Sharks stroll past struggling Flyers
PHILADELPHIA — Having spent nearly five hours on a plane and losing three hours on their body clocks, the San Jose Sharks nonetheless started a four-game roads trip with a solid 3-1 victory over the struggling Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
“The toughest game of a road trip is always the first one,” Sharks center Joe Thornton said after providing the game-winning power-play goal for the Sharks. “You get in late, a three-hour time change, everything is kind of off. The first game is huge for us and hopefully we can pick up some momentum for this road trip.”
Third-line center Chris Tierney and defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored even-strength goals and goaltender Aaron Dell turned aside 22 shots in place of injured starter Martin Jones for the Sharks (13-8-2). San Jose extended its points streak to five games (3-0-2).
“We played well,” Vlasic said, noting the Sharks held the Flyers to just five shots in a scoreless third period. “Special teams was big.”
Claude Giroux scored the lone goal for the Flyers (8-10-7), who lost for the ninth consecutive time (0-4-5). The Flyers have blown leads in seven of those nine games, including a 1-0 lead against the Sharks.
The Flyers are riding their longest losing streak since the 2007-08 season, when they lost 10 in a row and still made the playoffs.
Goaltender Michal Neuvirth (31 saves) took the loss for Philadelphia.
Boos and chants of “Fire Hakstol” erupted throughout the third period. The Flyers have gone 28-33-13 in their last 74 games under coach Dave Hakstol. They went 60-37-17 in his first 114 games behind the Flyers bench.
“They can chant whatever they want,” Giroux said. “We’re in this together. We’re all in the same boat here. It’s not on (Hakstol), it’s on everybody.”
Hakstol, who spent 11 years at the University of North Dakota before being hired by the Flyers in 2014, said he knows criticism comes along with his position as an NHL coach.
“Nobody said this was going to be easy,” Hakstol said. “There’s high expectations in this market. We’ve got maybe the best fans in the National Hockey League. You go through hard times, you better be able to stand up and handle that.”
The Flyers started out with a bang when Giroux scored only 48 seconds into the game on a cross-ice feed from Jakub Voracek. It was Giroux’s 11th goal of the season and Voracek’s team-high 23rd assist.
The Sharks tied the score midway through the period when Tierney snapped a shot from the top of the right circle past a screened Neuvirth for his sixth goal of the season.
The Sharks entered the game ranked 24th in the NHL on the power play but converted on their third of five power plays with 1:18 remaining in the opening period when Thornton snapped what appeared to be a pass intended for Joe Pavelski inside the far post for his fourth goal of the season and a 2-1 lead.
Thornton’s point was the 1,406th point of his NHL career, three shy of Dale Hawerchuk for 19th on the all-time list.
“Joe Thornton has been one of the best players in the league since he’s been in the league,” Vlasic said. “Every night, he’s unbelievable. I don’t see how he can get any better than he already is.”
It marked the fourth time in five games the Sharks scored a power-play goal. They had gone the previous six games without one.
The Flyers’ penalty killers have struggled without defenseman Radko Gudas, who served the sixth contest of a 10-game suspension for slashing. Philadelphia has allowed 10 power-play goals in those six games.
“That’s certainly not a game we are proud of,” Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. “It’s a tough one to put our name on. We have a few days off here to clear our minds and get ready to go for the next one.”
NOTES: Sharks G Martin Jones (lower body injury) did not dress. ... LW Melker Karlsson returned to the San Jose lineup after missing four games with an upper-body injury. He took the place of RW Kevin Labanc. ... Flyers LW Taylor Leier and C Jordan Weal were healthy scratches. ... The Sharks continue their four-game road trip with games against the Florida Panthers on Friday and the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday before finishing the trip in Washington on Monday. ... The Flyers are off until Saturday when the Boston Bruins make their first visit to Philadelphia. Philadelphia follows with a three-game road trip to Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.