SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Sharks entered Wednesday night as the NHL’s hottest team until they were stopped cold by teenager David Gustafsson and the Winnipeg Jets.
Gustafsson scored his first career goal and Kyle Connor had a goal and an assist as Winnipeg kept rolling along with a 5-1 victory over the Sharks.
The Jets (15-9-1) began a three-game swing through California in style and improved to 9-2-1 over their past 12 games.
San Jose had won 10 of 11 to start a climb up the Pacific Division standings, but the Sharks came up empty on all six power plays Wednesday and looked lacklustre defensively for much of the night.
“We were lifeless,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “I don’t know what the answer is. We’ve got a lot of hockey left to play here over the next two or three weeks, so I hope it’s not fatigue. But if it is, we’ve got to rebound because you get what you earn in this league.”
There’s no break in the schedule for San Jose, which played its fifth game in nine days. After taking Thanksgiving off, the Sharks have a back-to-back at home against the Los Angeles Kings and on the road at Arizona.
Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who made 51 saves in a Nov. 1 victory at San Jose, was terrific again in stopping 32 shots.
But the player wearing the biggest smile after the game was Gustafsson, a 19-year-old rookie centre from Sweden.
It was a 1-all game in the first period when Gustafsson manoeuvred past San Jose defenceman Erik Karlsson at his own blue line, then took the puck all the way down and fired a wrist shot past goalie Aaron Dell for a 2-1 Jets lead.
“You always think the first goal will be a bouncing one or something like that,” Gustafsson said. “The first thing was just getting the puck out of our zone, and all of a sudden I thought I was 1-on-1 with the D-man so I tried to go down and get a shot and it worked out.”
Melker Karlsson’s goal nine minutes into the game gave the Sharks an early lead, but Patrik Laine buried a power-play goal on a cross-ice pass from Blake Wheeler to tie it.
Mark Scheifele and Jack Roslovic scored in the second period to make it 4-1, and Connor padded Winnipeg’s cushion at 14:47 of the third to cap the scoring.
NOTES: Wheeler had two assists to give him 15 against San Jose, contributing to a team-high 21 career points versus the Sharks. … A hooking penalty on San Jose’s Brendan Dillon set up Roslovic for a third-period penalty shot, but his attempt against Dell was wide right. … San Jose entered the night leading the NHL in home penalty-kill percentage (95.5%) and allowed just its third power-play goal of the season at home in the first period. … C Tomas Hertl missed his fourth consecutive game for the Sharks with a lower-body injury, and DeBoer acknowledged how much Hertl’s absence is felt. Hertl is tied for second on the team with 21 points. “He can miss a handful of games and you can survive, but it definitely catches up to you,” DeBoer said.
Jets: Visit the Anaheim Ducks on Friday afternoon.
Sharks: Host the Kings on Friday afternoon, having just beaten them in Los Angeles on Monday.