SAN JOSE, Calif. — It didn’t matter who the goal came from, just that it did.
In a game that was scoreless until there were six minutes left in regulation, captain Jacob Trouba unloaded a hard shot from the point that was deflected in by Julien Gauthier to help lead the Rangers to a 2-1 win over the Sharks on Saturday night at SAP Center.
Gauthier, who the Rangers have committed to by playing him in over 10 games to eliminate his waiver-exempt status, has done all the right things since he was recalled from AHL Hartford. Even when he was with the Wolf Pack, the 25-year-old had the right attitude, the right mindset and his heart was in the right place.
Now, Gauthier provided the Rangers with a key tally in a game they needed to win.
The final score was not indicative of how this one went. Three goals were scored in the final six minutes of regulation in this one. After Gauthier put the Rangers on top, Adam Fox scored an empty-netter that ultimately stood as the game-winner. The Sharks’ Logan Couture made it a one-goal game with roughly 15.7 seconds left on the clock, but it was ultimately too late.
There’s simply a lack of fluidity to the Rangers’ offense at five-on-five lately. It can be choppy. It can be erratic. It can fall out of sync. There’s just no flow at times. The power play generates a good portion of their quality chances and when it’s faced with top-notch penalty-kill units, such as the Sharks and their NHL-leading 92 percent PK, it struggles to fool them.
The Rangers went 0-for-3 with the man-advantage in the win, marking the eighth game they’ve gone without a power-play goal so far this season.
Too many players in the top nine didn’t generate enough. Artemi Panarin may have gone a fourth straight game without any shots at five-on-five, but the Russian winger didn’t register a single shot — period — Saturday night. Barclay Goodrow also recorded no shots on goal. Alexis Lafreniere was limited to one. Filip Chytil had two.
The team defense was relatively strong for a majority of the game. San Jose breakaways were often broken up before they skated into dangerous territory.
It was the Period of Posts in the second. The Rangers hit iron three times, twice on one of their three power plays throughout the night, while the Sharks’ Erik Karlsson blasted one off the post. The barricades on the goals were still on roughly halfway through the third period, when Vincent Trocheck made it ring off the rush.
The Rangers had their way with the Sharks through the opening 20 minutes, outshooting the home team 15-8 and generating five high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. Kaapo Kakko, in particular, was robbed on several occasions. Sharks netminder James Reimer, who was looking to bounce back after a tough outing against the Red Wings on Thursday, was virtually impenetrable at the start of the game.
Reimer first denied Kakko on a sharp-angled shot before making a diving save with his blocker on the Finnish winger later in the first. Steven Lorentz also denied Kakko when the Sharks center took a knee in front of the net with Reimer out of position.