While the San Jose Sharks are enjoying their best start in franchise history, coach Todd McLellan feels they still need to tighten some things up.
The Edmonton Oilers can't be happy to hear that.
San Jose, the NHL's last remaining unbeaten, tries to pick up another two points and continue its recent dominance of the visiting Oilers as these clubs meet for the second time Thursday night.
After outscoring their first five opponents 23-8, the Sharks (6-0-0) found themselves in a bit of trouble Tuesday before pulling out a 3-2 shootout win over Anaheim. Logan Couture notched his fourth goal 17:15 into the third period and Michal Handzus recorded the shootout's lone tally to keep San Jose undefeated.
"We've got to be excited that we put points in the bank and were able to come back, but we have to tell it like it was, they were the better team," said McLellan, whose club was outshot 30-18. "It was a frustrating night but at least we found a way to win.
"Overall we'll take the lack of execution as a team and we'll move on and try to make it better. ... We'd like to refresh it a little bit and go over some things in practice so that when we play against the fast Edmonton team we're ready to go."
The Sharks had their way with the Oilers (4-2-0) last Tuesday, scoring all of their goals in the first period of a 6-3 road win. Couture and Patrick Marleau each scored twice and added an assist while Joe Thornton set up three goals as San Jose improved to 12-2-2 against Edmonton dating to 2009.
Couture, Marleau and Thornton have all been instrumental to the Sharks' success in this series. Couture has six goals and three assists in his last eight games against the Oilers, Marleau has 12 goals and 20 points in his last 15 and Thornton has five goals and 20 assists since 2009.
Since losing to San Jose last week, the Oilers have won three of four, allowing one goal in each victory. After blowing a shutout with 19 seconds left in regulation Wednesday, Edmonton escaped with a 2-1 overtime win at Phoenix thanks to rookie sensation Nail Yakupov's goal 3:52 into OT.
Edmonton hasn't won five of its first seven games since opening 6-2-0 in 2006-07.
"Dealing with that late goal and to be able to get the two points showed a lot of character," coach Ralph Krueger said. "It was another real big growth opportunity for our team."
Selected No. 1 overall in the 2012 draft, Yakupov, who leads the team with four goals, is quickly starting to emerge as a legitimate threat for the Oilers.
"It's another big goal for Nail and he seems to have a knack for scoring those," Sam Gagner said of the 19-year-old.
Devan Dubnyk, who's started all six games, made 27 saves Wednesday. Dubnyk is 4-4-0 with a 3.08 goals-against average lifetime against San Jose, allowing two goals or fewer in the wins and a combined 17 in the losses.
While the Sharks are averaging 4.2 goals to rank second in the NHL, they're also second in goals allowed with 10. San Jose has killed off all 13 of its opponents' power-play chances over its last three games.
"We try to play good defense, a lot of our offense comes from playing good defense and getting out quick," said Thornton, whose 14 points are tied with Marleau for the league lead.
Antti Niemi has been a huge part of that success, going 5-0-0 with a 1.97 GAA. The Finland native is 4-0-1 with a 2.36 GAA lifetime against Edmonton.
It's unknown if star defenseman Dan Boyle will be available after sitting out Tuesday with the flu. He has two goals and four assists.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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