Rewind: Shorthanded Penguins stun Sharks in late comeback

Rewind: Shorthanded Penguins stun Sharks in late comeback

PITTSBURGH – The primary reason the Sharks made the additions and subtractions they did in the offseason was to match up better against a swift-skating team like Pittsburgh, which won last June’s Stanley Cup Final by playing a game based on speed.

If the first rematch is any indication, even a dramatically shorthanded Penguins team can still get the job done against San Jose.

Despite no Sidney Crosby, no Kris Letang, no Matt Murray, no Conor Sheary, and no third defense pair of Olli Maatta and Derrick Poulliot for the third period, the Penguins stormed from behind to give the Sharks a 3-2 loss on Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena. All of the Penguins’ goals came in the third period after they trailed 2-0 to start the final frame.

For the second time in four games on their road trip, the Sharks controlled play through two periods. That was enough against lowly Columbus last Saturday, but not against the Penguins, who got goals from Evgeni Malkin, Scott Wilson and Patric Hornqvist in span of eight minutes and 15 seconds in the third.

“Let them hang around a little bit, which is something we’ve done lately,” Pete DeBoer said. “Had some opportunities to extend it, and didn’t. Probably deserved to be up by more, but we weren’t. That’s what happens.”

San Jose got goals from Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau in the second period, a period that saw them outshoot the Penguins, 17-4. Shots were 27-10 overall through 40 minutes.

They started well in the third, too, when Mikkel Boedker drew a trip on Malkin at 4:10. Just after the ensuing power play had expired, Boedker was staring at a wide open net after slick seam pass from Joonas Donskoi, but fired wide.

Malkin scored 30 seconds later, and the comeback was on.

“Just missed it. It’s a tough shot when it comes from the other way, but [Donskoi] made a good pass,” Boedker said. “It’s one of those you want to put in, and when things are going the right way, they come in bunches. … Obviously it sucks, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

After Malkin’s goal, and another by Wilson tied it, the Sharks took a pair of minor penalties. Paul Martin was called for a delay of game that was killed off, but Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s slash on Bryan Rust resulted in Hornqvist’s winner with less than six minutes to go in regulation.

Joe Pavelski didn’t seem to like either call, indicating that Martin’s errant clearing attempt hit a Penguins stick on its way out, and the Vlasic slash late a tie game is a call “that you don’t always see.”

Hornqvist got a couple fortunate bounces on his goal, too. He took control of the puck in front of the net after it hit Joel Ward’s foot, and his shot attempt deflected in off of Martin’s skate.

“They got a bounce or two more, but the position we were in, it shouldn’t matter how many bounces they get,” Pavelski said. “We’ve got to seal that game.”

The captain expressed disappointment over the fact that the Sharks squandered a chance to move to 4-1-0 on the season, which would be an accomplishment considering their early peripatetic schedule in which they played just one home game before traveling east.

That outweighed any sort of revenge factor that might have been on the minds of the players that were defeated by Pittsburgh in the Final last spring.

“The biggest thing is we were playing for a 4-1 record going into that third [period]. Not because it was the Penguins,” Pavelski said. “It’s early in the year and it’s not easy to start coming on the road with all these games. Now we’re staring at 3-2, and we move on. It would have been nice to beat them, for sure, but the best thing would have been for that record.”

The Sharks can still conclude their five-game trip with a winning mark by beating Detroit on Saturday.

DeBoer said: “We’re not going to overreact. We played very good hockey for large amounts of this game. Learn from it, and move forward.”

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.


How the Sharks can catch the Golden Knights and win the Pacific


How the Sharks can catch the Golden Knights and win the Pacific

About a month ago, the Sharks appeared locked into the Pacific Division's second, third, fourth, or fifth spot. At the end of trade deadline day, they were 12 points back of the division-leading Vegas Golden Knights, and only two points up on the fifth place Calgary Flames.

24 days later, thanks to an 8-2-0 record over the last 10 games (second-best in the NHL), San Jose's still in second place. Now though, those margins are eight points and 11 points, respectively. 

The latter's pretty much locked the Sharks into a playoff spot, while the former's created a path for a late run at the Pacific Division crown. Beginning Thursday night, they will play the Golden Knights twice over both team's final nine games. 

What does the path look like to the Sharks' first division title since 2011? To start, they'll have to beat the Golden Knights twice in regulation to even have a shot. 

That is the foundation of any run at the Pacific's top spot. If the Sharks win both remaining games in regulation, they'll trail the Golden Knights by four points, leaving aside results against other teams for now.

They have to win in regulation, however. A win in overtime or the shootout on Thursday would only cut the gap to seven, and a subsequent win in regulation would leave it at five. Two losses, in any situation, would create a gap of 10-12 points, which would be nearly impossible to overcome this late in the season. 

One point doesn't seem like a lot, but this late in the season, it makes a world of difference. A five-point gap means they'll need to earn six more than the Golden Knights in those other seven games, while a four-point gap means they'll need to earn five in order to pass them. 

The simplest way to five extra points, is for the Sharks to have a record that's two wins and an overtime loss better (2-0-1) than the Golden Knights in the seven games where they don't play each other. That's impossible if Vegas earns at least 10 points in those seven games, so a 5-2-0 or 4-1-2 record would ensure a division banner raising in Sin City.

Taken all together, then, the Golden Knights' 'magic number' is 10 points. Even if the Sharks win on Thursday, their path to a Pacific title remains difficult, if not improbable. 

If a season with an expansion team leading their division has taught us anything, though -- it's that improbable is not impossible.