Blackwood shines as Sharks beat Montreal Canadiens to end losing streak

Blackwood shines as Sharks beat Montreal Canadiens to end losing streak

Finally, after a month of misery and heartache, the San Jose Sharks can celebrate another victory.

Luke Kunin, Fabian Zetterlund, and Nikita Okhotiuk all scored, and Mackenzie Blackwood made 34 saves as the Sharks on Thursday beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 at Bell Centre, snapping a 12-game losing streak that dated back to the middle of last month.

Leading 2-1, Okhotiuk took a slick pass from Mikael Granlund and beat Canadiens goalie Sam Montembeault from in close at the 16:44 mark of the second period for his first NHL goal since he came to the Sharks from New Jersey as part of the Feb. 2023 trade that sent Timo Meier to the Devils.

The Sharks’ last win before Thursday was a 2-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Dec. 12  Since then, the Sharks had been outscored 54-17, including 11-2 during back-to-back losses to the Toronto Maple Leafs, as the losing streak became the fifth-longest in franchise history.

The Sharks team that arrived in Montreal looked completely different than the one that was blasted 7-1 by the Leafs on Tuesday.

No NHL team was more eager to put the first half of the regular season in the rear-view mirror than the Sharks (10-29-3).

The Sharks are trying to wipe the slate clean after a first half of the season that saw them win just nine of 41 games and accumulate a league-low 21 points. They’ve been outscored 12-game skid and entered Thursday last in the NHL in goals for per game (1.98) and goals against per game (4.10).

“We’re past the halfway point. It’s a new season,” Sharks coach David Quinn said. “There’s really nothing we can do about the first half. We’ve all talked about the reasons why the first half unfolded the way it did, but there’s nothing we can do about it. Nobody felt good coming to the rink (Wednesday).

“When you go to practice, there are a bunch of things you want to work on, and the only thing we needed to work on yesterday was our mentality. When you’re in a good mindset, all these other things happen. You defend better, pass better, shoot better, your responsibilities on faceoffs are more efficient, and that’s kind of what’s going on.

“Basically, the message was, it’s the second half of the season and that starts today.”

EMBERSON OUT: Ty Emberson did not play Thursday and it appears he’s headed toward the injured reserve list. Quinn said Thursday that Emberson’s upper-body injury wasn’t the result of one particular incident but was rather “a lingering situation for him and it’s just gotten progressively worse.”

Emberson, who has averaged close to 19 minutes of ice time in 21 games for the Sharks this season, also had a foot injury last month that caused him to miss 12 games.

On the blue line, the Sharks are already without Matt Benning, who had hip surgery in December and is out for the season, and Jacob MacDonald, who is considered week to week with a lower-body injury.

VLASIC BACK: With Emberson out, Marc-Edouard Vlasic drew back into the lineup for the second time in the last eight games. Vlasic has appeared in just 19 of the Sharks’ first 41 games this season, but will kept a personal streak alive, as he has now dressed for all 12 games the Sharks have played in his hometown of Montreal since he came into the NHL in 2006.

Now it’s a matter of whether Vlasic can remain in the lineup, or if Kyle Burroughs returns to the lineup for Saturday’s game in Ottawa against the Senators. Vlasic hasn’t played in back-to-back games since Dec. 5-7.

COUTURE UPDATE: If Emberson does go on IR, that would free up a roster spot to activate captain Logan Couture. Quinn wouldn’t necessarily rule out a return for Couture as soon as Saturday, but Couture told reporters in Montreal that it’s doubtful that he’ll be back in the lineup this weekend.

After Saturday, the Sharks finish the trip with games in Buffalo on Monday and Chicago on Tuesday.

“He looks good,” Quinn said of Couture, who practiced Wednesday in Montreal. “There’s never been a concrete date where we think he’s going to play. But I think moving forward here after every day, any game’s a possibility. But it really is day to day for him.”