KANATA, Ont. – Maybe that says something about the Sharks and where they are now as a team when they can play a decidedly far from perfect game and still get a win.
That was the case on Thursday as they allowed 24 shots in the last two periods and only managed one evenly matched goal and still managed a 2-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators in the Canadian Tire Center.
Kevin Labanc’s second-period power-play goal proved to be the difference as the Sharks improved to 3-0-0, their fastest start to the season since 2015-16 when they won their four first matches.
Labanc, seated near the top of the circle to the right of the Senators’ net, caught a pass from Erik Karlsson and landed a slapshot past goaltender Matt Murray at 14:36 of the second period for a 2-1. Sharks lead.
Logan Couture also scored and goaltender James Reimer made 30 saves, including 11 in the third period.
“We didn’t have our best legs, we didn’t have our best assets,” said Couture. “We returned too many pucks throughout this game. (Reimer) made some big saves, especially at the start of the third. But we just worked and blocked some shots at the end.
“(Reimer) stepped up huge things and we stuck together as a team.”
The Sharks road trip continues Friday in Toronto against the Maple Leafs,
A few takeaways from Thursday’s game.
PENALTY KILLED: The Sharks and Senators were playing 4-4 midway through the third period when Brent Burns was called out for interference. The Sharks were absolutely gassed by this point as Burns and others had been there for over 90 seconds.
The Sharks then came out and killed Burns’ penalty, Couture winning a face-off in the defensive zone to start. San Jose then limited the Senators to one shot on goal.
The Sharks were 3 for 3 on the penalty kill on Thursday and are now 8 for 8 this season. Reimer made three saves on the kill and made seven more in a 4v4 game.
MORE BELIEF: The Sharks were 8-17-3 last season when they allowed the first goal and 3-16-2 when they trailed after the first period. Now the Sharks are 2-0-0 on both fronts after Ottawa opened the scoring at 10:06 of the first period with a right-circle wrist shot that went through Reimer.
The Sharks also trailed the Winnipeg Jets 1-0 after a period in their first game of the season on Oct. 16.
“Instead of trying to do it on our own and move away from our structure, we stick together as a team,” Couture said. “Play the game the coaches want us to do. Make smart decisions with the puck. Find a way to win.
REVERSE GOAL: Labanc scored what appeared to be his second of the season with just over six minutes left in the first period as he fired a wrist shot past Senators goaltender Matt Murray. But after a coach challenge by Ottawa, it was determined that Nick Bonino was offside.
WELCOME BACK : Thursday’s game marked the third time Karlsson has returned to Ottawa to face the Senators since being acquired by the Sharks in a successful contract in September 2018. The Sharks have been hammered by the Senators by a combined score of 11-4 on visits in December 2018 and October 2019, with Karlsson scoring no points and being given a score of over / under -6.
Karlsson now has five points this season and is one of five Sharks players to score one point in all three Sharks games so far.
GOALKEEPERS ‘WORK: Reimer has been strong in the preseason with a 1-0-1 record, a .915 save percentage and a 2.18 goals-against average.
Adin Hill was solid in the first two games with a .932 save percentage and on Thursday his 21 save performance Tuesday in the Sharks’ 5-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens marked the only shutout for a goaltender in the NHL so far. this season.
Part of the credit for the Sharks’ success in their first two games was their suppression of shots and their overall defensive structure. They allowed just 44 shots in the first two games and, according to Natural Stat Trick, had allowed just nine high-danger chances against them during that time.
The Senators dictated the game at times Thursday as they had 13 shots in the second period and 11 more in the opening 17 minutes of the third.
Reimer said the Sharks’ willingness to compete right now is what makes the biggest difference.
“I think it’s that second effort,” Reimer said. “This willingness to get into a lane, this willingness to put pressure on the guys and not give up. This is what was really encouraging to see.
“More than anything, it really pays off for your own end.”
Heading to Thursday, Reimer, in 16 career Ottawa games, was 9-6-1 with a .929 save percentage. He was particularly dominant at the Canadian Tire Center in the first half of his career when he was with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“It goes back a long time, obviously, to the fun rivalry between the Leafs and the Sens back then,” Reimer said. “So it’s always been a lot of fun coming here. ”