Sharks

Sharks force OT, claim extra point in shootout

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Sharks force OT, claim extra point in shootout

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, NJ There were some familiar feelings on the Sharks bench for much of their game against New Jersey on Friday night at the Prudential Center.

Frustration. Aggravation. Irritation. After all, here they were, outplaying another opponent yet not seeing the results on the scoreboard.

Of all those feelings, though, it was determination that took over. It helped them to a much-needed 4-3 shootout victory over the Devils, as Joe Pavelski tied it with 32.4 seconds left and Joe Thornton had a goal and an assist in his 1000th career NHL game to help put an end to the teams three-game losing streak.

Credit the veteran leadership on this one, which didnt allow the Sharks to hang their heads despite being down 2-0 early, and 3-2 late.

At that stage of the game if your leadership doesnt step up or you write it off as another tough night, thats not a good sign, said Ryane Clowe. I liked how we stuck with it. Pavelski was one of the guys who actually said that on the bench, and he went out and scored that tying goal.

David Clarkson gave the Devils a 3-2 lead at 13:18 of the third period, when he and Mattias Tedenby broke out on a two-on-two rush. Sharks defenseman Colin White fell down, however, leaving Clarkson alone in front of the net. Tedenby centered to Clarkson, who waited for Niemi to go down before sliding it through the goaltenders legs.

This, after San Jose had scored a pair of quick goals to tie it up before the second intermission.

Enter Pavelski. With goaltender Antti Niemi pulled, Pavelski found a patch of open ice and had the puck squirt out to his stick with the clock winding down.

Thornton had it and definitely saw there was a scrum in front of the net. I was just trying to stay out, and it popped out, said Pavelski, who quickly fired it past the glove side of Johan Hedberg, through heavy traffic.

In the shootout, Michal Handzus and Ilya Kovalchuk converted their opportunities. When Niemi made a save on Patrik Elias, it came down to Clowe.

The burly left winger went to his backhand and lifted it past Hedberg to seal San Joses second win of the year.

Ive taken a few shootouts now over the years, and thats kind of my go-to move, he said. Its a little easier when you face the Eastern Conference goalies because they dont see you as much. Hedberg is kind of a smaller goalie and I have a long stick and long reach, so I tried to use that when I go to the backhand.

After three straight games in which the Sharks felt they deserved better than an 0-3 record, San Jose fell behind when Elias scored a power play goal in the first period and Zach Parise converted a penalty shot early in the second.

The Sharks fought back, though, with a pair of even strength goals from their top two lines on back-to-back shifts.

First it was Thornton. The Sharks captain used Devils defenseman Henrik Tallinder as a screen and fired a wrist shot through Hedberg at 15:18 for his first of the season.

The second line followed that up just 63 seconds later. After Logan Couture had a great chance in front of the net, Martin Havlat threw the puck back towards the crease and it bounced in off of the left skate of Clowe. A short video review confirmed the goal.

Havlat, making his Sharks debut, picked up his first point with the primary assist.

San Jose, which entered the game leading the league in shots per game, outshot the Devils 20-5 in the second period and 40-19 for the game.

That mattered little when Clarkson gave the Devils the lead back, and coach Todd McLellan sensed some growing displeasure on the bench.

I think even as coaches we could feel it, he said. But, as the night went on and we got those two quick goals, we started to believe again that it could be done. We felt the frustration come back after their third goal, but we stuck with it. Thats a good sign for our team.

McLellan said throughout the week that even though the Sharks were putting up plenty of shots on goal, they werent doing the dirty work in the crease to generate second chance opportunities. That wasnt the case on Friday, though, as Clowes goal and the game-tying score were the result of hard work near the blue paint.

If the first shot gets there, you have a chance at the second and third. We stress that all the time shooting from bad angles, said McLellan.

Clowe said: Sometimes when youre working you deserve those breaks, and we had a couple breaks that we worked for tonight.

The Sharks will travel to Boston to continue their road trip against the Bruins on Saturday night. The flight will undoubtedly be a little lighter after the hard earned victory.

If we dont score with 30 seconds left I can tell you we have a pretty frustrated group moving on, said McLellan. Maybe this will be the monkey off our back.

NEWS: Sharks' Mitchell leaves game with upper body injury

Odds and ends: San Jose suffered a blow early, when Torrey Mitchell left the ice in the first minute after taking a high elbow from Nick Palmieri, who was issued a minor penalty for checking to the head. Colin White played his first game back in New Jersey, where he spent the first 10 seasons of his NHL career before the Devils bought him out over the summer. Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray was on the business end of a right hand from Eric Boulton when the two squared off in a heavyweight fight in the first period. Benn Ferreiro made his season debut, after being recalled from Worcester on Thursday. Devils forward Jacob Josefson suffered a broken clavicle late in the first period. The Sharks were 0-for-5 on the power play.

Sharks have tall task against Penguins, who are in Stanley Cup form

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Sharks have tall task against Penguins, who are in Stanley Cup form

The Sharks witnessed firsthand the emergence of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia native Nathan Mackinnon as a legitimate superstar in a loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday. Naturally, their reward is to face the NHL's first superstar from the area on Saturday. 

And of course, much like Mackinnon, Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is playing some of the best hockey of his career. 

In 2018, no player has scored more points than the three-time Stanley Cup champion (15). In fact, three of the top five scorers in the new year skate in the Steel City: Evgeni Malkin is tied for third with 13 points, and Phil Kessel is right behind him in a tie for fifth with 12 points. 

The trio has powered the Penguins to a three-point lead on the Eastern Conference's final Wild Card spot. As recently as New Year's Eve, though, the Penguins were seventh place in the loaded Metropolitan Division, and three points back of the postseason. 

It was always a matter of 'when' rather than 'if' Pittsburgh would turn it on. Fatigue was always a possibility, as the back-to-back champions have played at least 13 more postseason games (49) than any other team in the league over the last two seasons, but any concerns seem firmly in the rearview mirror at the moment. 

The same cannot necessarily be said about the Sharks, whom the Penguins dispatched in six games in San Jose's first Stanley Cup Final appearance. Yes, they've won three out of four since the bye week, but haven't played all that well in the process.

Two of those wins came against the lowly Coyotes, and San Jose has barely out-possesed their opponents (50.74 five-on-five corsi-for percentage; 51.22 fenwick-for percentage, according to Corsica Hockey). They're scoring nearly a goal more per 60 minutes of five-on-five play (2.69) than before the bye (1.85), but are allowing nearly one-and-a-quarter more goals (3.58 five-on-five GA/60) than before the bye week (2.24).

The latter is, at least in part, because Martin Jones is not playing well. The Conn Smythe-like form that kept the Sharks in it against the Penguins two Junes ago has largely eluded him this season, and injury may have played a part. 

Jones is day-to-day with a minor injury, according to the Bay Area News Group's Paul Gackle, and the team recalled goaltender Troy Grosenick from the San Jose Barracuda on Friday as a result. That leaves Aaron Dell in net as the last line of defense against the Penguins. 

With Pittsburgh looking a lot like the team that celebrated a Stanley Cup win on San Jose's home ice two postseasons ago, stopping them will be a tall task. 

DeBoer's defense of Jones doesn't paint the whole picture

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DeBoer's defense of Jones doesn't paint the whole picture

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer passionately defended goaltender Martin Jones following San Jose's 5-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night. For the eighth time in his last 14 starts, Jones allowed four goals, but DeBoer tried to take a look at the bigger picture. 

"You guys like to grab little pictures of things that work for the story your writing," DeBoer told reporters in Denver after he was asked about Jones' recent struggles. 

"It's 14 games. You can go back six games and write whatever story you want. He's having a great year for us. Our goaltending has been excellent all year."

If you look at his save percentage, Jones is not having a great season.

His save percentage in all situations (.9097) is the lowest in his three seasons in teal, and ranks 22nd out of the 34 goalies that have played 1000 minutes in all situations, according to Corsica Hockey. His five-on-five save percentage (.9147) is also the lowest of his teal tenure, and sits 26th out of 30 goalies that have played 1000 five-on-five minutes. 

But save percentage doesn't always tell the whole story, as it doesn't take into account shot quality. As we've written previously, Jones has played behind a loose defense this season.

Among those aforementioned 30 goalies, Jones has faced the highest percentage of high-danger shots, the second-highest percentage of medium-danger shots, and fourth-lowest percentage of low-danger shots. 

Luckily, there's a metric that does take into account shot quality: goals saved above average (GSAA). GSAA works much like Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in baseball, and considers how well a league-average goaltender would do "based on the shot danger faced," according to Corsica's definition.

Jones has been better than his save percentage would indicate. His 0.54 five-on-five GSAA ranks 17th out of the 30 goalies that have played 1000 five-on-five minutes, and his all situations GSAA (8.69) ranks 11th out of 34 goalies that have played 1000 minutes in all situations. 

GSAA has the same downside as WAR, in that it's an accumulative statistic, and favors players that have played more. In order to equalize for playing time, we can look at GSAA/30 shots faced. 

Jones ranks 17th and 10th in five-on-five (0.03) and all situations (0.31) GSAA/30, respectively, among goaltenders that have played 1000 minutes in such circumstances. In other words, Jones has been about average during five-on-five play, and one of the league's better goalies across all situations, at least based on the kind of shots he's faced.

That's not neccessarily "great," but Jones has been better on the whole than his recent play would indicate. Of course, he's also been outplayed in his own crease.

Backup goaltender Aaron Dell not only boasts a higher save percentage than Jones, but his GSAA/30 in five-on-five situations (0.15) and across all strengths (0.44) are also higher than Jones'. Every 30 shots on the penalty kill, Dell (2.05 GSAA/30) saves nearly a goal more than Jones (1.06). 

DeBoer also acknowledged that Dell will have to play more out of necessity, with the Sharks halfway through a stretch of eight games in 13 days. That includes a difficult back-to-back this weekend, hosting the Penguins Saturday and facing the Ducks in Anaheim on Sunday. 

The coach was on to something on Thursday. Yes, Jones has been better than his recenty play, and his season-long save percentage, would indicate. 

But that doesn't mean he's been "great," nor does it mean he's San Jose's better option in net right now.