Searching for a spark, Sharks mix up their power play units

Searching for a spark, Sharks mix up their power play units

SAN JOSE – When you’re a team that has just one practice over a 16-day span, the details of your game are inevitably going to slip.

Nowhere has that been more evident for the Sharks than on their power play. In their last nine games since Dec. 9, San Jose is just 4-for-35 (11.4 percent) with a man advantage. Tuesday’s game in Anaheim was perhaps their most futile effort to date, as they went 0-for-4 with just four shots in eight minutes while giving up a handful of shorthanded chances the other way. 

Ahead 2-1 with a chance to increase the lead in the third period after Andrew Cogliano’s high-sticking minor, the Sharks didn’t register a single shot on goal, while Anaheim’s Kevin Bieksa nearly converted on a two-on-one the other way. The Ducks predictably tied it later on in the final frame before San Jose prevailed in overtime, 3-2.

Pete DeBoer has been reluctant to break up the Sharks’ top unit of Brent Burns, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau, which has been so effective for several seasons, including last year when San Jose was third in the league on the power play. At Wednesday’s practice, though, it was Joel Ward in Marleau’s place, as the coach searches for some sort of spark. The second unit consisted of Marleau, Mikkel Boedker, Kevin Labanc, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Dylan DeMelo/David Schlemko.

“We’re looking at different options. We’re kind of at that point,” DeBoer said. “I think we need to explore everything. Like every decision you make, you try and let it run its course and give it as much time as you can, but obviously it’s not where we want it to be right now.”

Couture said: “I don’t know what the stats are, but feels like we haven’t scored a goal forever. Change is always something coaches go to, so we’ll see if it works.”

Ward’s role would seem to be clear – get his big body to the front of the net and try for a deflection, or clean up loose pucks lying around the crease. The season has been a struggle for the veteran so far with just two goals in 33 games, and he was recently a healthy scratch for two nights, to boot. But, now he has a chance to have an impact.

“Hopefully [I] can make it count, and stick there and help the boys out a little bit,” Ward said. “It’s a good opportunity.”

The Sharks extended practice on Wednesday – just their second since Dec. 12 – included more than just the power play. They weren’t pleased with their overall performance against the Ducks, and although they’ve won seven of their last eight, those complete, 60-minute efforts have eluded them on some recent nights they’ve managed to squeak out wins anyway.

Shootout victories against the Maple Leafs and Senators two weeks ago, in particular, were nights the Sharks got away with not being at the top of their game – just like on Tuesday against the Ducks. Still, they are encouraged that they’re finding a way to collect points despite some stretches of ineffectiveness, and they have a chance before Friday’s home game with the Flyers to clean some things up.

“The last two years it feels like there’s been many times where maybe we are having a tough game or [are] not playing our best, but we seem to find ways to get points,” Chris Tierney said. “It’s a lot of credit to guys bearing down. I think when things aren’t going well [we] just play real good defensively when maybe the offense isn’t there.”

Couture said: “It shows that we’re a good enough team to win when we’re not playing our best. You need games like that in this league, you can’t play a perfect 82.”

Keeping the puck out of their own net, thanks in large part to Martin Jones – whom Tierney referred to as “Vezina-like” – has been a strength since opening night. As long as that’s there, they’ll have a chance to win. Pretty or ugly.

“You can’t count on your power play for 82 games, but you can count on a foundation of defending a team defense and pressure,” DeBoer said. “We’ve been building that for a year-and-a-half, so that we can survive a month or two where your power play is maybe not red-hot.”

Getting more production out of it is still preferable.

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.

Where does Evander Kane's four-goal game rank in Sharks history?

Where does Evander Kane's four-goal game rank in Sharks history?

Sharks winger Evander Kane returns to his hometown of Vancouver on Saturday, fresh off of doing something a Vancouver-born player had not done in nearly 30 years. 

On Friday, Kane became the first such player to score four goals in an NHL game since Hockey Hall of Famer Glenn Anderson, who scored four goals with the Edmonton Oilers against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 19, 1988. It was also the first hat-trick of Kane's career, and just the fourth four-goal game in Sharks history. 

The latter point got us thinking, where does Kane's four-goal effort rank among those games? Using a rigorous, highly scientific process (read: the thoughts of this writer), we've come up with the definitive ranking. 

Without further adieu, we start with another power forward acquired in a midseason trade. 

4. Owen Nolan (Dec. 19, 1995 at Anaheim)

The Final Line: Four goals (Three power play goals), One assist, Six shots on goal

You never forget your first, so we begin with Owen Nolan, the first player to accomplish the feat in franchise history. If not for Kane and another entrant on this list (no spoilers), Nolan would still be the fastest to do it, scoring four goals in just his 27th game and just under two months after the Sharks acquired him from the Colorado Avalanche.

Nolan struck quickly throughout. He opened the scoring just 1:22 into the game against the then-Mighty Ducks, then scored his second only 57 seconds into the second period. His third and fourth, both on the power play, came 34 seconds apart in that same period. 

Just as Kane did on Friday, Nolan scored as many goals as the opposing team in a 7-4 win. It didn't quite have the same impact on the playoff race, however, as San Jose picked up its seventh win....of the entire season (in its 34th game) thanks to Nolan.

3. Patrick Marleau (Jan. 23, 2017 at Colorado)

The Final Line: Four goals (including the game-winner), Six shots on goal

The 1,459th time was the charm for the longest-tenured player in Sharks history, and the then-37-year-old Marleau became the second-oldest since 1987 to score four in a game. The oldest, Martin St. Louis, actually reached the feat against the Sharks as a 38-year-old in 2014. 

Marleau scored all four goals in a span of 13-and-a-half minutes in the third period, which began with the game tied at one. Three of those goals constituted a natural hat trick, in just a 7:42 stretch.

This game also jumpstarted Marleau's pursuit of a major milestone, as the goals were No. 494, 495, 496, and 497 of his career. He scored No. 500 a week-and-a-half later, but the four-goal game gave Marleau yet another signature moment in teal. 

2. Evander Kane (Mar. 16, 2018 at Calgary)

The Final Line: Four goals, Seven shots on goal 

Of all the players to score four goals in Sharks history, Kane certainly had the best timing. With San Jose in the thick of a playoff race and in need of a win, the newly-acquired forward delivered. 

He only needed eight games to score four goals for the first time in teal, but needed 565 for the first hat-trick of his career. The exuberance (and relief) was palpable after Kane scored his third, and that goal put the Sharks up by two. 

The desperate Flames, now four points out of the playoffs, would never get closer than that again, and Kane essentially put the game out of reach with his fourth goal 62 seconds into the third period. No Sharks player has scored four goals in a playoff game, but this one comes the closest. 

1. Tomas Hertl (Oct. 9, 2013 vs New York Rangers)

The Final Line: Four goals (One power play goal), Seven shots on goal

In just his third NHL game, and in front of his griflriend and mother visiting from the native Czech Republic, Tomas Hertl became then the fourth-youngest player in NHL history (now the sixth-youngest) to score a hat-trick-plus-one. If not for Auston Matthews scoring four in his debutHertl has arguably the most memorable four-goal game by a young player to his name. 

Of all the Sharks to score four in a game, Hertl did it the most efficiently. He only played 11:12 in that game against the Rangers, and still scored four goals on seven shots. 

Yes, it was in an October blowout, but no other four-goal game has had the same impact on the rest of the hockey world. From a fourth goal tailor-made to go viral, to the ensuing Hot Takes ("Hertl's disrespecting the game!") and subsequent jokes (Joe Thornton's still looking for four goals) it spawned, Hertl captivated the hockey world in a way no other Shark that's scored four has, and all by living his "dream, no reality."