Rewind: Sharks slow starts help Kings get back into the race

Rewind: Sharks slow starts help Kings get back into the race

SAN JOSE – The Sharks could have approached consecutive games with the Kings with the mindset of burying their rival in the standings at what is nearly the midway point of the regular season.

Could have.

Instead, Los Angeles appeared to have the attitude that it was fighting for its life. The Kings jumped all over the Sharks in the first period in each game, including on Tuesday, a 2-1 overtime win against San Jose at SAP Center.

Instead of opening up a potential 13-point lead on Los Angeles, the Sharks are now ahead by just six. The Kings swept the home-and-home, including Saturday’s 3-2 regulation victory at Staples Center.

“We had a great opportunity. We didn’t bring our best games,” Logan Couture said. “Give them credit, they played well, but they took it to us at the start of both of these games we just played.”

Joe Pavelski said: “We haven’t been as good as we need to be [the] last few games.”

Tuesday’s game was there for the Sharks, though. Despite getting outshot 16-6 in the opening frame, their first period wasn’t nearly as poor as it was on Saturday, when they were frequently caught running around in their own end. They escaped with a scoreless tie, and took the lead on Couture’s second period marker at 11:56. 

“I think they had a lot of zone time,” Martin Jones said. “If you look at the first period, it’s not like we were giving up a ton of grade-A chances. I thought we defended pretty well.”

That 1-0 advantage remained until the third, when the white-hot Jeff Carter drew a penalty and scored the equalizer three minutes in.

The Sharks responded, though, and an entertaining, back-and-forth final 17 minutes commenced with each team getting a number of prime chances. The Sharks had the better of them, and their more dangerous attack was at least partially due to coach Pete DeBoer switching up his lines, including putting rookie Timo Meier on the top line and benching Mikkel Boedker.

Meier, who has shown no fear in getting to the front of the net in his nascent career, had a few good opportunities with his new linemates to bang in a loose puck or two.

“Just keep it simple, get pucks to the net. Fight for some space,” Meier said of his approach.

DeBoer said: “I thought we were getting better in the second even before we changed some things around. … We made some big changes in the third just because I just felt we needed that at that point.”

As has happened far too often this season, though, the Sharks just weren't been able to find that extra goal. They’ve scored two or fewer in regulation in six of their last seven, and although they’re still winning more than they’re losing, the lack of goal scoring is getting frustrating.

“We’ve got to start bearing down on some chances and score some goals,” Couture said. “I thought we created a lot in the third. Just not finishing right now, or all season. It’s tough to win in this league when you score one.”

What would have helped against the Kings, though, would have been showing up with the same kind of intensity from the outset that was on display from Los Angeles. It’s tough to break out on the scoreboard when you’re wasting 20 minutes, and Pavelski indicated the Sharks simply weren’t working hard enough from the drop of the puck.

“As we stuck our noses in there a little bit more we start winning a few more battles, and that’s when things opened up a little bit for us,” said the captain.

Had it been there earlier, the Sharks might have at least earned a split. Instead, the division standings are much tighter than they were two games ago.

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.