Sharks

Lack of composure costs Sharks on end of road trip

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USATSI

Lack of composure costs Sharks on end of road trip

Monday night’s Sharks-Capitals game changed when Joe Thornton fought Tom Wilson. Not because the dust-up, a response to Thornton’s hit that ended T.J. Oshie’s night, gave the Capitals “momentum,” or “fired up the boys,” or whatever hockey cliche you find most fitting, but because of what came after. 

Timo Meier picked up not one, but two roughing penalties after Thornton and Wilson dropped the gloves. Barclay Goodrow caught John Carlson with a high-stick on the forecheck, and answered for it in a fight of his own. 

Brenden Dillon picked up an elbowing penalty, and then in the final five seconds of the game, a five-minute slashing penalty and a 10-minute misconduct. He may face supplemental discipline from the league for the slash, too. 

Meier told reporters (via The Athletic) that the Sharks “showed [Monday] that [they] can push back.” That may be the case, but the display undoubtedly cost the Sharks the game. 

At the time of Thornton’s fight, San Jose trailed by two goals, but controlled the pace of play. They were out-attempting the Capitals 46-39 in all situations, and 40-32 at even strength. 

Following the fight, Washington held a slight edge in five-on-five shot attempts (8-6), as San Jose effectively took themselves out of the game thanks to their parade to the penalty box. The Capitals all but sealed the game with Jakub Vrana’s power play tally while Kevin Labanc served Goodrow’s high-sticking penalty. 

Thornton’s major was set to expire with 12:46 remaining in the third period. That would have been plenty of time to possibly mount a comeback, even for the scoring-starved Sharks. 

Meier picked up his first roughing penalty 39 seconds after Thornton fought. 3:14 after his penalty expired, Goodrow went to the box. 

There’s no guarantee that the Sharks would have come back successfully, but they never even gave themselves a chance. 

It was the second straight game that lost composure cost the Sharks. At the end of the second period of Saturday’s loss to the Lightning, Thornton slashed Tyler Johnson, and Tampa Bay scored on the ensuing power play to take their first lead of the game.

They would never relinquish it. 

Hockey is an intense, high-collision sport. Emotion undoubtedly plays a role, and a vital one, as long as it’s kept in check and focused in the right direction.

In the last two games, the Sharks did not do that, and lost. It’s not the only reason behind their losing streak, and may not even be the main one. However, their lack of composure cost them in critical moments. 

The Sharks may have demonstrated they won’t get pushed around on Monday, but all they have to show for it is a loss. 

Sharks comeback falls short in wild loss to Minnesota

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Sharks comeback falls short in wild loss to Minnesota

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- Nino Niederreiter scored 3:26 into overtime and the Minnesota Wild beat the San Jose Sharks 4-3 on Sunday night after squandering a three-goal lead.

Eric Staal scored twice and Ryan Murphy added a goal as the Wild extended their winning streak over the Sharks to four games.

Tomas Hertl tapped in a loose puck for San Jose with five minutes left in regulation to tie it at 3.

Hertl's goal followed a furious Sharks attack that Wild goalie Alex Stalock was able to fend off until a shot from Dylan DeMelo bounced off his shoulder pads and into no man's land just above the crease.

Brent Burns scored twice for the Sharks, who had won five of seven.

Stalock made 31 saves in his first appearance against his former team. Martin Jones stopped 20 shots for the Sharks.

The Wild, winners in four of their last five games, scored twice in the first 10 minutes. A series of sharp passes set up Murphy for a power-play goal just more than four minutes in. Staal sent a pass to Jason Zucker behind the net and he found Murphy for a 1-on-1 score.

Staal's first goal came after Ryan Suter recognized an advantage when Burns ran into Jones, knocking him off his feet. Suter delivered a pass to Staal, who easily fired it over Jones.

Early in the second period, Staal was able to push the puck through Jones' skates for a 3-0 Wild lead.

Burns got the Sharks on the scoreboard with a power-play goal during a two-man advantage late in the second period. Burns scored again on a power play with a slap shot from just inside the blue line midway through the third, his 12th multi-goal game.

NOTES: Sharks forward Jannik Hansen appeared in his 600th NHL game. ... Burns has six points in his last three games, including three goals. ... Murphy scored his first goal in 69 games. ... Staal had his second multi-goal effort in five games. ... Wild forward Jason Zucker has points in eight of his last nine games.

UP NEXT

Wild: Open a three-game homestand against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday.

Sharks: Begin a three-game road trip in Calgary on Thursday.

Logan Couture is an under-the-radar MVP candidate

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Logan Couture is an under-the-radar MVP candidate

After failing to score a point in the first three games of December, Sharks center Logan Couture has caught fire over the last two games. He’s scored four points since Thursday, three of which came in Saturday night’s blowout win over the Ottawa Senators.

There’s reason to believe his streak will reach a third game in Sunday night’s tilt with the Minnesota Wild: Couture’s scored 66 points in 84 career games on the second night of a back-to-back. That includes six in four such games this season, according to STATS.

San Jose has certainly needed that kind of form from Couture, who leads the team in goals (15) points (25), and game-winning goals (3). The 28-year-old has scored or assisted a third of the Sharks’ goals, putting a fifth of them in the back of the net himself.

It’s fairly easy to imagine where the Sharks would be without Couture. An already-anemic offense, the league’s third-worst, would still be sinking amidst the rising tide lifting all boats that is the NHL’s scoring boom.

San Jose, currently holding the third and final divisional playoff spot in the Pacific by a measly games-played tiebreaker, would not be anywhere close to postseason contention. Whether or not the Sharks, boasting one of the league’s thinnest farm systems, should welcome such a development is a discussion for another time.

Regardless, the Sharks’ season would be far uglier without him.

Couture likely doesn’t have the gaudy scoring totals to truly warrant a place in the Hart Trophy conversation. So far this season, however, few players have been more integral in their team’s success than him.

In addition to leading the the team in scoring, head coach Peter DeBoer’s relied upon Couture in every situation. He’s second among Sharks forwards in average total ice time, third among San Jose skaters in total power play ice time, and the third-most used forward on the penalty kill.

It’s unclear whether or not Couture can, or will, continue to shoulder this same offensive burden. His shooting percentage this season (21.7 percent) is likely unsustainable, nearly 10 points higher than his career average.

Yet, even as the Sharks appear to be rounding into form offensively, Couture’s largely driven the bus. San Jose’s scored 29 goals in their last nine games after scoring 46 in their first 19.

Couture’s still been responsible for 31 percent of the team’s goals over the last nine games, compared to about 35 percent in the first 19. That's a subtle decline, but an important one if the rest of the team can improve.

His scoring totals aren’t eye-popping compared to the league leaders, but Couture’s been as valuable for the Sharks as any player has for their team this season. If San Jose ultimately does make the postseason, it’ll be in no small part because of Couture’s early season efforts.