EDMONTON – In Game 1 on Wednesday of their series with Edmonton, the Sharks seemed to quickly put behind them some of the bad habits that had crept into their game over the final few weeks of the season in seizing the opener.
On Friday in Game 2, though, their most inexplicable source of frustration throughout the year reared its ugly head in a disheartening loss.
The Sharks went 0-for-6 on the power play – after finishing 25th in the league in the regular season – and allowed a pair of shorthanded goals to Zack Kassian and Connor McDavid in a 2-0 loss, as the Oilers equaled the best-of-seven at one game apiece.
Not only were the Sharks outscored on their own power play, they actually allowed more shorthanded shots to the Oilers (six) than they had with a man advantage (five).
As Brent Burns pointed out, “That’s obviously the difference in the game. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out.”
Joe Pavelski, whose turnover in the first period led to Kassian’s breakaway conversion, took a large portion of the blame.
“Disappointed, obviously, with the way it went,” said the captain. “We got what we probably deserved out there. I don’t know how to explain that. I was leading the way out there that way. Didn’t have what it needed to have tonight so that’s on me, and it trickled down.”
After his club was shorthanded six times in Game 1, Oilers coach Todd McLellan stressed the importance of his team remaining disciplined and staying out the penalty box. He surely wasn’t happy with a pair of unnecessary Patrick Maroon minors, when the big winger cross-checked Marc-Edouard Vlasic late in the first and left his feet in delivering a check on Justin Braun that was deemed elbowing in the second.
But the Oilers got away with those, and four others.
Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said the power play, “mimicked our five-on-five game. We didn’t outwork their penalty kill.”
They got outworked at even strength, too, as DeBoer indicated. Not only did the Oilers have a shot advantage of 22-10 during five-on-five play, Edmonton was credited with 41 hits to just 21 for the Sharks for the game. The Oilers have been the much more physical team through the first two games, and it’s fair to wonder if the Sharks are built to handle the abuse.
Despite some heavy hits by the Oilers, including Kassian, who was everywhere, no one in the Sharks’ dressing room seemed overly concerned with the fact that they are seemingly losing the physical battle so far.
“It’s the playoffs. It’s physical stuff,” DeBoer said. “I thought the refs did a good job. We have to make them pay for taking liberties, and we didn’t tonight. That’s got to get fixed going forward.”
Brenden Dillon, who was on the receiving end of a borderline Kassian hit in the first period, said: “I think for us, we’re just trying to be the smarter team. We’re getting some power plays here. It would be nice to bury on a couple of those and make them pay when they’re doing stuff like that, but I think we’re doing a pretty good job [physically].”
The one bright spot for the Sharks was the play of Martin Jones, who finished with 34 saves and kept his team close. DeBoer admitted after the game that it “probably shouldn’t have been” just a 1-0 deficit after two periods.
So far, Jones has resumed his playoff form from a season ago.
“Felt fine. Felt same as last game,” Jones said.
Jones also got a good view of what cost the Sharks Game 2, as he faced more rubber than counterpart Cam Talbot while his teammates were supposed to be generating chances on the power play.
“Obviously we needed to be a little bit smarter with the puck on the power play,” Jones said.