OTTAWA -- Backup goalie Alex Stalock had to wait a long time for his first NHL start, in more ways than one.
And after it ended Sunday with a surprisingly strong 5-2 Sharks victory over the Ottawa Senators, Stalock made it pretty clear it was all worth it.
"It's the end of a road trip, and it was going to be a good road trip even if, say, we didn't win. But it was a great finish with the win tonight," he said of the victory that enabled the Sharks to go 3-1 in some tough buildings.
The obvious wait was the 12 games it took for him to get his first start, as Antti Niemi played effectively night after night in what is now a 10-1-1 start to the season for San Jose. No problem.
"I mean you look at the guy we have here in front of me," Stalock said, "and he's arguably one of the best goalies in the world right now."
The more subtle wait was the year of his hockey career that Stalock lost after the nerve in his leg was severed by an opponent's skate in February 2011.
It took 12 months to go through the rehab that helped Stalock overcome that frightening setback to his progress.
"Just being able to play the game again was a big step for me," he said. "It started in the East Coast, and I was lucky enough to make it back to the NHL."
The 26-year-old Stalock faced 40 shots -- nine more than Niemi has seen in any game this season. But some of the pressure was taken off by an early 2-0 lead on goals from Tomas Hertl and Andrew Desjardins. When the Senators twice cut the gap to one on goals by defensemen Erik Karlsson and Mark Methot, the Sharks pulled out for keeps on tallies by Tommy Wingels, James Sheppard and Joe Pavelski.
The victory gave San Jose an NHL-leading 21 points for the season.
While the game was Stalock's first NHL start, it was his second NHL win. Three days before his leg injury in Worcester, he played in a relief role when the Sharks were down 3-0 in Phoenix. San Jose rallied to beat the Coyotes 5-3, and Stalock got credit for that victory.
Stalock said the early start (5 p.m. EDT) kept the butterflies to a minimum.
"I think it helped a lot," he said. "It was a little easier than sitting around all day in my hotel room."
But that starting time also meant San Jose had only 22 hours between opening faceoffs, having shut out the Montreal Canadiens 2-0 the night before. And that meant tired legs.
"You can say it's not going to be tough, but it's tough to get going," said Logan Couture, whose short-handed breakaway late in the first period was capped by Wingels' goal. "It's tough falling asleep after games like last night's and then getting ready for today."
Already beset by injuries to forwards Brent Burns, Raffi Torres and Marty Havlat, the Sharks were also without rookie Matt Nieto, who was a late scratch after injuring his hand blocking a shot earlier on the trip. He is considered day to day.
That forced coach Todd McLellan to rearrange his lines once again, and he got a strong game from Sheppard on a line with Joe Thornton and Hertl, plus a goal from fourth-line center Desjardins.
And that helped on a night when he thought his team was "getting a little bit short on gas" after playing three games in four nights, all involving travel.
"It's a team win, team mentality," McLellan said, noting that his line of Couture, Patrick Marleau and Tyler Kennedy "probably didn't have their best night, yet they were effective, somebody else picked the team up."
As did the presence of Stalock in goal.
"He was a bit of a sparkplug for us tonight, if you will," McLellan said. "The guys wanted to play for him. I thought he handled himself well."
Sharks (10-1-1) at Los Angeles (8-4-0), 7:30 p.m., CSNCA