Sharks

Instant Replay: Sharks feel the Blues again, St. Louis sweeps season series

Instant Replay: Sharks feel the Blues again, St. Louis sweeps season series

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE – The way the standings are shaping up, the Sharks and Blues could see each other again in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

That might not be so great for San Jose.

The Blues skated to a 4-1 win at SAP Center on Thursday night, holding the Sharks to just 20 shots on goal in sweeping the three-game season series – with all of the wins in regulation.

St. Louis outscored the Sharks 8-1 over the final two meetings, including a 4-0 shutout victory in San Jose on Jan. 14.

Zach Sanford’s second period goal broke a 1-1 tie. A deflected puck banked off of the end boards to his tape, and he lifted it over Aaron Dell at 5:49 of the middle frame.

The Blues didn’t get a power play until midway through the third period, but utilized the opportunity. Alex Steen hit the crossbar with a wrist shot, and Vladimir Tarasenko dove in to poke in the loose puck before Justin Braun could clear it out of the way with less than 12 minutes to go in regulation.

Earlier in the third, Jannik Hansen passed up an opportunity to shoot on a two-on-one, passing the puck to Thornton, who then tried to find Joe Pavelski in the slot but missed the mark. The Sharks managed just seven shots on goal from their forwards.

Tarasenko’s empty net goal with 1:50 to go was the final marker.

The Sharks fell to 3-2-0 on their season-long six-game homestand, with one game remaining. They squandered a chance to leapfrog Minnesota for second place in the Western Conference, although remain seven points ahead of Anaheim in the Pacific Division.

St. Louis continued its playoff push under new coach Mike Yeo, winning its sixth game in the last seven (6-1-0). The Blues improved to 13-7-0 since firing Ken Hitchcock and promoting Yeo on Feb. 1.

The Blues struck first. Scottie Upshall got in the way of a Brent Burns outlet pass in the neutral zone, brought the puck over the offensive blue line, and used Paul Martin as a screen to beat Dell at 16:40.

San Jose tied it just about a minute later, getting some help from defenseman Carl Gunnarsson, who booted an attempted pass from Marc-Edouard Vlasic to Joel Ward through his goaltender at 17:45. Vlasic was credited with his fifth of the season.

The Blues, who lost in Anaheim on Wednesday night, are 9-2 in the second half of back-to-backs including seven straight wins.

Special teams

The Sharks finished 0-for-2 on the power play, and were 0-for-11 in the season series with the Blues. They are 3-for-29 in the last nine games overall.

St. Louis was 1-for-1, and 3-for-8 against the Sharks for the season. San Jose had been 10-for-10 on the PK in its last four games.

In goal

Dell lost for the first time in his career at home, after six straight wins, allowing three goals on 35 shots. He started for the fourth time in the last eight games, as the Sharks opt to rest Martin Jones more often down the stretch.

Hutton continues to own the Sharks. He improved to 4-0-1 in his career against San Jose with 19 saves, following up on his 23-save shutout in the previous head-to-head matchup.

Lineup

Thornton’s five-game point streak came to an end.

Up next

The Sharks conclude their homestand, and their season series with Anaheim, on Saturday. San Jose is 2-2-0 against the Ducks this season with a pair of overtime wins, as Anaheim has recorded at least a point in all four meetings (2-0-2).

Sharks headed in right direction, road trip to reveal who they really are

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USATSI

Sharks headed in right direction, road trip to reveal who they really are

The difference between a 2-3-0 start and a 1-4-0 start is bigger than two standings points.

The former is far from ideal, but if you squint hard enough, there's enough wiggle room to improve. There's still time with the latter, too, but the margin for error is much thinner moving forward.

The Sharks experienced that difference firsthand after Tuesday’s 5-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens. It's not an ideal record, but they’ve managed to salvage a poor start. 

There are still some flaws, to be sure. The power play isn't just the Kevin Labanc show after the top unit scored all three power play goals Tuesday, but is still carrying a disproportionate offensive load. The penalty kill’s scoreless streak came to an end, but they were called into action six times.

Despite all that, Tuesday's win was San Jose’s best effort this season. Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, and Joe Thornton all had multi-point games for the first time this year. Martin Jones had another strong game, and appears to have shaken off his slow start.

In short, San Jose’s game is headed in the right direction. It needs to be, with a five-game road trip beginning on Friday. 

Now comes the hard part.

It's on the road where we’ll get our best sense of who this team really is. Peter DeBoer won’t have the benefit of last change, and won't be able to dictate matchups. 

Under these circumstances, we’ll begin to really see if Joakim Ryan is ready for a top-four role, whether Kevin Labanc is a viable first-line winger, and how the rest of the young reinforcements stack up. They will have less time off, too, as all but one game occurs after one day (or less) of rest and travel. That missed practice time isn't ideal for any team, let alone one still trying to work out the kinks.

Fortunately, the competition is forgiving, at least on paper. Other than the Devils, none of the Sharks’ four other road trip opponents have winning records as of this writing. The topsy turvy nature of the standings, though, show how little “on paper” means this early in the season.

We’ll know a lot more about who these San Jose Sharks are by the time their road trip ends. Their record still won't tell the whole story, but by then, they'll have played about an eighth of the season. 

And by then, we’ll have a much better idea of how good this team really is.

Sharks' offense comes alive, leads charge in win over Canadiens

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AP

Sharks' offense comes alive, leads charge in win over Canadiens

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE — Logan Couture credited a teammate for scoring his second goal. He took credit for the first one.

Couture scored a pair of goals and the San Jose Sharks extended their dominance of the Montreal Canadiens with a 5-2 victory on Tuesday night.

Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl also scored for the Sharks, who have won the past 11 home games against the Canadiens, a streak that dates to Nov. 23, 1999.

On a power play late in the third period, rookie Tim Heed took a shot off a face-off that bounced free in front of the net. Pavelski couldn't get his stick on it but managed to kick it across the net for Couture, who found a huge opening.

"That was pretty special," Couture said. "I don't know if he knew I was there but he kept his balance and kicked it over."

Couture opened the scoring 3:30 into the first period, grabbing a rebound off the back board, skating across the front of the net to get Price to commit and then firing into an open net.

Jonathan Drouin and Shea Weber scored for the Canadiens, who are winless since an opening night victory at the Buffalo Sabres.

"It's a very poor start from our team, from myself, from a lot of individuals," Canadiens' Max Pacioretty said. "It's a good time to look in the mirror and see what we're made of because a lot of people are probably doubting this team right now."

Martin Jones stopped 28 of 30 shots for the Sharks, who finish their season-opening homestand with a 2-3 record.

"The biggest thing is finding that energy for the whole game," Jones said. "We started OK and then we got better as the night went on."

Carey Price, who stopped 31 of 35 shots, fell to 2-7-1 in 10 games against the Sharks.

The Canadiens responded 36 seconds later when Drouin picked up a pass from Artturi Lehkonen close in and fired it over Jones' left shoulder and into the net.

Pavelski gave the Sharks the lead for good when he redirected Kevin Labanc's shot just under a minute into the second period. The shot hit Weber's left shin pad and bounced into the net.

"There were a lot of good things out there," Pavelski said. "We didn't have the homestand we wanted but we can leave on a positive note to take on the road."

Hertl padded the lead midway through the second on a power play. Standing on the right side of the net, he was trying to control a pass from Joe Thornton but the puck fluttered off his stick and got behind Price.

"I'll take it any way I can get it," Hertl said. "There are times I've had great shots that just bounced off the post."

Weber's power-play goal two minutes later kicked off Jones' skates for the score.

The Sharks needed five seconds to score on a power play late in the second period. Tim Heed shot on goal and it bounced off Pavelski's skate. Couture picked it up and found a huge opening.

NOTES: After allowing three power play goals over their first five penalty kills, the Sharks killed off 14 straight until Weber scored in the second period. ... Couture recorded his 24th career multi-goal game. ... Sharks D Tim Heed recorded his first NHL point with an assist on Couture's power-play goal. ... Brendan Gallagher needs one assist for 100 with the Canadiens.

UP NEXT:

Canadiens: plays at the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday in their second back-to-back of the season.

Sharks: open a five-game road trip on the east coast with a game at the New Jersey Devils on Friday.