Sharks fail to match Nashville's desperation in 3-1 home loss

Sharks fail to match Nashville's desperation in 3-1 home loss

SAN JOSE – The NHL season ends in exactly four weeks, so get used to hearing the D-word quite often between now and then.

The scuffling Predators, badly needing two points, had it in a 3-1 win on Saturday at SAP Center. The Sharks didn’t play poorly, but didn’t have enough of it from start to finish.


“These are desperate teams we’re playing,” coach Pete DeBoer said. The Predators had lost four in a row, “and they’re fighting for their life and a playoff position. We have to make sure that we get our desperation level to an equivalent spot.”

Brenden Dillon said: “We knew they were going to come flying, they’re a desperate team this time of year. They need every point. I think for us, we just kind of took our foot off the gas a little bit at certain times of the game, and they were able to capitalize.”

The Sharks, unlike the Predators, don’t have to worry about falling out of playoff position. They still enjoy a seven-point lead in the Pacific Division with a game in hand on second place Anaheim, even after Saturday’s defeat. Still, they’d like to make a push for the first overall spot in the conference, assuring home ice advantage for a potential Western Conference Final. They remain five points behind Minnesota and two behind Chicago.

For that to happen, they’ll have to match the intensity of their opponent more than they did against the Predators. Their start was strong, and so were the first few shifts of the second period of a 1-1 game, but Nashville outskated them after that. 

The game-winner came when an aggressive Colin Wilson tracked down Dylan DeMelo on the forecheck, and lifted the Sharks defenseman's stick up before seizing the puck below the goal line. Wilson quickly found James Neal in front of the net to put the Predators ahead for good midway through regulation.

“Just got a piece of my stick, either just whacked it or a little tug or something,” DeMelo said. “Just tried to make a play, and he just got enough of my stick that it took some speed off the pass.”

DeBoer said: “[Wilson] made a good play on him and stripped him. Those things happen. [DeMelo] has played some real good hockey for us. That’s not why we lost the game.”

The lack of desperation continued to show in the third period on a pair of power plays that’s weren’t very effective. When Neal went off for slashing with two-and-a-half minutes left in regulation, the Sharks never came close to tying it, even after Martin Jones was pulled for an extra attacker. Viktor Arvidsson's shorthanded, emtpy-net goal capped the scoring.

San Jose was also smoked in the faceoff circle, losing 64 percent of the draws. That’s typically a reflection of how hard the two teams are competing.

“Definitely it can play a factor in the game,” Joe Pavelski said. “We got our first goal off a faceoff.”

Still, the Sharks won’t leave SAP Center hanging their heads too low. The loss was just their second in regulation defeat in the last 11 games, and they’ll get a chance to respond right away on Sunday against a Dallas team that is already out of playoff contention. Saturday’s result was even a little predictable, after Thursday’s thrilling triumph over league-leading Washington.

There are more games coming, though, against teams that will surely bring that playoff-type intensity.

DeBoer said: “You’re got to play 60 minutes the right way this time of year in order to win games, otherwise you’re leaving it to chance. I think that’s what we did tonight, we left it to chance, and it’s not good enough.”


Kane leads Sharks to critical win on four-goal night

Kane leads Sharks to critical win on four-goal night


CALGARY, Alberta -- Evander Kane scored four goals to lead the San Jose Sharks past the Calgary Flames 7-4 on Friday night.

Tomas Hertl had a goal and an assist for the Sharks, who have won three straight and four of five. Kevin Lebanc and Eric Fehr also scored, and Martin Jones made 30 saves.

It was the first NHL hat trick for Kane, acquired from Buffalo just before the Feb. 26 trade deadline.

Micheal Ferland had a goal and an assist for the Flames, who are four points out of a playoff spot. Troy BrouwerMark Jankowski and Johnny Gaudreau also scored for Calgary.

Three nights after stopping all 28 shots he faced against the Oilers, Calgary goalie Mike Smith had a rough outing as he made just 14 saves before being replaced by David Rittich early in the third period. Rittich went on to stop all seven shots he faced in a relief appearance.

The Sharks opened the scoring six minutes into the first period when Kane's wrist shot beat Smith to the glove side.

The Flames pulled even at 16:42 when Brouwer chipped a pass from Curtis Lazar into the top corner behind Jones. Matt Stajan stole the puck from Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon behind the San Jose net to get the play started.

Jankowski took a pass from linemate Garnet Hathaway and wired a shot to the top corner, glove side behind Jones to put Calgary up 2-1 at 2:10 of the second period.

Kane then redirected Dillon's point shot past Smith at 6:29 before Gaudreau cut into the slot and snapped a shot past Jones at 10:16 to put Calgary back up by a goal.

That lead lasted just 1:26 as Lebanc fired a shot from a sharp angle into the top corner past Smith to pull the Sharks into a 3-all tie.

Kane completed his hat trick at 16:32 when he swatted in his own rebound before Hertl poked the puck through Smith's legs with 1:58 remaining before the second intermission.

The Sharks added an insurance goal 62 seconds into the third when Kane redirected a pass from Joe Pavelski past Smith.

Ferland backhanded a shot past Jones to pull Calgary within two goals with 5:35 left in regulation and Rittich on the bench for an extra attacker. Fehr rounded out the scoring with an empty-net goal 1:37 later.

NOTES: Jankowski suited up for the Flames after sitting out Tuesday's 1-0 win over Edmonton. Fellow forward Kris Versteeg returned to Calgary's lineup after missing the past 49 games with a hip injury. ... Gaudreau extended his point streak to six games (three goals, five assists).


Sharks: At the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night.

Flames: At the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday.

Jones set for big workload down the stretch


Jones set for big workload down the stretch

Sharks goaltender Martin Jones is on pace for the lightest overall workload of his career as a starter. After starting 65 games in his first two seasons in San Jose, Jones can only play a maximum of 62 if he appears in each of the team's 12 remaining games. 

Yet simultaneously, he is also on pace for the largest stretch-run workload of his career. Jones will make his 10th straight start, and 51st overall, Friday night in Calgary. 

Friday will also mark his eighth consecutive start since the trade deadline. Over the last two seasons, Jones made 13 and 14 starts, respectively, from the deadline onwards. 

It's easy to envision Jones far surpassing that workload. Entering Mar. 16 each of the last two years, the Sharks held, respectively, 10-point and 18-point leads over the West's ninth-place team, the closest among the squads on the outside looking in at the postseason. As a result, James Reimer and Aaron Dell spelled Jones for eight and seven starts, respectively, to keep him rested ahead of the postseason. 

This year, San Jose's only three points clear of the ninth-place Anaheim Ducks. There's also only one back-to-back remaining on the post-deadline schedule, compared to five in 2016-17 and two in 2015-16, and 10 of the next 12 games are against teams within four points of a playoff spot. 

Taking all of that into consideration, Jones should pretty easily exceed the mark of 14 post-trade deadline starts he set last season and ultimately start more than 60 games for the third consecutive season, barring injury. 

Should the Sharks clinch a playoff spot, it will be fair to wonder what kind of effect Jones' stretch-run starts will have on his postseason performance. Jones posted a .923 save percentage in San Jose's run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016, and a .935 save percentage in the first round last year after receiving a good amount of time off. 

But the Sharks have to get there first, and it's understandable they will rely on Jones in order to do so. The recently-extended Aaron Dell remains one of the league's better backups, but has come a bit back down to earth this season (.914 save percentage) after earning the role last year (.931). 

Jones, for his part, has handled the increased workload well so far, winning five of nine games and posting a .922 save percentage. How well handles his 10th consecutive start, and any that follow, will have a profound impact on the Sharks' hopes of making the playoffs.