Tomás Hertl had two goals and an assist, and the San Jose Sharks beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-3 on Tuesday night.
The Sharks overcame the loss of seven players and head coach Bob Boughner to NHL COVID-19 protocols for the second straight game.
Jonathan Dahlen returned from protocol to score his fourth goal of the season, Mario Ferraro added his first along with an assist, and Ryan Merkley scored the first of his career. Rudolfs Balcers had two assists and James Reimer stopped 25 shots.
“It was awesome,” Merkley said. “I was excited to get that puck. I didn’t expect it to happen soon. In the other leagues, it took me a while.”
Added Hertl: “I’m just happy I scored. It was nice to get my line going. I’m happy for every single goal. The win is what matters most for me.”
Jeff Skinner scored two goals for the Sabres and Drake Caggiula added one. Vinnie Hinostroza had two assists for his first multi-point game of the season. Craig Anderson finished with 22 saves.
“The mindset wasn’t right,” Buffalo coach Don Granato said. “We didn’t play aggressive. We didn’t play assertive. That game was right there for the taking. We just didn’t play aggressive.”
Timo Meier was placed in COVID-19 protocol before the game, joining Sharjs teammates Kevin Labanc, Erik Karlsson, Jake Middleton, Matt Nieto, Radim Simek and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Assistant coach John MacLean filled in for Boughner behind the bench. Head trainer Ray Tufts was also added to protocol.
“We’re trying to take as many precautions as we can,” MacLean said before the game. “We’re wearing masks, we’re doing everything we can.”
The Sharks’ entire roster and coaching staff is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Obviously, we know what they’re going through,” Skinner said. “They’re going through a lot of adversity. A lot of guys are probably pretty excited to get the opportunity. We knew they were going to come out hard, and unfortunately, we weren’t able to match (them). I think we matched in spurts, but that’s not good enough in this league.”
Dahlen and Merkley staked San Jose to a 2-1 lead after the first period. The teams traded goals in the middle frame.
Ferraro and Hertl scored in the third to give the Sharks a 5-2 lead.
“The credit goes to the players,” MacLean praised. “They really rallied behind this here. You know, next man up mentality. … It’s fun, and they’re enjoying the challenge of it as well. So that’s always nice to see.”
Skinner scored late in the third as Buffalo dropped its second straight game.
“We didn’t play to our identity,” Granato said. “We have a room of competitive guys that didn’t compete hard enough.”
Sabres C Cody Eakin returned to the lineup after missing five games with an upper-body injury. He finished with one shot on goal in 13:40. “It’s great just to see him out there,” said LW Zemgus Girgensons. “He brings a lot of energy to our team. … (It) gives a little boost to our team to have him back.”
OLOFSSON INJURED IN PRACTICE
Buffalo LW Victor Olofsson sat out with a soft-tissue injury aggravated in Monday’s practice. Olofsson leads the team with five goals and nine points. “We held him out tonight in hopes that he’s back to normal on Thursday, potentially,” Granato said. “We’ll have doctors look at him further tomorrow to give us a better read and we’ll see. We still don’t expect him out very long at all.”
Sabres: Visit Seattle on Thursday night.
Sharks: Host St. Louis on Thursday night.