Rewind: Braun gives Sharks needed spark in 3-2 SO win over Leafs

Rewind: Braun gives Sharks needed spark in 3-2 SO win over Leafs

TORONTO – After being a step behind the Maple Leafs all night on Tuesday, the Sharks were in desperate need of an offensive spark. 

It came from one of the unlikeliest sources.

Justin Braun found room in the slot, received a pass from Chris Tierney along the wall, and unleashed a swift backhand that cruised past goalie Frederik Andersen with just 7:17 left to go in regulation. It was Braun’s first goal since March 26, 2016, 34 games ago. 

That score cut the Leafs’ lead to 2-1, and jolted the San Jose bench. Joe Pavelski scored about two minutes later on the power play, and the Sharks went on to win 3-2 in a shootout at Air Canada Centre.

“We needed somebody to make a play, and I thought it was a great play by Brauny,” Pete DeBoer said. “He got up the ice, beat one of their guys, and stuck one in the net.”

Up to that point, and especially through the first two periods, the Sharks just weren’t sustaining any offensive pressure in falling behind, 2-0. They had 26 shots on Andersen through 40 minutes, but 11 of them came on the power play, and too many were easy stops for the former Ducks goalie.

Toronto is a noticeably faster team this season thanks to some skilled young forwards with bright futures. They weren’t allowing the Sharks, who were missing Marc-Edouard Vlasic, to get up the ice.

“We weren’t breaking out,” Pavelski said. “When you don’t break out clean it’s tough to get that first guy in on the forecheck, with the second guy coming with support. I think early that’s just kind of what it was. … Defensively, you can tell they’re a lot more detailed.”

Braun said: “Guys just didn’t have the grit, weren’t going. It was top to bottom. I think we found it in the third, but we can’t come out in games like that and just be that flat.”

After Pavelski tied it, a wild overtime ensued in which both teams had some point blank chances. Martin Jones denied Morgan Rielly and Mitch Marner in the extra session, while Andersen stopped a Kevin Labanc breakaway.

It took until mid-December, but the Sharks finally had their first shootout of the season. Jones, who was outstanding all night, stopped Marner, Auston Matthews and Nikita Soshnikov while Logan Couture was the only shooter to succeed.

“We’ve practiced it a little bit,” DeBoer said of the shootout. “Our personnel sets up that we feel pretty confident in those situations. Jonesy was our best shootout player. He was great on all three [attempts].”

Jones said: “[I just] try and think about who’s going to shoot and what moves they might do. Just stay patient, and try and make a good read.”

The victory was the Sharks’ second straight in which they were far from their best, including a 4-3 win over Carolina on Saturday when they registered a season low 20 shots. Still, they felt they may have deserved better in the two games before that, regulation losses to Ottawa and Anaheim in which they surrendered a late third period game winner.

Funny how things have a way of evening out.

“It’s nice to win. … The Ottawa game, Anaheim game, probably deserved to get some points out of those ones, and we didn’t,” Couture said. “These last two kind of got us back, with games that you don’t know if you really deserve to get points. That’s the way things work out in an 82-game season.”

The Sharks’ trip will get progressively harder throughout the week. They’ll play in Ottawa on Wednesday, Montreal on Friday, and Chicago on Sunday.

However they did it, they managed to get two points in what was the most winnable game of the four. Put another way, they were fortunate to be playing the Maple Leafs, because against more dangerous opponents they would likely have been buried after two.

“We found a way,” DeBoer said. “You’ve got to win all kinds of different ways in this league.”

Braun said: “Thankfully we came away with the win, but a lot of times when you’re that flat through two periods, you’re not going to come away with anything.”

After a perfect week, Sharks have playoff breathing room with three weeks to go


After a perfect week, Sharks have playoff breathing room with three weeks to go

The Sharks’ playoff outlook is a lot rosier after winning all four of their games last week. They are now four points clear of the Los Angeles Kings in the second Wild Card spot, and three points up the Anaheim Ducks, who are third place in the Pacific Division.

Those are four-point and three-point improvements, respectively, over those same spots last week. The Sharks even picked up ground on the first-place Vegas Golden Knights, and are eight points back of the Pacific’s leaders, with two head-to-head matchups remaining.

That’s not quite close enough to warrant inclusion in a look at the playoff picture headed into the week, but could be next week if San Jose continues to make up ground. Otherwise, it’s still worth examining where the Sharks stand in regards to the Pacific and the Wild Card.

San Jose Sharks (Second in the Pacific, 89 points)

Games Remaining: 10

On the Docket:  3/20 vs New Jersey, 3/22 vs Vegas, 3/24 vs Calgary

Outlook: Over the next two weeks, the schedule really starts to become difficult. San Jose has only two games remaining against teams on the outside looking in, and is just 2-6-2 in its last 10 against teams currently in a playoff spot. If that trend continues, the newfound breathing room could start to disappear rather quickly.

Anaheim Ducks (Third in the Pacific, 86 points)

Games Remaining: Nine

On the Docket: 3/21 at Calgary, 3/23 at Winnipeg, 3/25 at Edmonton

Outlook: The Ducks have now won three in a row, including next Sunday against the red-hot New Jersey Devils. They’ll play four of their final five road games in the next nine days, and all but one of their opponents is not in playoff position. Anaheim’s just 15-14-7 away from the Honda Center, though. With the fewest games remaining of any playoff team, the Ducks will help to move up any further.

Colorado Avalanche (First Wild Card, 86 points)

Games Remaining: 10

On the Docket: 3/20 at Chicago, 3/22 vs Los Angeles, 3/24 vs Vegas

Outlook: Give it up for surefire Hart Trophy finalist Nathan MacKinnon and the Avalanche, winners of three of four last week. Other than a slip-up on the second night of a back-to-back in Nashville, Colorado was outright dominant, outscoring opponents 16-7. A midweek matchup against Los Angeles could create some Wild Card separation.

Los Angeles Kings (Second Wild Card, 84 points)

Games Remaining: 10

On the Docket: 3/19 at Minnesota, 3/20 at Winnipeg, 3/22 at Colorado, 3/24 at Edmonton

Outlook: The Kings picked up points in three of four, including on both nights of a back-to-back. Their schedule really picks up this week, as they’ll face three playoff-bound teams from the Central on the road. The struggling Stars remain on their heels, although the Kings have a game in hand.

Dallas Stars (Ninth in the West, 84 points)

Games Remaining: Nine

On the Docket: 3/20 at Washington, 3/23 vs Boston. 3/25 vs Vancouver

Outlook: Is Dallas in the middle of a Lone Star letdown? We wrote last week that a difficult schedule could create openings for the teams chasing them and boy, did it ever. The Stars went 0-2-2 on the week, and picked up just one point against the lottery-bound Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators. They’ll surely relish a matchup against the Canucks in six days, as it’s their only remaining game against a non-playoff team.

St. Louis Blues (10th in the West, 83 points)

Games Remaining: 10

On the Docket: 3/21 vs Boston, 3/23 vs Vancouver, 3/24 at Columbus

Outlook: For the second straight season, it’s not quite time to stick a fork in the St. Louis Blues. Yes, they are once again in the playoff hunt after trading one of their best players at the trade deadline, and won three out of four to move with in a point of the final Wild Card spot. The Blues have now won four of five, and still have an uphill climb ahead. After last season, is it ever safe to rule them out?

The Departed: Calgary Flames (11th in the West, 80 points)

This section is reserved for teams that have fallen out of the playoff picture since our last look at the playoff picture, and the Calgary Flames have earned(?) the inaugural (dis)honor. The Flames failed to keep the door to the playoffs ajar thanks to a 7-4 loss to the Sharks on Friday, and it slammed shut after a 4-0 loss in Sin City on Sunday. They have to jump three teams and cover four points of ground to earn a Wild Card spot. The latest stretch stings, but the Flames will likely look on a four-game, post-trade deadline losing streak as when their playoff hopes burned out.

Sharks overcome early deficit, injuries to finish road trip with third straight win


Sharks overcome early deficit, injuries to finish road trip with third straight win

VANCOUVER --Timo Meier's second goal of the game snapped a third-period tie and the San Jose Sharks beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-3 on Saturday night for their fourth consecutive victory.

Logan Couture and Kevin Labanc each had a goal and an assist, and Tomas Hertl scored into an empty net with 25 seconds remaining for the Sharks, who are 7-2-0 in their last nine games.

Nikolay Goldobin, Alex Edler and Bo Horvat scored power-play goals and Sam Gagner had two assists for the Canucks, who lost their sixth consecutive game - their longest losing streak of the season.

Goldobin's goal at 10:48 of the first period snapped a scoreless streak of 222 minutes, 57 minutes for the Canucks, who had been shut out in three consecutive losses.

The Sharks had allowed just two power-play goals in their previous 17 games, but gave up three against Vancouver. The only other time San Jose allowed three power-play goals in a game was in an opening-night loss to Philadelphia.

Aaron Dell, making his first start since Feb. 22, made 28 saves for the Sharks. Vancouver's Jacob Markstrom stopped 25 shots.

Meier put the Sharks ahead at 6:07 of the third with a shot from the faceoff circle that went under Markstrom's blocker. The Canucks came close with just over six minutes left, but Hertl scooped a loose puck off the goal line.

Vancouver scored twice with the man-advantage in the second period to tie the game at 3.

The Sharks took a 3-1 lead just 1:47 into the period when Meier tipped in Brenden Dillion's shot from the point.

Horvat started Vancouver's comeback, scoring just 6 seconds into a power play. Dell stopped Gagner's slap shot but Horvat jammed home the rebound. Edler tied it with a blast from the point at 11:48. It was his first power-play goal in 88 games dating to Feb. 17, 2017.

The Sharks scored 1:10 apart in the first period to erase a 1-0 deficit.

Goldobin opened the scoring when he took a pass from defenseman Derrick Pouilot and snapped a shot from the face-off circle that sailed over Dell's shoulder. The San Jose goalie was screened by Jake Virtanen.

Labanc tied it on a power play at 14:48. Joe Pavelski's shot was stopped by Markstrom, but he managed to get his own rebound and passed it to Labanc at the side of the net.

The Sharks went ahead on Couture's 29th of the season at 16:08. He took a feed from Hertl, fought off a check by Virtanen and chipped the puck past Markstrom.

NOTES: Defenseman Chris Tanev returned to Vancouver lineup for his first game since breaking his leg Feb. 8 against Tampa Bay ... San Jose center Melker Karlsson went to the dressing favoring his right leg early in the first period after blocking a shot. ... San Jose's Marc-Edouard Vlasic left in the second period after being hit in the chest by a puck. ... The Canucks' franchise record for a scoring drought is 234 minutes, 52 seconds, set March 16-24, 2016. ... The longest goal drought by a team in the expansion era is 262 minutes, 3 seconds, set by the Minnesota North Stars from Jan. 28-Feb. 6, 1988.


Sharks: vs. New Jersey on Tuesday night.

Canucks: at Vegas on Tuesday night.