Sharks

Couture nets team-leading 16th goal in Sharks' loss to Jets

Couture nets team-leading 16th goal in Sharks' loss to Jets

BOX SCORE

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The Winnipeg Jets shoved aside yet another opponent at Bell MTS Place.

Mathieu Perreault scored twice, Connor Hellebuyck made 31 saves and Winnipeg beat the San Jose Sharks 4-1 on Sunday to extend its home winning streak to five games.

Matt Hendricks and Marko Dano also scored to help the Central Division-leading Jets improve to 16-3-1 at home and 25-11-7 overall. Their home power-play unit is the most-efficient in the NHL.

"It's great coming to the rink knowing we have a strong game here at home," Perreault said. "Not so sure why it's been that way but we're having a lot of fun right now. We're just really happy with how things are going."

Jets coach Paul Maurice said confidence has been the key to the home success.

"We also know that a big chunk of our home games are still ahead of us," Maurice said. "November, December were tough schedules. We made the most of our home games which was really, really critical. Some of those road trips can be a little taxing for your club, so you got to be good at home."

Logan Couture had a power-play goal for San Jose.

"I thought we were in the game," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "They jumped on us in the first five, six minutes. I thought we knew that was going to happen and I thought we got our legs underneath us. I really liked our game. Really, the third goal was killer. Overall, we're OK. "We're not perfect. We're not exactly where we want to be, but it could be worse."

The Jets opened the scoring midway through the first period on Hendricks' breakaway. He beat Martin Jones to the glove side on the backhand for his fourth goal of the season.

Winnipeg made it 2-0 midway through the second when Dano deflected Jacob Trouba's point shot for his second goal of the season.

Couture connected on the power play with 5:13 left in the period for his 16th of season and first since Dec. 9.

Perreault restored Winnipeg's two-goal cushion with a power-play goal late with 58 seconds left in the second. Perreault added an empty-netter, giving him 12 goals.

"We would have liked to get another power-play goal and shut them down on our (penalty kill)," said Couture. "But they scored some timely goals that won the game. The third was tough to come back down two against that team in the third period. They shut it down pretty good."

NOTES:
Winnipeg captain Blake Wheeler assisted on Perreault's power-play goal to extend his points streak to six games. He has eight points in five games since moving to center after Mark Scheifele was injured. ... Jones made 26 saves.

UP NEXT:
Sharks: Host Arizona on Saturday night.

Jets: At Buffalo on Tuesday night.

Sharks face surprisingly tough test in Avalanche

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Sharks face surprisingly tough test in Avalanche

On a night when Eric Lindros is getting his number retired, who would have thought one of the NHL's best games involves a team that was the worst a season ago, and another features a team that didn't even exist last year?

Okay, most of the hockey world's eyes will be glued to tonight's Golden Knights-Lightning tilt in Tampa, which surely felt just as weird to write as it did for you to read. But Sharks-Avalanche could have that game beat, and not just because Long Beach native Matt Nieto will play against his former team.

No, the Sharks and Avalanche just happen to be two of the hottest teams in the league.

San Jose has won three in a row, and along with Nashville, holds the league's third-longest active winning streak. Colorado, meanwhile, has won seven in a row, and along with Calgary, holds the league's longest streak.

The Avalanche have not lost in 2018, and since their streak began on Dec. 29, have scored the third-most goals and allowed the fewest. With starter Semyon Varlamov out with a groin strain, backup netminder Jonathan Bernier has stopped all but seven of the shots he's seen, good for a .962 save percentage.

Nathan Mackinnon has emerged as an under-the-radar Hart Trophy candidate, or at least he would have been under-the-radar if seemingly the entire hockey world hadn't made the same observation. He's no longer a dark horse, though, and may be the frontrunner if Colorado is even sniffing the postseason at the end of the year.

After all, the Avalanche were far closer to the 1992-93 Sharks than Colorado's glory days last season, losing the ninth-most games in a single season in NHL history. Entering Thursday, the Avalanche are just two points out of the final wild card spot.

To further drive home just how remarkable the turnaround's been, the Avalanche already have three more points than last season. In 39 fewer games.

Colorado may not be as good as they've been over the last seven games, when they've also led the league in PDO, the sum of save percentage and shooting percentage often used as a shorthand for luck. But during the stretch, the Avalanche are also a positive puck possession team when adjusting for score and venue, according to Natural Stat Trick, and eighth in adjusted corsi-for percentage during the win streak, per Corsica Hockey.

The Sharks, too, have been playing much better than before the bye. Two of the wins on their three-game streak have come against the cellar-dwelling Coyotes, though, and they needed overtime and a shootout to beat them.

The Avalanche will then represent the toughest test for the Sharks following the week off, and a potentially thorny end to their three-game road trip. Who would have thought? 

Pavelski a shootout hero in midst of a career-worst cold streak

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Pavelski a shootout hero in midst of a career-worst cold streak

The shootout has been kind to Joe Pavelski all season.

After scoring the shootout winner in Tuesday night’s win over the Coyotes, Pavelski has now scored the fourth-most shootout goals in a single season of his career, and there’s still 39 games left in the season. Only Artemi Panarin has scored more shootout goals (four) than the Sharks captain (three) on the year.

The Sharks have needed Pavelski more than they have after 65 minutes far more than in recent memory. San Jose’s won three games in the shootout this season, one more than last year and one shy from matching their total from the prior two seasons.

Again, there’s still 39 games to go.

San Jose is on pace to win their most games in the shootout since the Todd McLellan era, when they picked up no fewer than five shootout wins each season. This season, those wins are currently the difference between home ice advantage in the first round, as the Sharks are tied for second in the Pacific with two games in hand, and missing the playoffs.

They’ve needed every one of Pavelski’s shootout goals, too. File this under “statistics that are too good to be true,” but the proven postseason performer has scored each of his three shootout goals in San Jose’s three shootout wins, while failing to score in both of their losses.

Pavelski’s needed to deliver in the shootout at least in part because he often has not delivered when actual hockey’s been played. Injuries, age, and an at-times unfathomable lack of luck have all contributed, but the Wisconsin product is in the midst of one of the longest scoring droughts of his career.

He’s not scored an even strength goal since Dec. 1 against Florida. For those keeping score at home, that’s 19 games, a month, and a calendar change ago.

If Pavelski doesn’t score at even strength on Thursday against Colorado, he’ll have matched the longest even strength goal-scoring drought of his career. In 2010-11 and the lockout-shortened 2013 season, Pavelski went 20 games without an even strength tally.

To further put things into perspective, is tied with Joe Thornton and Melker Karlsson for sixth on the team in even strength goals. Thornton’s enjoyed a nice shooting resurgence, but this is an instance where the setup man scoring as much as the sniper is not a positive development.

You can’t only fault for Pavelski for struggling so much, of course, as his team has scored the second-fewest even strength goals in the league this year. He’s also a victim of his own success, and subject to further outsized expectations because of the letter on his chest.

Tuesday showed Pavelski’s still found ways to contribute, even if he hasn’t found the back of the net at even strength. But if Pavelski’s drought lasts beyond Thursday, he’ll be on an unprecedented schnide as far as his career is concerned.

More performances like the former may ultimately be enough to get the Sharks into the postseason. More like the latter won’t get them much farther than that.