SAN JOSE – Judging by the reaction he saw on the Sharks’ bench, coach Bob Boffner said he thought Nick Bonino had scored a goal in the Stanley Cup Finals.
With Ottawa and the Sharks on power play, with 31 seconds remaining in the second period of Wednesday’s game, Bonino, positioned in the slot, took a focused pass from Timo Meier and did it once over the Senators’ net. Ottawa goalkeeper Matt Murray caught a piece of the puck, but the shot was quick enough to cross the goal line.
Bonino raised his arms in the air and looked at the rafters for a moment, before his teammates immediately surrounded him. Finally, in his 19th game of the season, Bonino scored his first point as a member of the Sharks.
“The friends were so excited for him,” Bonner said of Bonino. “You could see the relief on his face.”
The goal was the first of a four straight by the Sharks, who improved to a 2-1-0 win over the Senators 6-3 on a four-game homestand that ended Friday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“It was one of the happiest goals for me,” said Bonino, playing in his 700th career NHL game on Wednesday. “People were so happy for me. I felt like I could finally exhale.”
Bonino experienced moments of despair in the first six weeks of the season before Wednesday, almost to the point of desperation.
He spent most of the season on one of two power-play units and was in the top line with Logan Couture for a brief spell. It looked like he was putting himself in the right place on the ice to hit the scoresheet multiple times and had 27 shots on goal in his first 18 games.
After going scoreless in 26 matches with Anaheim in 2010–2011, he was not shooting any pucks, or going to other players, getting into the back of the net, and his points drained for the second time of his career. was the longest.
However, his teammates knew that Bonino was contributing in other ways. He is one of the sharks to advance in the penalty kill and faceoff circles. And he plays a responsible two-way game—all hallmarks of his 13-year NHL career so far including the (real) Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017.
While Bonino was struggling aggressively, Baufner and others emphasized the positive way he was making an impact.
“Bones contain intangible things that people don’t see,” shark winger Andrew Cogliano said Wednesday morning. “He’s a two-time Stanley Cup champion for a reason, isn’t he? I think people forget about it.
“It carries a lot of weight when someone with those credentials walks into your room.”
Bonino scored at least 12 goals in seven of the eight seasons from 2013–14 to 2019-2020.
“He’s done a lot of good things for us,” Boffner said. “It was getting painful to watch because you could feel how disappointed he was, and he was still getting chances.
“But he was getting those opportunities. It was just a matter of time and hopefully now he’s got one, the monkey is off his back and he can go play hockey and enjoy a little more. ,
The Sharks could use more offense. Going by Friday, the Sharks are ranked 21st in the NHL with an average of 2.74 goals per game.
Boffner shuffled his third and fourth rows ahead of Monday’s game with the Carolina Hurricanes, replacing Bonino with Cogliano and rookie Scott Ready, and center Jasper Weatherby with wingers Kevin LaBlanc and Matt Nieto.
LaBlanc scored a big third-period goal against the Hurricanes, leading to a 2-1 over-the-top win, and Nieto scored his first of the season in the first period on Wednesday.
“Many times when people go through a downturn and don’t score, (they) start cheating,” Cogliano said. “It’s human nature to start cheating and really score and push that side. Your whole game ends up like going down the drain at that point.
“But (Bonino) is not that kind of player. He knows he needs to play the right way every night.”