matter how you win, if you’re goalie stands on his head or you get lucky, you just have to win games.
“It’s been tough to do that this year. We’re all trying really hard but we’re not winning games. Something is not clicking for us and we have to figure out what that is.”
Oilers forward David Perron added his frustration.
“No one is going to feel sorry for us, it’s the NHL and we’re lucky to be in this position,” he said. “If we can’t get up to battle, we don’t belong in this league. We have to find a way to come out flying like we did in the second and third, that was a lot better.”
Edmonton had a bit of foreshadowing of what was to come to start the game when Logan Couture rang a shot off the post just 10 seconds in.
The Sharks got on the scoreboard with four minutes to play in the first period on a power-play goal. Edmonton goalie Devan Dubnyk got knocked out of position by Oilers defenceman Andrew Ference, allowing Pavelski to shoot his seventh of the season into the vacant cage.
San Jose struck again just over a minute later as Thornton won a battle for the puck behind the net and fed it through the crease to Hertl, who was able to redirect it into the Edmonton net for his team-leading 12th goal of the season.
The Sharks had 14 first period shots, while Edmonton only put six on San Jose backup goalie Alex Stalock.
San Jose took a 3-0 lead four minutes into the second frame as a poor pass back to the point by Oiler Luke Gazdic led to a three-on-two opportunity that Marleau converted with a shot to beat Dubnyk glove side for his 10th of the season.
Edmonton had a glorious chance to end it’s lengthy home-scoring drought seven minutes into the second period as Ryan Smyth had Stalock cleanly beat on a wraparound attempt, but sent the puck through the crease and off the post. Oilers defenceman Philip Larsen hit a post on the next shift.
The Oilers finally got a goal after being shutout in three consecutive home games — and going 214 minutes and 52 seconds without a goal at Rexall Place — with a power-play marker at the 12:48 of the second period. A big rebound came out to Yakupov, who wasted no time drilling a one-timer into the net for his third of the season.
With the goal, the Oilers were able to avoid becoming the first team in 84 years to get shut out in four straight home games, a feat dubiously accomplished by the Chicago Blackhawks, who went an NHL record six straight from Feb. 10-28, 1929.
The 1927 Montreal Maroons were the only other team to be blanked in four consecutive games at home.
“It’s always good when you score and you get points, but we only have four wins and we’ve played 21 games,” Yakupov said. “I don’t know what’s going on, we’re a little frustrated about it. We’re trying to get the two points, but we can’t.”
San Jose almost scored another early in the third period when Couture was snake-bitten again, this time having a shot ring off the crossbar and then the post.
“I think I had three posts tonight,” Couture said. “I just couldn’t buy a goal. It was a little frustrating, but it is nice to be getting the chances like that.”
The Sharks hit two more posts in the third.
The Oilers make a quick one-game trip to play the Flames in Calgary on Saturday. The Sharks wrap up a five-game trip on Sunday in Chicago.
Notes: It was the first of five games this season between the Pacific Division foes. The Sharks swept their three-game series with the Oilers in the strike-shortened 2012-13 campaign and came into the game having won five of six and nine of their last 11 in Rexall Place in Edmontona The Oilers made a couple of roster moves before the game, calling up young defender Oscar Klefbom and sending rookie forward Mark Arcobello to their AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City. Arcobello is tied for second in NHL rookie scoring with 12 points this seasona The rookie overall points leader is Sharks forward Tomas Hertl, who now has 12 goals and 18 points in 20 gamesa San Jose winger Brent Burns missed the game with an undisclosed injury and is listed as day-to-day. Out long term for San Jose are Adam Burish (back surgery) and Raffi Torres (knee)a The Oilers are inching their way back from a long list of early season injuries, now only without defenceman Justin Schultz (groin), forward Tyler Pitlick (knee) and goaltender Richard Bachman (groin).