Sharks

Sharks lose in Vancouver for first time since 2012

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USATSI

Sharks lose in Vancouver for first time since 2012

BOX SCORE

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Sam Gagner scored at 4:34 of overtime and the Vancouver Canucks snapped a four-game losing streak with a 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Friday night.

Gagner beat Martin Jones with a nice backhand move on a breakaway for his fourth of the season after a feed from Alexander Edler. It was Gagner's first goal in nine games.

Markus Granlund scored twice and Brock Boeser also had a goal in regulation for Vancouver (15-14-4). Henrik Sedin and brother Daniel Sedin each added three assists. Jacob Markstrom made 34 saves.

Brent Burns scored two goals and Marcus Sorenson had one for San Jose (17-10-4). Martin Jones stopped 36 shots for the Sharks, who were playing their second game in two nights after Thursday's 3-2 road victory over the Calgary Flames.

San Jose had won 11 straight at Rogers Arena dating back to the Canucks' last victory on home ice over their Pacific Division rivals all the way back on Jan. 21, 2012. Vancouver was 0-9-2 over that stretch while getting outscored 41-14.

Leading 3-2 through 40 minutes, the Canucks nearly restored their two-goal lead four minutes into the third, but Jones stretched to make a great pad save on Thomas Vanek.

The Sharks mustered only one shot through the first 13 minutes of the final period, but got the equalizer with 5:49 left in regulation when Burns' point shot went off the skate of Canucks defenseman Alex Biega in front and beat Markstrom for his second of the night, sixth of the season and fifth in five games.

Coming off Wednesday's embarrassing 7-1 loss at home to Nashville, the Canucks stormed out of the gate against the Sharks and led 2-1 after the first period before Boeser stretched the lead to two.

The NHL's rookie scoring leader ripped a shot over Jones' shoulder on the power play at 11:56 of the second for his 17th, moments after slicing through the Sharks' defense and ringing a shot off the post.

San Jose got that one back with 1:44 left in the period when former Canucks forward Jannik Hansen started a sequence that ended with Sorenson netting his first past Markstrom.

Already minus five regulars, including two-thirds of their top line with Bo Horvat (broken foot) and Sven Baertschi (broken jaw) out long-term, the Canucks announced Friday morning that shutdown defenseman Christopher Tanev will miss two to three weeks with a groin strain.

Granlund, who came in with one goal in his last 12 games, opened the scoring 44 seconds in on the power play. Daniel Sedin redirected a slap pass in the slot from Henrik Sedin right to Granlund at the side of the net, and he beat Jones between the legs for his fifth.

Vancouver could have easily been up by two or three moments later as the Canucks led 10-0 in shots after just five minutes.

San Jose, which came in 7 for 21 on the power play over its last four games to climb from tied for 24th overall to tied for 11th, tested Markstrom five times on its first man-advantage opportunity before finally breaking through after Vancouver took another penalty.

The Sharks won an offensive-zone faceoff back to Burns, who snapped his fifth past Markstrom at 10:45.

Markstrom stopped San Jose's Chris Tierney on a short-handed breakaway later in the period before Granlund scored his second of the night seconds after the penalty expired. Daniel Sedin's initial shot fell at the top of the crease to Henrik Sedin, who tapped it over for Granlund to put into a wide-open net at 14:27.

NOTES: Canucks center Brandon Sutter and defenseman Erik Gudbranson remain sidelined with upper-body injuries. Vancouver is also without wing Derek Dorsett, who ended his playing career late last month due to spinal problems. ... San Jose forward Joel Ward got an assist on Burns' second goal of the night for his 300th career point in his 700th NHL game.

UP NEXT

Sharks: Monday night at Edmonton.

Canucks: Sunday at home against Calgary.

Speedy Sharks and Golden Knights ready to fly on the ice in second round

Speedy Sharks and Golden Knights ready to fly on the ice in second round

Speed kills, and it claimed another two victims in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs: The Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings. The "heavy" playing style that powered three combined championships in Southern California since 2007 was left in the dust by a pair of speedier division rivals, the Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights, en route to the only sweeps so far this postseason. 

San Jose learned this lesson firsthand. In a six-game series loss during the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, the Sharks could not keep up with the Pittsburgh Penguins' team speed.

Pittsburgh deployed three, mobile defensive pairings and sprinkled speed on all four forward lines. San Jose, meanwhile, had a few fast forwards in the lineup and strong skaters among its top-four defensemen, but its speed was only a relative strength against teams in the Western Conference.

Following the loss in the Final, the Sharks have infused their lineup with speed and skating ability. Mikkel Boedker was signed the following summer, and Evander Kane was acquired at this year's trade deadline. Kevin Labanc, Timo Meier, and Marcus Sorensen debuted last season. Dylan DeMelo, Tim Heed, and Joakim Ryan played extended NHL minutes this season, and there's nary a Roman Polak in sight. 

Take it all together, and San Jose played at a high pace this season. Using team-level shot-attempt rates as a proxy for pace of play, as Sean Tierney of HockeyGraphs and The Athletic did with the graph shown below, the Sharks played at the league's third-highest pace this season. 

The Ducks were pretty far behind the Sharks on the season, at a rate of about five fewer shot attempts per hour. Keep in mind that data includes 67 games of Cam Fowler, one of Anaheim's best skaters on the blueline who missed the entirety of the first round with a shoulder injury. The Golden Knights don't rank as highly as one might expect, but still played at a faster pace than the Kings.

Vegas didn't have the same inciting incident as San Jose to fill its roster with strong skaters, considering the expansion team didn't play its first game until October. Instead, the Golden Knights saw the writing on the wall, and placed a premium on skating ability in the expansion draft, and in adding to their team afterward. 

"That was our basis for who we chose," Vegas pro scout Kelly Kisio told NBC Sports California in a February interview. "Guys that had hockey sense, and guys that could skate. If you have those guys, they will somehow make it happen."

43-goal scorer William Karlsson is a burner, and they acquired another one, Tomas Tatar, at the trade deadline. Blue-chip blueliners Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore were prized for their mobility well before landing in Sin City. Even bottom-six forwards like Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and depth defensemen like Jon Merrill are good skaters. 

The disparity was clear in Vegas' first-round series with Los Angeles. Five-on-five, only three teams in the first round have accounted for a higher percentage of expected goals entering Friday (Winnipeg Jets, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Washington Capitals) than the Golden Knights, according to Corsica Hockey. 

Neither Vegas nor San jose will enjoy gap in skating ability against one another, however, setting up a what should be a standout second-round matchup. The games will be fast, but the length of the first-ever playoff series between the two should be anything but. 

DeBoer: Now healthy, series-clincher Hertl can reach 'another level' in playoffs

DeBoer: Now healthy, series-clincher Hertl can reach 'another level' in playoffs

SAN JOSE -- Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer thought Tomas Hertl’s series-clinching goal on Wednesday, in the midst of the best season of his five-year NHL career, was a long time coming.

“He would’ve gotten to this level earlier than this year if he had been healthy,” DeBoer said after San Jose swept the Anaheim Ducks out of the first round with a 2-1 win in Game 4. “He’s had some really bad luck with some really bad injuries. He’s healthy and he’s playing at another level, and I still think he’s got another level he can get to, too.”

Hertl deflected Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s point shot through Ducks goaltender John Gibson’s legs for the game-winner with 10:51 remaining in regulation, and just over a minute after Anaheim tied the game. As NBC Sports California statistician Darin Stephens noted, it was the Czech forward’s second career game-winning goal in the postseason.

Since entering the league in 2013-14, Hertl’s tied for 37th with 22 game-winning goals in the regular season and playoffs, according to STATS. Only Joe Pavelski (32) and Logan Couture (23) have more during that time, and Hertl’s played 85 fewer games than Pavelski, and 26 than Couture.

Were it not for recurring right knee issues that caused him to miss 45 games his rookie season, cut short his Stanley Cup Final in 2016, and forced him to miss another 33 last year, he’d almost certainly be higher on the list.

Five-on-five, only 11 players that played a minimum of 500 minutes have generated expected goals (xG), or shot attempts that account for quality, at a higher rate than Hertl (0.95 xG/60, according to Corsica Hockey) since he entered the league. If you include the postseason, he jumps into the top 10.

DeBoer’s right to think Hertl can reach another level, too. The 25-year-old’s 21 non-empty-net goals matched a career-high, no player underperformed their expected goals total across all situations more than Hertl, as Sean Tierney of HockeyGraphs and The Athletic pointed out.

With health back on Hertl’s side, DeBoer doesn’t see this as the young forward finally maximizing his potential. Instead, the head coach thinks Hertl is just beginning to reach it.

“This wasn’t about anyone pushing him…[He’s] been healthy and he’s starting to find the level that he’s capable of being at, I think, for a long career.”