Sharks

Barracuda power play leads the way in Game 2 win over Grand Rapids

heed-us.jpg
USATSI

Barracuda power play leads the way in Game 2 win over Grand Rapids

SAN JOSE – The Barracuda struck for three power play goals, including the game-winner in the second period by Joakim Ryan, in overcoming the Grand Rapids Griffins at SAP Center on Sunday night, 4-2.

San Jose’s victory evens the best-of-seven Western Conference Finals series at one game apiece.

Grand Rapids erased a 2-0 hole to tie the game in the middle frame, but less than a minute after Matt Ford knotted the score at 2-2 with a rocket from the circle on a Griffins power play, Ryan’s blast from just inside the blue line at 15:28 staked the Barracuda a lead they would keep for the rest of the night. 

The Barracuda finished 3-for-5 on the power play, after going 0-for-6 in a Game 1 loss on Saturday.

“The power play was a lot better tonight,” Ryan said. “We got set up more. We were able to get shots through from the point.”

One of those shots came early, when defenseman Julius Berman beat goalie Jared Coreau from long range just 3:35 into the game with San Jose on a man advantage. Later in the first, on another power play, Ryan Carpenter found open ice in the slot and redirected a Tim Heed pass at 10:44 for his team-leading eighth of the playoffs.

“Coming out, we wanted to get the first goal tonight,” Carpenter said. “For Bergman to get that first goal was huge for us.”

Ryan and Carpenter both attributed the power play success to winning faceoffs, which is something coach Roy Sommer wanted the club to focus on after it dropped the series opener, 3-1.

Winning faceoffs often is an indication of a team’s compete level, and that, too, was lacking for the Barracuda in an opener in which Sommer said his team played “dumb and slow.” 

Sunday was a much better performance.

“Whenever we’ve had a bad start, or a bad game, the next day these guys have responded,” said Sommer, whose club is the top seed in the Western Conference. “They’ve done it all year.”

The series now shifts to Grand Rapids for the next three games, with Game 3 going Wednesday. The primary affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, the Griffins posted a 25-11-2 record in their own building in the regular season.

The Barracuda, though, should be a confident group on the road. Against San Diego in the second round, San Jose won all three games in Southern California after splitting the first two at home.

“It’s going to be a hell of a series,” Sommer said. “It’s probably going to go the duration, I imagine. Both teams are kind of feeling each other out and kind of have a pretty good idea of what the other guys are doing now.”

Ryan said: “Honestly, I think they are the team in the league that plays the most like us. I felt like last night they did a better job of taking the game to us. I thought we came out better tonight, and we battled harder, competed more, won more pucks. They’re a really good team, it’s going to be a battle the rest of the series, for sure. They’re not going to lay down.”

Barclay Goodrow’s empty netter with 1:06 left in regulation was the only goal in the third period.

The Barracuda outshot the Griffins, 40-35, including a 20-11 advantage in the first period.

Sharks open road trip with win thanks to Donskoi's late heroics

joonas-donskoi-sharks-win-usatsi.jpg
USATSI

Sharks open road trip with win thanks to Donskoi's late heroics

BOX SCORE

CALGARY -- Joonas Donskoi scored the game-winner late in third period and had an assist to lead the San Jose Sharks to a 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames on Thursday night.

Justin Braun began the sequence by knocking Johnny Gaudreau off the puck in the Sharks end, beginning a 3-on-2 rush.

Eventually, Joe Thornton got a shot on net that Mike Smith stopped but the rebound was loose between his legs and was tapped in by Donskoi.

Chris Tierney and Timo Meier also had a goal and an assist each to round out the scoring for San Jose (17-10-3).

Michael Frolik and Gaudreau scored for Calgary (16-13-3).

Trailing 2-1, the Flames tied it at 7:39 of the third period when Garnet Hathaway neatly set up Gaudreau on a 2-on-1 for his 13th goal.

It came after coach Glen Gulutzan had shaken up Calgary's lines late in the second in an attempt to spark the offense, moving Gaudreau off the top unit and onto a line with Hathaway and rookie Mark Jankowski.

The Sharks had taken their first lead halfway through the second period on the power play.

Off a face-off win in the Flames end, the Sharks worked the puck back to Kevin Labanc. His long wrist shot was stopped by Smith, but Tierney whacked in the rebound.

Tierney's eighth goal moves him into second place on the team behind Logan Couture. In his fourth NHL season, the 23-year-old is closing in on his career high of 11 set last year.

Power plays were a key story line in the game with the Sharks going 1 for 3 while Calgary could not generate anything in going 0 for 3. That included squandering a 37-second two-man advantage early in the second period.

San Jose tied it when the line of Tierney, Donskoi and Meier combined on a nice goal.

Calgary opened the scoring 4:42 into the first period on a giveaway by Sharks defenseman Tim Heed.

Aaron Dell made 32 stops to improve to 6-3-1.

Smith, who had 26 saves, falls to 13-10-3.

Notes: It was the first of four meetings between the teams this season. ... Kris Versteeg (hip) missed his 10th game. ... Jaromir Jagr (lower body) is back skating but is still day-to-day. He's missed the last five games. ... Donskoi (lower body) returned after missing six games. ... The Flames have led after one period only four times, the fewest in the league.

UP NEXT:

Sharks: Are at Vancouver on Friday.

Flames: Host Nashville on Saturday.

Melker Karlsson's scoring masks deeper problem

melker-us.jpg
USATSI

Melker Karlsson's scoring masks deeper problem

In the Sharks’ bid to find consistent offensive production, Melker Karlsson is the latest winger to skate alongside Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton. He’ll get another look there in San Jose’s tilt with the Calgary Flames on Thursday, the first of a three-game road trip through western Canada.

It’s not his first Joe-deo. The trio has played over 700 five-on-five minutes together dating back to Karlsson’s rookie season in 2014-15, per Corsica Hockey. 

Familiarity hasn’t necessarily bred success, however. Of the 23 lines that have played at least 100 minutes together since 2014-15, Karlsson-Thornton-Pavelski ranks 13th in goals per 60 minutes (2.5). 

If you only look at head coach Peter DeBoer’s tenure, the line is 12th, but out of 18 combinations that spent 100 minutes together (2.15). That’s, at least in part, because the trio doesn’t generate a lot of shots together.

Their 26.86 shots per 60 is the fifth-worst rate among those same lines. In fact, Karlsson’s skated on four of the five-worst lines by that metric. 

The 27-year-old has legitimate finishing talent, converting on at least 10 percent of his shots in each of his four NHL seasons. The problem is that he doesn’t shoot all that much. 

He’s shooting at an individual rate of 5.69 shots per 60 minutes during five-on-five play, which represents an improvement over last season (5.42). Should that hold, it’ll be the first time he’s shot at a higher rate than the previous season. 

A few more pucks are getting on net, but Karlsson is actually attempting less shots (10.24 individual corsi-for per 60) than he did last season (10.34). That’s the third straight season of year-over-year decline. 

Despite that, Karlsson’s scored two goals in his last three games, and has five on the season. Now, he’s on pace for a career-high in goals, on the back of a career-high 17.2 percent shooting percentage. 

His ability to convert on limited opportunities masks just that: Karlsson doesn’t generate a whole lot of opportunities. He’s shown himself to be a good enough shooter to mitigate his lack of shot generation, so long as he’s not mired in a slump. 

An injection of finishing ability may be what the top line needs, and Karlsson’s hard-working, puck-retrieving style seems like an on-paper fit alongside Thornton and Pavelski’s respective skillsets. But as long as the trio struggles to generate shots, it’s not a given that they’ll be able to make the most of limited chances.