Tierney, Meier, Donskoi propel Sharks to win over Sabres.

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SAN JOSE — No one wanted to admit it earlier in the week: falling into an 0-3 hole would have put the Sharks season in serious jeopardy.

Opening the schedule with a five-game homestand, the Sharks needed to put points in the bank this week before heading out to the East Coast for a five-game roadie to Newark, Brooklyn, New York, Boston and Buffalo on Oct.18, a trip that has wreaked havoc on the team’s record in recent years.

It’s a long season, but you can’t afford to fall too far behind in the first two months of the schedule. Over the last 12 years, roughly 75 percent of teams that have been in playoff spots on Thanksgiving have advanced to the postseason.

With that in mind, captain Joe Pavelski expressed relief that the Sharks earned their first win Thursday night.

“You drop the first two, that third one you start thinking about it a little bit,” the Sharks captain said. “Especially opening up at home the way we have… it’s a little unusual, so to get that first win was very important tonight.”

Here’s what we learned in the Sharks 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres at the SAP Center.

1. Sharks revamped third line shines in debut.

Head coach Pete DeBoer suspended the Tomas Hertl project at center this week, moving the affable Czech up to the left wing position on Logan Couture’s line to give the Sharks more scoring punch in their top six.

He didn’t know that the move would ignite his third line, inspiring a trio of depth players that the Sharks will need significant contributions from this season to contend in the Western Conference.

With Hertl on the second line, Chris Tierney skated in between Timo Meier and Joonas Donskoi, a combination that produced two goals and combined for six points.

“We just wanted to go as a line,” Tierney said. “We felt like the last two games, we didn’t really generate much offense, the three of us. We all got put together, coming from different lines, so we decided it was time to have a good game.

“We just worked hard tonight.”

Meier recorded the game-winning goal at 14:30 of the second, breaking a 2-2 tie by slamming in the rebound of a Donskoi shot that squeaked through the Sabres defense.

Donskoi set up the Sharks second tally at 15:11 of the first, allowing Tierney to score a tap-in goal from the doorstep by feeding him with a no-look backhanded pass from below the goal line. Before Donskoi’s nifty pass, the line created space for the scoring chance by cycling the puck up and down the boards.

The line’s performance should give the teal faithful reason for cautious optimism as the Sharks are depending on bounce back seasons from all three members of the line. Everyone knows that Tierney, Donskoi and Meier are talented hockey players, it’s just a matter of whether they can bring their best games on a consistent basis.

“If we’re going to win games, we’re going to need contributions from our depth,” DeBoer said. “We’re going to have to be a four line team.”

If the line can stick together, it would also allow Hertl to stay up on the wing, making the Sharks top two lines a little more imposing.

2. Jones bounces back.

The real Martin Jones took a stand Thursday night.





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