Sharks

Sharks finally play with a lead, make it count in rout of Oilers

Sharks finally play with a lead, make it count in rout of Oilers

SAN JOSE – Even after the Sharks were shut out in back-to-back games of their first round series with the Oilers, Brent Burns spoke about how enjoyable it is to compete in the Stanley Cup Playoffs even after some rough results.

“That’s the fun part, is earning it and going through that,” Burns said on Monday.

Game 4 was presumably a whole lot more fun for Burns and his brethren.

The Sharks smoked the Oilers, 7-0 on Tuesday at SAP Center, outplaying Edmonton from the opening faceoff to the final horn in tying the series at two games apiece.

It took just 15 seconds for the Sharks to break their 120-minute scoring drought, and the rout was on from there. Not surprisingly, it was captain Joe Pavelski who set the early tone, redirecting a Justin Braun shot past Cam Talbot.

That permitted the Sharks to play with the lead for the first time all series. In their Game 1 win they had to erase a 2-0 lead before Melker Karlsson’s overtime marker, and they hadn’t found the net since.

"It was critical,” Pete DeBoer said of scoring first. “That's an important piece, getting that momentum. We weren't able to do it last game. To get it early tonight and get that feeling was critical."

Pavelski said: “It allowed us to really stay with our game. … It was good to see the guys get that lead and not really sit back. We wanted more.”

They got more, alright. Pavelski added another, while Logan Couture scored twice and Patrick Marleau, Marcus Sorensen and David Schlemko also found the net in the Sharks’ most convincing playoff win in franchise history. Previously, the Sharks had never won a playoff game by more than five goals.

The power play, which prior to Game 4 had been about as potent as a North Korean missile test, also came alive. Four of San Jose’s seven goals happened with a man advantage, including the most important score of the night.

Just after Zack Kassian stepped out of the box early in the second period, turning a five-on-three into a five-on-four, Marleau whipped in a pass from Burns past Talbot’s far side at 2:02 of the middle frame.

Had the Oilers killed it off, they could have seized the momentum. Instead, Sharks continued to dictate.

San Jose’s power play was just 1-for-14 in the series through the first three games, after finishing 25th in the league in the regular season.

“We’ve been saying we have confidence in it,” Joe Thornton said. “It’s just a matter of time before we strike. Just keep to our fundamentals and we’d be fine, and you saw that tonight.”

DeBoer said: “They've tried to play physical and they've taken some liberties, and we haven't made them pay a price for that until tonight. I don't think it's a secret that as our key guys are getting healthier and feeling better we're starting to look better in that area."

Couture, who has shown nerves of steel in coming back from a severe mouth injury but hadn’t done much through the first three games, played his best game so far. Despite getting whacked by a high stick and requiring a between-periods visit to the dentist to get his teeth numbed, he was a force.

“I think he’s getting more confident as this series goes on,” Thornton said. “It was nice to see him have a game like he did tonight.”

Couture said: “I felt better tonight. I felt this was my best game of the series.”

His teammates, of course, can say the same as a collective group. But just like a disappointing loss, they’ll have to quickly move on for the all-important Game 5 back at Rogers Place on Thursday.

“It’s nice, but you win 1-0 [or] you win 7-0, it’s just one win,” Couture said. “It was nice to score some goals.”

Pavelski said: “We got a split there, they got one here. We have to go back and get one there.”

Something smells fishy about Sharks' early success on power play

Something smells fishy about Sharks' early success on power play

By many traditional measures, the Sharks’ power play is off to a strong start.

They’ve scored seven times on 30 opportunities, including once in Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders. That mark, 23.3%, would have been good enough for third in the league last season, and is nearly seven percent better than the Sharks were in 2016-17.

San Jose’s made some changes on the man advantage, and are getting a different look on their top power play unit with Tim Heed there instead of another forward. Second-year forward Kevin Labanc is playing a significant role on the second unit, operating as something of a focal point.

The puck’s found the net a lot for the Sharks on the power play, but a deeper look at the numbers reveals that success may be a house of cards.

According to Natural Stat Trick, San Jose ranks in the bottom third of the league in shots, shot attempts, and unblocked shot attempts per 60 minutes. Using those rates allow us to compare teams empirically, equalizing for the amount of time each team has spent on the power play. Those rates, by the way, are not very good.

And each of those are lower than last season, when the Sharks finished 25th in power play percentage. This season, the Sharks are converting more shots, despite attempting less.

It would be tempting to think San Jose can hang their helmets on higher shot quality, but they’ve struggled in that area, too. The Sharks finished just shy of the top ten in high danger chances per 60 minutes last season, but are in the bottom third of the league this season, according to Natural Stat Trick.

So the Sharks are shooting at a lower rate and generating chances at a lower rate than last season, when they had one of the league’s worst power plays, but are scoring at a much higher clip. They’ve converted on about 19% of their shots on the power play, almost doubling their conversion rate (10.5%) from a season ago.

If this doesn’t seem like a sustainable mix, that’s because it’s not. In a small sample size of seven games, the power play’s been good enough, but the Sharks can’t count on converting nearly a fifth of their power play opportunities if they continue to struggle generating shots and chances.

Of course, stranger things have happened in a hockey season, so it’s possible the Sharks can ride a sky-high shooting percentage all season long. Banking on that, however, would be foolhardy.

Sharks come up short in New York despite Couture's hat trick

Sharks come up short in New York despite Couture's hat trick

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Anders Lee had two goals and an assist to lead the New York Islanders to a 5-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.

John Tavares had a goal and two assists, Josh Bailey added a goal and an assist, and Andrew Ladd also scored to help the Islanders win for the third time in four games. Thomas Greiss stopped 28 shots.

Logan Couture scored all three goals for the Sharks, completing the hat trick with 1:52 remaining to pull them within one. Aaron Dell finished with 18 saves.

Ladd's goal at 3:12 of the third period broke a 2-2 tie. Rookie Mathew Barzal created the scoring chance by taking the puck around the net and then setting up Ladd in the high slot for his second of the season.

Lee's second of the game and fifth of the season gave the Islanders a two-goal cushion with 8:13 remaining as he converted an odd-man rush.

Tavares sealed the win with an empty-netter with 55.4 seconds remaining and helped improve to 22-4-4 in their two-plus seasons at Barclays Center. Tavares points were his first since he had two goals and an assist Oct. 7 against Buffalo, ending a five-game drought.

The Sharks scored the game's opening goal at 6:26 of the second period on the power play. San Jose came away with the offensive draw and Couture scored from the slot, redirected Brent Burns' point shot past Greiss.

The lead lasted just over a minute as Nick Leddy worked his way to the back of the net and then quickly fed Lee for the tying goal.

The Islanders went ahead 58 seconds later after Joe Thornton made a costly turnover in his own end to give Bailey a point-blank chance. Bailey was able to sneak the puck with a backhander between his skates and past Dell to put New York ahead 2-1.

However, an impressive effort by Jannik Hansen to spin past Brock Nelson in the neutral zone led to a quick feed to Couture, who took a few strides and then fired a shot past Greiss to even the score once again.

NOTES: The Islanders held a special pregame ceremony to honor alumni of the organization who were in town for an Islanders Alumni Weekend. Among the players on the ice were Bobby Nystrom, Clark Gillies, Bryan Trottier and Ed Westfall. ... The Islanders scratched D Scott Mayfield, F Josh Ho-Sang and F Nikulay Kulemin. ... San Jose scratched F Joel Ward, F Barclay Goodrow and D Dylan Demelo. ... The Islanders honored Tragically Hip front man Gord Downie by playing music from the band during warmups. Downie passed away on Oct. 17 after succumbing to brain cancer.

UP NEXT

Sharks: At the New York Rangers on Monday night.

Islanders: Host Arizona on Tuesday night.