ST. LOUIS -- The Sharks ended their seven-game losing streak Tuesday night with a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues -- and maybe a small share of the credit should go to a missing airplane part.
A shot by Tim Kennedy at 13:02 of the third period held up as the game-winner as San Jose played a physical game that tried to capitalize on the fact the Blues' flight from Vancouver was delayed 14 hours. The team didn't arrive home until 6:30 a.m. -- less than 13 hours before faceoff -- and the usual game-day routine was thrown off.
"We thought with their travel yesterday, we wanted to wear them down a little bit and we thought it worked. They looked a little bit fatigued," said Joe Thornton, who scored San Jose's first goal. "But they're a character team, and we knew they were going to fight."
The victory was San Jose's first in February after an 0-4-3 stretch that followed a perfect 7-0-0 the previous month. It was also the first on its season-long, six-game trip that now stands at 1-2-1.
Goalie Antti Niemi made 25 saves, giving up only a first-period goal to Patrick Berglund. Blues rookie netminder Jake Allen suffered his first loss after three consecutive victories that had gotten St. Louis out of a tailspin of its own.
"It was a huge win for us," Niemi said. "It's been a long time."
As long as it's been since the Sharks had a victory -- a 3-2 shootout win over the Edmonton Oilers on Jan. 31 -- it's been even longer since San Jose won in regulation. That hasn't happened since a 4-1 triumph over the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 27.
That it came in St. Louis would have been more surprising if it weren't for the travel woes.
The Blues owned the Sharks last season, sweeping all four regular-season games before eliminating San Jose from the playoffs in five, the team's earliest postseason exit ever.
For a while Tuesday night, it looked as if the lack of scoring that has plagued the Sharks through their losing streak might continue.
The Sharks came out strong, outshooting the Blues 9-4 just before the midpoint of the first period. But San Jose didn't get another shot the rest of the period, and the Blues jumped out to a 1-0 lead at 12:54 when forward Vladimir Sobotka out-maneuvered Marc-Edouard Vlasic behind the San Jose net, then found Berglund driving the net between Joe Pavelski and Dan Boyle for an easy redirect.
Thornton's goal made it 1-1, and it involved one of those lucky bounces that have been in short supply lately. Patrick Marleau's original shot from near the blue line ricocheted off Blues defenseman Barrett Jackman to Boyle. His shot rebounded to Thornton just outside the crease.
"I don't know who shot it, but all of a sudden it was at my feet and it was an open net," the Sharks captain said before adding his variation of what became the night's catchphrase: "Long time coming."
The physical play amped up in the second period, with a fight between unlikely combatants -- Sharks forward Tommy Wingels and Blues forward T.J. Oshie -- sparking both sides.
But there were no other goals scored until the final period when Kennedy launched the puck from the left faceoff circle and it squeezed between Allen's body and blocker with just enough energy to trickle across the goal line.
"He was fighting the puck a little bit all night so I was just trying to get it on him, and it just found the hole," said Kennedy, who scored for the second time in three games since being called up from Worcester.
Allen said the puck knuckled its way toward him, and Sharks coach Todd McLellan suggested it might have deflected off a defenseman's stick.
"We'll take it any way we can get it now," McLellan said.
Players acknowledged it was a relief to end their losing streak, but McLellan wasn't ready to declare the Sharks over any hump.
Especially not with the Chicago Blackhawks next on the schedule in a Friday night game that will have the 13-0-3 team trying to break the NHL record for earning at least one point in consecutive games at the start of a season.
"The relief is there that that's over, but we've got to get back to practice tomorrow," the coach said. "We can't let our game slip. We're going to play against a real good team on Friday, and we know that's coming up. We can't let anything slip. I can't explain it any other way than that."
"He kind of always does that," Murray said of Reaves, who had decked Justin Braun earlier in the game. "He's hacking on (Marty) Havlat in the faceoff, and you protect your players. It's not the really right physical matchup. ... You deal with it as the game goes along."
Sharks (8-4-3) at Chicago (13-0-3), 5:30 p.m. CSNCA
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