PITTSBURGH — The Sharks felt they had seen some improvements in their overall play in the last two or three weeks. They just hadn’t seen much in the way of a reward.
It happened Thursday, as Brent Burns scored a power play goal with 2:58 left in overtime to give the Sharks a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena in their first game of 2020.
With Penguins defenseman Kris Letang serving a tripping penalty, Burns, on the 4-on-3 advantage, took a pass from Joe Thornton and stepped into a slap shot that beat Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry — who was screened by Evander Kane — for his seventh goal of the season.
Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl also scored for the Sharks, who won for just the second time in seven games and improved to 1-1-0 on their five-game road trip that continues Saturday in Columbus.
Goalie Aaron Dell made 36 saves to help improve to 5-6-2 on the season.
“I think we’ve been playing pretty good hockey the last four or five games,” Burns said. “Getting better defensively. Obviously scoring goals has been tough, but I think our forwards did a great job winning battles, getting in front of the net. That goal doesn’t happen without (Kane) in front of the net.”
Since a 5-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Dec. 21, the Sharks have now allowed just 10 goals in five games on a manned net. The tricky part has been scoring, as they also managed just nine goals in four games before Thursday, with six of those coming against the Philadelphia Flyers on Dec. 28.
Burns’ power play goal Thursday was just the third for the Sharks over their last 21 games. The Penguins came into the game with a 16-4-2 record at home.
“It’s nice to see these guys get rewarded tonight, scoring a big goal like that, on the power play, especially in overtime,” Sharks interim coach Bob Boughner said. “I liked our start, I liked our energy. I thought we did some good things in the game (vs.) the best home team in the league, if not one of the best.”
Other takeaways from Thursday night.
Marleau, Thornton make their marks: Thursday, Patrick Marleau, Thornton and Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara became just the 12th, 13th and 14th players in NHL history to play in at least four decades.
Chara, 42, played over 17 minutes Thursday for the Bruins in their 2-1 loss to Columbus. Marleau, meanwhile, may have had his best game of the season, as he did the work to create Couture’s goal at the 17:51 mark of the first period.
Marleau, 40, forced a turnover after he chased down defenseman John Marino near the Penguins blue line, took possession of the puck and skated back toward Jarry. He found Couture, who joined the play and beat Jarry high to the glove side.
“Just hounding it and hounding it,” Marleau said. “I think (Marino) looked up and we had everybody covered over in the neutral zone, so he didn’t really have too many options. I was able to catch up with him and knock it loose.”
The wrister from the captain pic.twitter.com/fla0AQpsFd
— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) January 3, 2020
Marleau finished with 17:48 of ice time as he Couture and Hertl formed the Sharks’ best line.
“He looked like Patty from 10 years ago, flying around and making plays,” Couture said. “All over the puck. Good to see. (Hertl) was good too. Could have had a couple more.”
Thornton’s assist on Burns’ goal was the 1,080th of his NHL career, moving him past Adam Oates for seventh on the NHL’s all-time assist list. Thornton, 40, had 13:03 of ice time and won eight of 13 draws.
“I can remember playing against those two guys, and I’m standing back behind the bench, having been retired for 10, 12 years, and they’re still going,” said Boughner, who last played in 2006. “It’s pretty amazing. When you see Patty Marleau play like he did tonight, you think to yourself he can play a couple more years.
“It’s fascinating to see these guys, how they come to the rink every day, how they prepare and the example they set for everybody else.”
Dell continues strong play: The Penguins never really let up on Dell, who made 14 saves in the first period and 11 in both the second and third.
Just as critical was Dell’s work when the Penguins were on the power play. Thornton took a tripping penalty at the 6:14 mark of the third period, but Dell responded with four saves on the kill, including ones on Patric Hornqvist and Jared McCann from in close.
“They had a bit of a push in the third there and we were on our heels for a bit,” Dell said. “I think we pushed back right at the end. It was a good road game for us.”
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Hornqvist scored goals at the 16:51 mark of the first period and the 19:09 mark of the second.
On Hornqvist’s second goal, Dell played the puck behind his own net and tried to fire it around the glass. Instead, the puck was stopped and came to Alex Galchenyuk on the other side of the ice. He passed to Bryan Rust, who found Hornqvist open in front for a tap-in past Dell.
“(Galchenyuk) ended up blocking it and no one knew where it went,” Dell said.
In his last nine games before Thursday, starting with his 37-save performance vs. Vegas on Nov. 21, Dell had a 2-3-2 record and a .914 save percentage.
Boughner said before the road trip began that he would decide on how he would use his goalies for the remainder of the road trip after he saw how Dell and Martin Jones performed in the first two goals.
Jones stopped 21 of 22 shots on Tuesday against the Red Wings. Regardless, both goalies will be used this weekend with the Sharks playing the Blue Jackets on Saturday and the Washington Capitals on Sunday.
“They’ve both played well so far on this trip,” Boughner said of his goalies.