Ailing power play costs Sharks in final game before All-Star break

Ailing power play costs Sharks in final game before All-Star break

SAN JOSE – There’s hasn’t been a whole lot that’s gone wrong for the Sharks so far this season, as they sit atop the Pacific Division at the All-Star break. 

Their defensive structure in front of All-Star goalie Martin Jones is outstanding, Brent Burns is the Norris Trophy favorite, some promising rookies have burst onto the scene, and they are mostly healthy, even getting Tomas Hertl back after a 32-game absence.

But one area has been a glaring bugaboo -- the power play. It cost them on Thursday night at SAP Center in a 4-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers that snapped their six-game winning streak.

The Sharks went 0-for-4 with a man advantage, including a four-minute power play early in the third period with a chance to tie the game at 2-2. They didn’t get the job done, though, and Drake Caggiula’s goal at 11:31 made it a fairly stress-free final half of the third period from surging Edmonton’s perspective.

“In those situations you’ve got to find a way to score, and create a little momentum,” Joe Pavelski said. “At the end of the day you need the production, and we didn’t get it there. It was the difference in the game.”

Since Nov. 1, the Sharks are just 19-for-128 on the power play (14.8 percent). Perhaps that’s why coach Pete DeBoer figured the lengthy third period advantage was a good time to drastically shuffle his units. 

He knows that’s one area that the Sharks, who finished third on the power play last season, could be a whole lot better. They sit in 22nd currently.

“Yes, just because of historically where this group has had this power play, and how dangerous it has been, and what a weapon it’s been – and it hasn’t been,” DeBoer said. “We’ve got to find a way.

“The good news is, we’ve got time, and these guys have done it before. We’ve got to dig in here.”

Power play woes aside, the Sharks are in a good place as the league breaks for a few days for the annual festivities in Los Angeles. Although the loss to Edmonton was discouraging, especially considering it allowed the Oilers to tie the Sharks in points (San Jose has one game in hand, so they are technically still in first), San Jose just completed a brutal stretch of eight games in 13 days. 

Prior to winning six of their final seven, the Sharks trailed Anaheim by five points. Now, they and the Oilers have a one-point lead on the Ducks.

“You always have stuff to work on, but it’s just about getting points, and we did that for the last little bit,” Burns said.

DeBoer said: “It’s tough after a game like this to feel good, but it’s been a hell of a month. I’m real proud of the group and how we’ve dug in and handled the adversity of injuries and travel and schedule.”

The Sharks could have pulled out Thursday’s game, too, despite not getting that power play conversion. Edmonton had just 21 shots to the Sharks’ 33, while San Jose out-attempted the Oilers 81-41.

Andrej Sekera’s two goals were both a bit lucky, as his first went off of Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and his second, a power play point shot, may have deflected off of Melker Karlsson. Those two scores turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 Oilers lead.

“They threw some pucks to our net, and obviously they got a couple good bounces going their way,” Patrick Marleau said.

DeBoer said: “The defensive game wasn’t what lost us the game, it was the inability to score.”

Cam Talbot was outstanding for Edmonton, and other than Connor McDavid, he’s probably the biggest reason the Oilers look like a surefire playoff team. Edmonton also did a nice job suppressing Burns, who had two shots on goal and eight attempts blocked after two periods.

Now comes the All-Star break, and in less than a month, the bye week from Feb. 20-24. A more potent power play would help their cause for those final 32 games before the playoffs.

“As a staff we’ll do some work over the break and look for some solutions, and come back and try and get it fixed,” DeBoer said.

After a perfect week, Sharks have playoff breathing room with three weeks to go


After a perfect week, Sharks have playoff breathing room with three weeks to go

The Sharks’ playoff outlook is a lot rosier after winning all four of their games last week. They are now four points clear of the Los Angeles Kings in the second Wild Card spot, and three points up the Anaheim Ducks, who are third place in the Pacific Division.

Those are four-point and three-point improvements, respectively, over those same spots last week. The Sharks even picked up ground on the first-place Vegas Golden Knights, and are eight points back of the Pacific’s leaders, with two head-to-head matchups remaining.

That’s not quite close enough to warrant inclusion in a look at the playoff picture headed into the week, but could be next week if San Jose continues to make up ground. Otherwise, it’s still worth examining where the Sharks stand in regards to the Pacific and the Wild Card.

San Jose Sharks (Second in the Pacific, 89 points)

Games Remaining: 10

On the Docket:  3/20 vs New Jersey, 3/22 vs Vegas, 3/24 vs Calgary

Outlook: Over the next two weeks, the schedule really starts to become difficult. San Jose has only two games remaining against teams on the outside looking in, and is just 2-6-2 in its last 10 against teams currently in a playoff spot. If that trend continues, the newfound breathing room could start to disappear rather quickly.

Anaheim Ducks (Third in the Pacific, 86 points)

Games Remaining: Nine

On the Docket: 3/21 at Calgary, 3/23 at Winnipeg, 3/25 at Edmonton

Outlook: The Ducks have now won three in a row, including next Sunday against the red-hot New Jersey Devils. They’ll play four of their final five road games in the next nine days, and all but one of their opponents is not in playoff position. Anaheim’s just 15-14-7 away from the Honda Center, though. With the fewest games remaining of any playoff team, the Ducks will help to move up any further.

Colorado Avalanche (First Wild Card, 86 points)

Games Remaining: 10

On the Docket: 3/20 at Chicago, 3/22 vs Los Angeles, 3/24 vs Vegas

Outlook: Give it up for surefire Hart Trophy finalist Nathan MacKinnon and the Avalanche, winners of three of four last week. Other than a slip-up on the second night of a back-to-back in Nashville, Colorado was outright dominant, outscoring opponents 16-7. A midweek matchup against Los Angeles could create some Wild Card separation.

Los Angeles Kings (Second Wild Card, 84 points)

Games Remaining: 10

On the Docket: 3/19 at Minnesota, 3/20 at Winnipeg, 3/22 at Colorado, 3/24 at Edmonton

Outlook: The Kings picked up points in three of four, including on both nights of a back-to-back. Their schedule really picks up this week, as they’ll face three playoff-bound teams from the Central on the road. The struggling Stars remain on their heels, although the Kings have a game in hand.

Dallas Stars (Ninth in the West, 84 points)

Games Remaining: Nine

On the Docket: 3/20 at Washington, 3/23 vs Boston. 3/25 vs Vancouver

Outlook: Is Dallas in the middle of a Lone Star letdown? We wrote last week that a difficult schedule could create openings for the teams chasing them and boy, did it ever. The Stars went 0-2-2 on the week, and picked up just one point against the lottery-bound Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators. They’ll surely relish a matchup against the Canucks in six days, as it’s their only remaining game against a non-playoff team.

St. Louis Blues (10th in the West, 83 points)

Games Remaining: 10

On the Docket: 3/21 vs Boston, 3/23 vs Vancouver, 3/24 at Columbus

Outlook: For the second straight season, it’s not quite time to stick a fork in the St. Louis Blues. Yes, they are once again in the playoff hunt after trading one of their best players at the trade deadline, and won three out of four to move with in a point of the final Wild Card spot. The Blues have now won four of five, and still have an uphill climb ahead. After last season, is it ever safe to rule them out?

The Departed: Calgary Flames (11th in the West, 80 points)

This section is reserved for teams that have fallen out of the playoff picture since our last look at the playoff picture, and the Calgary Flames have earned(?) the inaugural (dis)honor. The Flames failed to keep the door to the playoffs ajar thanks to a 7-4 loss to the Sharks on Friday, and it slammed shut after a 4-0 loss in Sin City on Sunday. They have to jump three teams and cover four points of ground to earn a Wild Card spot. The latest stretch stings, but the Flames will likely look on a four-game, post-trade deadline losing streak as when their playoff hopes burned out.

Sharks overcome early deficit, injuries to finish road trip with third straight win


Sharks overcome early deficit, injuries to finish road trip with third straight win

VANCOUVER --Timo Meier's second goal of the game snapped a third-period tie and the San Jose Sharks beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-3 on Saturday night for their fourth consecutive victory.

Logan Couture and Kevin Labanc each had a goal and an assist, and Tomas Hertl scored into an empty net with 25 seconds remaining for the Sharks, who are 7-2-0 in their last nine games.

Nikolay Goldobin, Alex Edler and Bo Horvat scored power-play goals and Sam Gagner had two assists for the Canucks, who lost their sixth consecutive game - their longest losing streak of the season.

Goldobin's goal at 10:48 of the first period snapped a scoreless streak of 222 minutes, 57 minutes for the Canucks, who had been shut out in three consecutive losses.

The Sharks had allowed just two power-play goals in their previous 17 games, but gave up three against Vancouver. The only other time San Jose allowed three power-play goals in a game was in an opening-night loss to Philadelphia.

Aaron Dell, making his first start since Feb. 22, made 28 saves for the Sharks. Vancouver's Jacob Markstrom stopped 25 shots.

Meier put the Sharks ahead at 6:07 of the third with a shot from the faceoff circle that went under Markstrom's blocker. The Canucks came close with just over six minutes left, but Hertl scooped a loose puck off the goal line.

Vancouver scored twice with the man-advantage in the second period to tie the game at 3.

The Sharks took a 3-1 lead just 1:47 into the period when Meier tipped in Brenden Dillion's shot from the point.

Horvat started Vancouver's comeback, scoring just 6 seconds into a power play. Dell stopped Gagner's slap shot but Horvat jammed home the rebound. Edler tied it with a blast from the point at 11:48. It was his first power-play goal in 88 games dating to Feb. 17, 2017.

The Sharks scored 1:10 apart in the first period to erase a 1-0 deficit.

Goldobin opened the scoring when he took a pass from defenseman Derrick Pouilot and snapped a shot from the face-off circle that sailed over Dell's shoulder. The San Jose goalie was screened by Jake Virtanen.

Labanc tied it on a power play at 14:48. Joe Pavelski's shot was stopped by Markstrom, but he managed to get his own rebound and passed it to Labanc at the side of the net.

The Sharks went ahead on Couture's 29th of the season at 16:08. He took a feed from Hertl, fought off a check by Virtanen and chipped the puck past Markstrom.

NOTES: Defenseman Chris Tanev returned to Vancouver lineup for his first game since breaking his leg Feb. 8 against Tampa Bay ... San Jose center Melker Karlsson went to the dressing favoring his right leg early in the first period after blocking a shot. ... San Jose's Marc-Edouard Vlasic left in the second period after being hit in the chest by a puck. ... The Canucks' franchise record for a scoring drought is 234 minutes, 52 seconds, set March 16-24, 2016. ... The longest goal drought by a team in the expansion era is 262 minutes, 3 seconds, set by the Minnesota North Stars from Jan. 28-Feb. 6, 1988.


Sharks: vs. New Jersey on Tuesday night.

Canucks: at Vegas on Tuesday night.