Sharks, despite COVID-related absences, earn inspired win over Winnipeg Jets

SAN JOSE – Finding out just hours ahead of time that they would be without their coach, four of their top six defensemen, two players from their top line, and two veteran depth forwards, the Sharks on Saturday faced all kinds of adversity before their game with the Winnipeg Jets even got underway.

They responded with one of their most inspired efforts of the last two-plus seasons.

Timo Meier scored at the 1:07 mark of overtime as the Sharks pulled out a 2-1 win over the Jets before an announced crowd of 11,845 at SAP Center.

Tomas Hertl scored a second-period goal and goalie James Reimer had 34 saves as the Sharks snapped a three-game losing streak in the unlikeliest of ways.

Kyle Connor scored with 3:12 left in regulation time to tie the game 1-1 and help send it to overtime.

The Sharks outshot the Jets to 27-20 through two periods before Reimer stood tall in the third with 14 saves. Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck had 34 saves in the loss.

The Sharks have the day off Sunday and are scheduled to practice Monday and host the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday.

Sharks coach Bob Boughner, forwards Andrew Cogliano, Jonathan Dahlen and Matt Nieto, and defensemen Erik Karlsson, Jake Middleton, Radim Simek, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic were all placed in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol on Saturday — and could miss more time.

A Sharks spokesman said some of the individuals were symptomatic, although not all. The team would not specify who those individuals were.

Sharks captain Logan Couture was ill and also missed the game but was not in COVID protocol, according to the team. Noah Gregor, a member of the AHL’s Barracuda, was also placed in the league’s protocol.

The absences meant wholesale changes to the Sharks’ lineup, including two brand new defense pairs.

Jaycob Megna played with his usual defense partner with the Barracuda, Ryan Merkley, and Nicolas Meloche was partnered with Santeri Hatakka. Ryan Merkley, the Sharks’ first-round pick in 2018, and Hatakka, a 2019 sixth-round pick, made their NHL debuts.

Megna, Merkley, and Meloche, and forwards Nick Merkley and John Leonard were all recalled Saturday. Nick Merkley was on a line with Lane Pederson and Jonah Gadjovich and Leonard was with Kevin Labanc and Jasper Weatherby.

So the Sharks leaned on their more experienced players. Both Brent Burns and Mario Ferraro, the Sharks’ top defense pair, played over 18 and 17 minutes, respectively, in the first two periods.

Hertl formed the top line with Timo Meier and Alexander Barabanov, and Nick Bonino skated with William Eklund and Rudolfs Balcers, and all played more minutes than usual.

As for the five players who were recalled, MacLean said the guys were “probably ticked off that they got sent down in the first place. They’re going to get an opportunity.

“We have players here that are capable of playing well and then we’ve got to go compete. It makes no difference. In this game, no one feels sorry for you. It’s the next man up and you’ve got to be ready to go.”

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