SAN JOSE -- It took four games, and it wasn't time wasted because of the offensive contributions that Raffi Torres made along the way.

But in their entertaining 5-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Sharks finally saw the physical side of a player they were missing with Torres out of the lineup for the first 59 games of the season.

"You can be a veteran all you want, but until you get a sense of timing and what's going on around you and a feel for the game again, it's hard to play," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after his team's optional practice Friday. "Raffi is rapidly gaining confidence, he's gaining a sense of timing and probably conditioning as well."

In his first three games after returning from knee surgery, Torres scored three times as a reminder that he does have good hands around the net. But he was credited with only one hit in each of those three games.

"I haven't started getting physical," he acknowledged before the Pittsburgh game Thursday.

Against the Penguins, Torres had a season-high 13:02 in ice time, and he responded with a four-hit performance that seemed to jump-start his teammates. And it wasn't as if Torres had the most hits of any Shark -- Brent Burns had five -- or even the one with the most impact, as Jason Demers leveled Penguins forward Chris Kunitz.

But Demers was quick to credit Torres for setting the tone.

"Raffi brings a whole different element to our team, and it's kind of the fear factor," Demers said of Torres, who has been trying to overcome his reputation as a dirty hitter with hard but legal shots such as the ones on Penguins' Marcel Goc and Rob Scuderi just seven seconds apart when San Jose was trailing 2-0.

Those hits, Demers said, turned the game around.

"The fans like it, and obviously other teams for sure are aware of him, looking over their shoulder," said Demers, who recalled doing the same before Torres came to the Sharks. "It pumps us up."

Torres said after the game that the game dictated the need to play more physically.

"I got a second wind there on that shift, got a couple bangs in, and I think the key is you follow that up with another good shift," he said. "That's what you need, that momentum change to get things going."

  • The Sharks will try to feed off their success against the Penguins as they close out this homestand with games against two of the NHL's most-venerable franchises, the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night and the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday.

    McLellan acknowledged that facing the two Canadian representatives in the Original Six still made the games a little special, then cited associate coach Larry Robinson as a reason the Sharks might have a little added incentive Saturday night.

    "The fact we have a Hall of Fame defenseman that played for the Habs is a big thing for our hockey club," McLellan said. "I'm sure our guys want to be fired up so they can make Larry proud, and that'll be a real good thing."

  • McLellan said it was very likely that Antti Niemi would be getting a second consecutive start in goal Saturday, and praised his work against Pittsburgh.

    "He made some really good saves when it was 2-0 to keep it there," McLellan said. "If it gets to three, we're in big trouble, but he kept it two and allowed his teammates to work their way back into the game."

    For more on the Sharks, see David Pollak's Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/PollakOnSharks.

    Saturday's game
    Montreal (35-23-7) at Sharks (40-17-7), 7 p.m., CSNCA