SAN JOSE — Everything just looked a little bit different Tuesday night for the Sharks against the Vancouver Canucks.
Not seeing Joe Thornton on the power play, on the top line or even on the Sharks’ bench might have that effect.
The Sharks responded to their first game in over two seasons without Thornton with a less-than-inspiring 3-1 over the Canucks at SAP Center, at least keeping alive their hopes of finishing in one of the top two spots in the Pacific Division.
Kevin Labanc and Joel Ward both scored in the first 30 seconds of the first period and Chris Tierney added an insurance goal midway through the third as the Sharks swept the home-and-home series with Vancouver, and won the season series 5-0, to stay within four points of first place Anaheim.
“We won, that’s about all I can say,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said. “I thought we played well the first couple minutes of the game. Played well at the end, the last five or six minutes. But in between, there was some moments that we weren’t at our best. Obviously we’ve got to look at why.”
The biggest positive was the play of goalie Martin Jones, who made 33 saves Tuesday as the Sharks also moved into a second place tie with Edmonton, which visits San Jose on Thursday.
Jones has stopped 62 of 64 shots since he was pulled after the second period of Friday’s 5-2 loss to Calgary.
“You always feel better after you win, but again, I don’t think I was far off, I don’t think I was playing that poorly,” Jones said. “Just some minor, minor small adjustments. We played a little bit better as a team, which always helps.”
The Sharks, now with 97 points, do know that they’ll finish no lower than third place in the Pacific. The Ducks beat Calgary in regulation time, meaning the Sharks are five points up on the Flames and both teams only have two games remaining.
Labanc scored just 18 seconds into the first period and Ward scored 12 seconds later as both players ended long scoring droughts. Labanc’s goal was his first in 29 games, with his last goal coming Dec. 31 against Los Angeles. Ward’s was his first in 11 games.
Thornton had played in 201 straight regular season games before Tuesday, as he missed his first game since Jan. 8, 2014.
DeBoer indicated before Tuesday’s game that both Thornton and Logan Couture would both be back “at some point,” although he did not give a specific time frame for each center’s return. The Sharks have two regular season games left, including the regular season finale against Calgary on Saturday, before the playoffs begin April 12.
Both Thornton and Couture, injured March 25, both worked out at the Sharks’ practice facility Tuesday morning.
Thornton had an MRI on Monday, one day after he suffered what appeared to be a left leg injury during a collision with Canucks forward Michael Chaput in Vancouver. Couture was hurt when he was struck in the mouth by a deflected puck and had significant damage to several teeth.
Tuesday’s game was just the eighth Thornton has missed due to injury in his nearly 12 years with the team.
“Guys need to know what we’ve got in here together,” Pavelski said. “There’s been a couple guys out. It doesn’t change anything that we’re trying to do. … You’ve got to go do your part and you’ve got to do it a little bit better.”