Joe Pavelski can't figure it out. He's just happy to see the Sharks putting in the same effort every night during the NHL's most impressive start.
Milan Michalek and Pavelski scored two goals apiece, and the Sharks' defense corps set a franchise record with nine assists in a 6-1 victory against the Flames on Thursday night.
Pavelski, captain Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton scored power-play goals in the four-goal first period of the Sharks' 10th victory in 11 home games this season. San Jose improved to a league-best 14-3-1 with another virtuoso rendition of coach Todd McLellan's shot-heavy, puck-possession system.
"You're going to have nights like tonight, and you're going to have nights like the other night," Pavelski said in reference to the Sharks' overtime loss to Nashville despite a franchise-record shot total. "But you have to be consistent. We talked about that in our locker room. We're trying to win (simply) to win, whether the score's 4-1 or 1-1 going into the third. We want to get that fifth one and that sixth one and that seventh one."
Much of their success against Calgary came from defensemen Christian Ehrhoff, Rob Blake and Dan Boyle, who had three assists apiece. The Sharks lead the NHL in total goals and shots per game, and the most marked change under McLellan's leadership is the extra emphasis on strong shots from the blue line -- which happens to be a specialty of Blake and Boyle.
"A lot of that has to do with how the forwards play," Blake said of the defensemen's scoring success. "The way the system is being played, the puck gets to the net a lot, and with all that traffic, there were a lot of pucks laying around."
Led by Michalek and Pavelski on the potent second line, San Jose roared back from its first back-to-back defeats of the season. Two nights after setting a franchise record for shots in a frustrating loss to Nashville, the Sharks pounded Miikka Kiprusoff with 20 shots in the first period and finished with 46.
Curtis McElhinney stopped 24 shots in relief of Kiprusoff during the final two periods for the Flames, who lost for the fifth time in seven games since a six-game winning streak. Calgary stretched the Sharks to their physical limit in a seven-game playoff series last spring, but didn't have the horses to compete with McLellan's club.
"That's a good team playing well," Calgary captain Jarome Iginla said. "They had a ton of power-play opportunities and capitalized on them. They play great at home. We talked about it, but then we came out and we did not compete in the first period, at all. We just stood around on our skates. They were good and we were bad."
After a three-week stretch with no games farther east than Denver, the Sharks will play four of six on the road, starting Sunday in Chicago.
San Jose played its fourth consecutive game without Nabokov or forward Jonathan Cheechoo, but McLellan expects Cheechoo to return against the Blackhawks. Nabokov will make the two-game trip, and should be back skating soon.
In the first rematch of the clubs' physical first-round series, Pavelski scored six seconds into a power play in the opening minutes, popping a rebound home through traffic. Michalek followed 27 seconds later with a breakaway, using a slick hesitation move to force Kiprusoff to flinch before winging a shot past him.
Marleau then added another goal three seconds before a power play ended, swatting at a rebound of Blake's vicious shot from the point, and Thornton knocked home a loose puck during a power play shortly afterward.
"That was a barrage," Flames coach Mike Keenan said. "I made the (goalie) change just for the sake of trying to change the momentum in some way. ... You get a good sense of reality when you end up not even close to the same level, especially in the first period. We played a little better after that."
Keenan replaced Kiprusoff to start the second period, but Michalek got another goal 78 seconds later when the Flames' defense broke down. Pavelski scored his seventh goal of the season during a two-man advantage early in the third.
- Boyle was back in the lineup after a one-game absence for the birth of his first child.
- Sharks RW Mike Grier left in the first period with a lower-body injury. He slammed his stick against the ice in frustration while he skated slowly off the ice, but McLellan said he didn't think the injury was serious.
- San Jose's defensemen had eight assists two previous times, most recently in 1995.