Blackwood shines, shuts out Kraken as Sharks earn fourth win in five games

Blackwood shines, shuts out Kraken as Sharks earn fourth win in five games

SAN JOSE – It was a typically busy outing for San Jose Sharks goalie Mackenzie Blackwood.

With his teammates struggling to generate much of a sustained offensive attack against the Seattle Kraken, Blackwood was busy, and had to make 19 saves in the first two periods to keep Tuesday’s game at SAP scoreless.

His work paid off, as Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s goal at the 7:27 mark of the third period broke a scoreless tie and proved to be the winner as the Sharks held on for a 2-0 win over the Kraken before an announced crowd of 10,988 at SAP Center.

Vlasic took a pass from Ty Emberson and fired a shot from a few feet inside the blue line past Kraken goalie Joey Daccord for his fourth goal of the season and his third in the last five games.

Blackwood finished with 32 saves as he improved his record this month to 4-3-1, and the Sharks won for the fourth time in five games.

The Sharks, in their second-to-past game before the NHL All-Star break, just didn’t have much juice for the first two periods.

San Jose managed just three shots in the first period and eight through 40 minutes, as the Kraken dominated possession and overall scoring chances.

Blackwood stopped a breakaway chance by Jamie Oleksiak in the game’s opening minutes after a giveaway by Nikita Okhotiuk in the Sharks’ defensive zone. He also made a save on Jordan Eberle in the second period after another turnover by Emberson.

Blackwood had had a bounce-back month of sorts as January, at least statistically, was his best month of the season so far.

Before Tuesday, Blackwood, in eight games, had a 3-3-1 record with a .913 save percentage and a 2.86 goals-against average. For the season before Tuesday, he was 7-17-3 with an. 896 save percentage.

For the season, Blackwood, before Tuesday had faced 986 shots, an average of 32 per game.

Perhaps part of the reason the Sharks started so flat Tuesday was because they were without their top forward and their leading defenseman.

Tomas Hertl missed the game with a lower-body injury that he suffered in the second period of Saturday’s game with the Buffalo Sabres, and he’s questionable to play Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks in San Jose’s last game before the NHL All-Star break.

Hertl appeared to be hurt Saturday when he came across the offensive blue line with the puck and was hip-checked by Sabres defenseman Henri Jokiharju.

Hertl remained in the game for two more shifts in the second period before he left the team’s bench, missing the final 8:57. Hertl returned for the third period and finished with 16:50 of ice time in what became a 5-2 loss to the Sabres.

Hertl is pacing San Jose with 15 goals and 34 points in 48 games and was averaging 20:54 in ice time per game to lead all forwards.

With Hertl out, William Eklund took over as the team’s second-line center against the Kraken. Eklund was drafted as a centerman by the Sharks in 2021 but has exclusively played on the wing in his 65 previous NHL games.

Eklund, who entered Tuesday with eight goals and 21 points this season, started on a line with wingers Anthony Duclair and Alexander Barabanov.

“He’s excited for the opportunity,” Sharks coach David Quinn said Tuesday morning of Eklund. “When he has the puck, he’s at his best.”

The last time Eklund played center was two years ago when he was with Djurgardens of the Swedish Hockey League, as he didn’t play in the middle much during his 54 games with the Barracuda last season.

For now, Eklund could model his game after teammate Mikael Granlund, as the two have similar body sizes. Eklund is listed at 5-foot-11 and 181 pounds, one inch taller and a couple of pounds lighter than Granlund.

“I like his smarts out there,” Eklund said of Granlund. “He’s a smart player. He does things before everybody has to think about it, so that’s why I like him.”

The Sharks have been without defenseman Mario Ferraro, who leads the team’s skaters in ice time. Ferraro suffered a lower-body injury last in Los Angeles on Jan. 22 when he fell awkwardly into the boards following some contact from behind from Kings forward Trevor Lewis.

“He might be ahead of schedule,” Quinn said of Ferraro. “So that’s a good sign. He’s feeling good.”

The Sharks’ first game after the break is Feb. 14 in Winnipeg. Quinn is hopeful defenseman Henry Thrun (upper body) and winger Givani Smith (lower body) will be back by then. It’s unclear when Granlund might be able to return.

“You don’t want two weeks off,” Quinn said. “But with these injuries, it could be a blessing.”