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Takeaways: Timo Meier makes his country proud in Sharks win

SAN JOSE — Kevin Labanc celebrated his 200th NHL game the right way: scoring an overtime winner that propelled the Sharks into first place in the Western Conference.
By completing their four-game homestand with a perfect record, the Sharks leapfrogged the Calgary Flames in the Pacific Division standings, erasing a seven-point deficit in just nine days. In the process, Joe Thornton moved into a tie with Stan Mikita for 14th place on the NHL’s all-time scoring list by potting his 1,467th career point with an assist on the Sharks first goal.
With just 14 games left on the schedule, the Sharks are giving themselves a shot to earn home-ice advantage in the Western Conference playoffs, drawing a wild card team in the opening round instead of facing the Vegas Golden Knights and Vezina Trophy candidate Marc-André Fleury.
“Feels good,” Logan Couture said. “We’ve come a long way. Not too long ago, December, we were going through some tough times as a team and we were’t anywhere near the top of the conference.”
Here’s what we learned in the Sharks 3-2 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues:
1. Sharks regain playoff identity in perfect homestand
The Sharks winning streak is even more impressive considering that they posted top grades on their homestand in the face of significant adversity. In addition to losing Erik Karlsson to a re-tweaked groin injury, the Sharks made due without Evander Kane, who missed the entire homestand with an undisclosed ailment, while Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski both played at less than 100 percent, battling through flu bugs.
Regardless, the Sharks got the job done by rolling the style of game that’s emblematic of playoff hockey against a of quartet of teams hungry for points with the second season fast approaching.
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The Sharks held the high-flying offenses of the Colorado Avalanche and the Chicago Blackhawks to just 25 and 30 shots in wins on March 1 and March 3. On Thursday, they found a way to squeak out two points against the Montreal Canadiens on a night where they clearly lacked their best stuff.
The most remarkable performance came on Saturday when the Sharks beat the NHL’s wins leader since Jan. 1 (21) by holding it to just 19 shots, five in the third period and overtime. The defensive effort came in the wake of a stretch in February where the Sharks dropped games to the Boston Bruins, Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals, failing to adjust their style of play when those defensive-minded teams took the ice away from their high-octane offense.
With the rediscovery of that blue collar identity, it isn’t surprising that Martin Jones posted a .920 save percentage over the course of the homestand, benefitting from the stinginess in front of him. The Sharks made it easy on Jones, surrendering just two high-danger scoring chances to the Blues (Natural Stat Trick) on Saturday as he made 17 saves on 19 shots.
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“It was a playoff-type game out there,” DeBoer said. “There wasn’t a lot of room. Both teams defended hard, played hard. There was a real edginess to the game as far as the battles went. It was a hard-fought game.”
2. Timo Meier fills Kane’s skates, makes his country proud.
You hear it at least 50 times during the course of an 82-game season: when someone goes down, it’s an opportunity for someone else to step up.
Meier paid tribute to one of hockey’s most-embedded clichés during the homestand, scoring five goals in four games after collecting just three in a 31-game span between Dec. 16 and Feb. 26.
Good timing.
The Sharks needed the power forward to step up his game with Kane, who’s scored 16 goals in 23 games since Jan. 1, on the shelf.
“It’s tough every time you see a player like that hurt,” Meier said. “It gives me an opportunity to play some more minutes, so I’m just trying to take advantage of that and help the team in whatever way I can.”
Meier tied the game at 16:23 of the first by skating through the slot and burying a seam pass from Thornton. He scored his 26th with just 27 seconds left in the frame, beating Jake Allen with a nifty forehand-to-backhand move after Logan Couture found him in the slot by zipping a backhanded pass through two Blues defenders.

The clock doesn't stop and neither does Timo.
1:42PM is also #TimoTime ! pic.twitter.com/5N7uVxb5J2
— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) March 9, 2019

With a two-goal game, Meier set a new single-season record for goals scored by a Swiss-born player.
“I didn’t even know that,” Meier said. “Obviously, it’s nice to set something like that. It’s good for the development of hockey in Switzerland. But overall, I’m just happy to get that win.”
3. Sharks third period performance throughout the homestand is encouraging for playoffs.
The Sharks performance in the third periods of their last three games is another encouraging sign heading toward the playoffs.
In the playoffs, so many games are decided by late goals and the Sharks are showing a propensity for finishing strong in tight games.

CHA-CHING! pic.twitter.com/YqTcrXyDVI
— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) March 9, 2019

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On Sunday, the Sharks scored three times in the third period to clinch a win in a game that was 2-2 at the second intermission. Four days later, they turned a 3-2 second period lead over the Montreal Canadiens into a 5-2 win, holding a 10-9 shot advantage in the final frame after getting walloped by a 30-15 edge over the game’s first 40 minutes. They continued the trend on Saturday, outshooting the Blues 15-4 in the third before Labanc delivered the heroics in overtime.
“We’ve asked them to dig deep in the third. We’ve been in a couple situations in the third where the game could have gone either way,” DeBoer said. “We found a little more in the tank, another level. Considering what some of the guys have been dealing with, it’s been impressive.”
 

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