SAN JOSE – These are strange times for the San Jose Sharks.
On one hand, they’d like to be building their game this time of year with the playoffs approaching next week. In that regard, they were better on Thursday night against Edmonton in a 4-2 loss than they were in Tuesday’s ugly 3-1 win over a pathetic Vancouver team that managed to outplay them for the majority of the night.
On the other hand, though, there’s no sugarcoating the reality that without Joe Thornton and Logan Couture, they are going to have all kinds of trouble winning hockey games. Even coach Pete DeBoer, when asked why the Tomas Hertl line had the responsibility of playing against the Connor McDavid line, said, “our other two centermen (Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau) aren’t really centermen. Pretty simple.”
And pretty tough to compete. Yet the Sharks did.
The number that stands out on the scoresheet was that the Sharks managed just 15 shots on goal, a low for the season, to 32 for the Oilers. Edmonton managed to block 28 Sharks shot attempts, while another 12 missed the net.
The game, though, was evenly played at even strength.
“I don’t think the shots were really indicative of how we played,” David Schlemko said.
DeBoer agreed. “I don’t think the shot clock or the score reflected the game,” he said.
The difference was the Oilers scoring two power play goals in the third period, while the Sharks took an 0-for-4 with a man advantage. Marcus Sorensen failed on an early third period penalty shot attempt that would have increased the Sharks’ lead to 3-1, too.
Despite being down their top two centers, and having trouble getting pucks to the net, this was a game that was there for the Sharks. Instead, a 2-1 lead after two periods slipped away due to their special teams issues that were profound even before the injuries.
“Frustrated that a game gets away from us, one that we feel like we’re in pretty good control,” Pavelski said. “Just a couple penalties, and they popped a couple quick ones in on us.
“It was right there. Felt good all night. Even though the shots, whatever they looked like, it did not feel like that. Felt like a game we were playing kind of how we wanted to.”
The game turned on Sorensen’s failed penalty shot, when the rookie couldn’t solve Cam Talbot at 2:19 of the third. A too-many-men minor by the Sharks two minutes later resulted in the first of three straight goals by Milan Lucic.
While the Sharks were pleased with their overall work ethic, the Oilers, still in the running for a division title, matched it. Lucic, especially, would not be denied. The former Bruins and Kings power forward got to the front of the net to deposit a couple more goals and all but end the Sharks’ hopes of starting a series on home ice.
Saturday’s game with Calgary will likely not have much meaning, so attention will quickly turn to the playoffs and a potential series with the Oilers.
“This [game] is forgotten,” Hansen said. “We can’t really use it for anything, it was a good way to see what they’re about, but…now the real work begins.”
DeBoer said: “We’ve got to get our game in the right place. We’ve had a crazy busy month, a lot of ups and downs and a lot of adversity with some of the injuries we’ve been dealing with. For me, it’s getting our mindset in the right place for next Wednesday – or whatever day we open.”