Depleted Sharks down Jets 2-1 in overtime with seven players on the COVID-19 protocol

It was a chaotic day in San Jose on Saturday, as the Sharks were set to take on the Winnipeg Jets in the afternoon. The chaos started in the morning, as every single Sharks player woke up to a text message telling them to get to the rink early.

Once they got to the rink, the team found out that multiple players had tested positive for COVID-19 and that everyone would have to undergo more testing before the game.

Around two hours before puck drop, word got out that the Sharks had five players test positive, although it ended up being seven. The game day chaos continued as Sharks Assistant Coach John MacLean appeared in front of the camera for the pre-game availability instead of Bob Boughner, who had also tested positive.

Luckily for the suddenly undermanned Sharks, the San Jose Barracuda were in town after their game Friday night at SAP Center. If the Barracuda had been on the road this weekend, there is a very high possibility that the game would have been postponed.

With the Barracuda fortunately being in town, the Sharks recalled forwards Nick Merkley and John Leonard along with defensemen Ryan Merkley, Nicolas Meloche, and Jaycob Megna. Saturday afternoon marked the NHL debuts for Ryan Merkley and defenseman Santeri Hatakka.

Still unsure if the game was going to be played or not, puck drop was pushed back 15 minutes to allow for the morning test results to be completed. When all the tests were received and no further positive results were detected, the Sharks skated out for pre-game warmups, revealing which players had been put on the COVID-19 Protocol.

The group of Sharks who were out with COVID-19 included forwards Jonathan Dahlen, Matt Nieto, and Andrew Cogliano, along with defensemen Erik Karlsson, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Jacob Middleton, and Radim Simek. Sharks captain Logan Couture was also out, but with a non-COVID related illness.

With the odds stacked against this very young Sharks lineup, San Jose picked up one of the most remarkable wins in the past couple of seasons.

Entering Saturday’s game, the Sharks were on a three-game losing streak after starting off the season with four consecutive wins.

Tomas Hertl opened up the scoring for San Jose within the first minute of the second period. Alexander Barabanov soared into the offensive zone and after a sharp pivot, dished out a cross-ice pass into traffic that found a cutting Hertl, who chipped the puck above Connor Hellebuyck’s right pad.

James Reimer was the man between the pipes for the Sharks, finishing the game with 34 saves. Reimer had a phenomenal game, with his only blemish coming with just over three minutes to go in the game when Kyle Connor collected a rebound and sent it into the back of the net, tying the game 1-1.

Due to Connor’s late game-tying goal, the game went into overtime. With most Sharks fans praising the team for picking up a point, with all of the hardships they were facing, the young San Jose lineup wanted more.

Only 30 seconds into overtime, Brent Burns drew an interference penalty, putting the Sharks on the power play. While on the man-advantage, Kevin Labanc slid a pass to Timo Meier, who slapped a one-timer towards the net that deflected off Logan Stanley’s foot, then past Hellebuyck to give the Sharks a 2-1 win.

With his overtime goal, Timo Meier now has a team-leading 5 goals on the season. Meier also leads the team in assists (6) and points (11).

The highly inexperienced Sharks lineup went out and put on a performance that shocked the hockey world. San Jose came out and played hard with a lot of energy from the opening face-off all the way up until the overtime winner.

To go more in depth on how inexperienced the Sharks lineup was, it consisted of 16 players under the age of 25, including 7 rookies, two of which made their NHL debuts. Five players that wore Sharks sweaters on Saturday had no idea when they woke up that morning that they would be playing in an NHL game later that day.

With all of the chaos and uncertainty leading up to the game, the Sharks put on a performance that is going to be remembered for a long time. Sharks fans got to see a glimpse of the future and there was a lot to be excited about.

The Sharks will be back in action on Tuesday when the Buffalo Sabres come into town. This young and inexperienced Sharks lineup will get another chance to impress, looking for the same results as Saturday afternoon.

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