Rewind: Defensive miscues, energy level cost Sharks in first loss

Rewind: Defensive miscues, energy level cost Sharks in first loss

NEW YORK – When Brent Burns cut the Rangers’ lead to 3-2 midway through the third period, the opportunity was there for San Jose – which hadn’t played all that well to that point – to try and steal one or maybe even two points against New York.

Instead, they fell asleep. Kevin Hayes got behind Burns three minutes later and tapped in a dish from Jesper Fast, and on the next shift Chris Tierney was forced into a turnover in the defensive zone and Justin Braun was caught in no man’s land in front of the net as Jimmy Vesey put the blueshirts up, 5-2.

Although the Sharks responded with a pair of scores to make things interesting, getting to within 5-4 with 4:29 to go, the mistakes were just too numerous to overcome in what was San Jose’s first loss of the season (2-1-0). A pair of empty netters made it a 7-4 final.

“They got some easy ones tonight,” said Burns, who had two goals and an assist.

Joe Pavelski, who had a four-point night, said: “We weren’t good enough. We were chasing it a little bit too much. Every time we fought back to get it close, something just kind of broke down.”

Coach Pete DeBoer was critical of the Sharks’ compete level, after he termed Saturday’s 3-2 victory in Columbus to kick off the five-game road trip as a “sloppy” win.

“We got what we deserved tonight,” DeBoer said. “You’ve got to win all kinds of different ways. It would have been nice to pick up some points and hang around, but I think the team that competed the hardest won tonight. That’s how it should be.”

[INSTANT REPLAY: Sharks fall to Rangers, suffer first loss of season]

If there was one positive to take from the night it’s that the Sharks did manage to hang around despite their blunders and their energy level. Logan Couture’s power play score late in the first period, for example, allowed them to escape a frame in which they got outplayed tied at 1-1.

At that point, and a few others throughout the night, DeBoer was hopeful that the Sharks would locate their A-game.

“There was a bunch of different times during the game I was hoping we would grab some momentum and carry it forward, but we just couldn’t get it going,” he said.

Instead of building off of Couture’s score, the Sharks left Rick Nash all alone in front of the net to slip a rebound off of the end boards through Jones’ pads at 4:15 of the second. The Rangers never trailed after that.

Paul Martin said: “I think we got out of position a couple times. We got running around a little bit instead of being patient and waiting for the play to come to us at times.”

Even New York’s first of two empty net goals, by Mats Zuccarello, was much too simple to execute. Goalie Martin Jones bolted towards the bench before San Jose got the puck in deep, and the speedy Rangers forward easily flung it into the vacated cage to seal the win.

Considering how rarely the Sharks made the kinds of errors they did in the second half of last season and in the playoffs, there’s reason to believe that the lack of practice time due to the World Cup and the early road trip is catching up with them. No one would use that as an excuse, of course.

Martin said: “All the guys in here have played together before and know how we play, so I don’t think it’s something would alter our game or the way we play drastically.”

They’ll need to fix their game quickly as they head into the first back-to-back of the season on Tuesday in Brooklyn, likely in front of first-year goalie Aaron Dell, who would be making his NHL debut.

The captain and the coach know where to start.

“We weren’t on the inside enough,” Pavelski said. “That’s something we need to focus on for tomorrow.”

DeBoer said: “We were on the outside all night. To their credit, they were the harder team. That usually results in success. That doesn’t happen to us too often, and the nice thing is we get to bounce back tomorrow.”

Paul Martin rewarding Peter DeBoer's faith in NHL return


Paul Martin rewarding Peter DeBoer's faith in NHL return

When Sharks defenseman Paul Martin confirmed reports in January that he was willing to go elsewhere for more playing time, his head coach was insistent that the team would need the veteran blueliner. 

"I really believe we need eight NHL defenseman here," DeBoer told reporters in January (via The Mercury News). "If it happens that he isn't here, then that'll be disappointing for us. I'm not hoping that's where this goes. I'm hoping this goes to a place where he can maybe go down, play some games and keep himself ready, because I know we're going to need eight defensemen."

That's pretty much exactly what's happened.

After clearing waivers in January and playing with the AHL's San Jose Barracuda, Martin was called up ahead of the Sharks' four-game road trip at the end of February. He did not play until last Saturday in Vancouver, when an upper-body injury to rookie defenseman Joakim Ryan, whose play pushed Martin down the depth chart in the first place, created an opening alongside Brent Burns. 

Martin's now played three straight games with Burns, his defensive partner for the vast majority of the previous two seasons. It's the first time Martin's played in three consecutive NHL games all season, and although he hasn't played much (11:53 in average time-on-ice), he's acquitted himself nicely in a sheltered role.

His five-on-five possession numbers (52.78 percent corsi-for; 53.33 percent fenwick-for) are the second-best marks among Sharks defensemen over the last three games. Burns, too, has posted better possession numbers with Martin (47.62 percent corsi-for; 50 percent fenwick-for) during the last three contests than without his longtime partner (43.40 percent corsi-for; 41.67 percent fenwick-for). 

The Sharks have also outscored (3-0) and outchanced (17-16) opponents with Martin on the ice, neither of which was the case in Martin's first three appearances earlier this season. The former is owed to a decent amount of puck luck, as the Sharks have converted on 17.65 percent of their shots with him on the ice, but the latter is an extension of his solid underlying numbers. 

Martin's played the least amount of total minutes among Sharks defensemen since coming back, even as Marc-Edouard Vlasic missed time in two of the last three games, and has barely been used in special teams. His days of averaging 20-or-more minutes a night are likely behind him, but the 37-year-old has played well in a limited role. 

Considering Martin's NHL days appeared to be behind him as recently as last month, his play has been a pleasant surprise. With the exception of his head coach, that is. 

Couture scores in OT, helps Sharks make up ground on Golden Knights

Couture scores in OT, helps Sharks make up ground on Golden Knights


SAN JOSE -- Seconds after almost costing the San Jose Sharks a game with a turnover, Logan Couture ended it with his backhand.

Couture scored 39 seconds into overtime after getting bailed out by goalie Martin Jones and the San Jose Sharks won their season-high sixth straight game, 2-1 over the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night.

"I was able to make a move on their guy," Couture said. "(Marc-Edouard Vlasic) did a good job of driving their backchecker back and I was able to go far side."

Couture's goal came at the end of an opening shift of the overtime that started with him losing the puck in his own zone, giving Jonathan Marchessault a chance alone in front. Jones got enough of the shot to stop it, and then Vlasic sent the puck ahead to Couture for the winning goal that moved San Jose within seven points of first-place Vegas with eight games remaining in the regular season.

Brent Burns also scored and Jones made 24 saves to help the Sharks open a four-point lead over third-place Los Angeles in the Pacific Division with a game in hand as the Sharks close in on home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

"For us to get a win tonight was important," captain Joe Pavelski said. "Plus, just plant that seed. If we stay hot, you never know, we might be able to catch them and get home ice. We took care of business tonight and we'll try to keep playing well."

Tomas Tatar scored the lone goal for the Golden Knights, who were kept in the game by a sterling performance by goalie Malcolm Subban. He stopped 42 shots but it wasn't enough for Vegas to come up with the win, although he helped earn a point that gave the expansion team 100 this season.

"It's impressive," forward James Neal said. "It's a great season for our guys. Guys came together real quick. A great job so far but we're not done yet."

The Golden Knights struck first on a pretty passing play early in the first period that ended when Marchessault found Tatar cutting through the slot ahead of Justin Braun. Tatar skated past Jones and backhanded the puck into the open net.

Vegas has been dominant when getting off to a lead, posting an NHL-best 31-5-1 record when scoring first heading into this game. But the Sharks carried the play in the second period, outshooting the Golden Knights 18-4 and getting the equalizer on a blast by Burns from the point after another strong shift by San Jose's fourth line.

"We want to be playing really good hockey this time of year and heading into the playoffs. I think that's the goal," coach Peter DeBoer said. "Whether we would have won tonight or lost, I like how we played for most of the game, so that's what I'm concentrating on."

Vegas managed to keep it tied despite the lopsided shot totals, killing off a four-minute penalty to Colin Miller and another late power play that started late in the second.

That penalty carried over until the third period and the Sharks got 25 seconds of a two-man advantage after Brayden McNabb was called for throwing his stick but still couldn't get anything past Subban.

The Golden Knights squandered a power-play chance later in the period when Miller was called for cross checking with the man advantage. That nearly led to a power-play goal for San Jose but Subban appeared to get a piece of a shot from in close to Joe Pavelski to keep the game tied at 1.

"He's the main reason we got the point," coach Gerard Gallant said. "He looked comfortable."

NOTES: Vegas G Marc-Andre Fleury didn't make the trip to San Jose with an undisclosed injury but is expected to join the team for Saturday's game in Colorado. ... Burns became the 15th player to play 500 career games with the Sharks.

Golden Knights: Visit Colorado on Saturday.

Sharks: Host Calgary on Saturday.