Sharks' slide continues, drop third straight in loss to Dallas Stars

Sharks' slide continues, drop third straight in loss to Dallas Stars


DALLAS  — Kari Lehtonen made 30 saves for his 36th career shutout Monday night. And still, one of the toughest shots he faced came before the game.

"He was ready to go today, just because I hit him up high in warmups," Dallas Stars teammate Patrick Sharp said. "I was a little worried. When he made those first couple saves, I was breathing a little bit easier."

Lehtonen thought Sharp's shot helped him get in the right frame of mind before his 1-0 win over the San Jose Sharks.

"It woke me up. Woke the beast," the goalie said.

Dallas scored the only goal Lehtonen needed at 14:54 of the second period. Curtis McKenzie got his fifth on a tip-in from the slot that beat Sharks goalie Aaron Dell.

Adam Cracknell took the shot from the left point.

"Great job by (Cracknell), just holding on the puck," McKenzie said. "He must have had it for a good 10 seconds before he shot it at the net. I just found myself open in front, so I was able to get a tip-in there."

Pacific Division leader San Jose (42-23-7) lost a third straight game for only the second time this season. The Sharks have scored just two goals in those three games.

"Chances are there," coach Peter DeBoer said, "so we've just got to bear down and we've got to get one dirty or ugly around the net. We've got to get one on the power play some way. It's not all bad by any means. There's a lot of good that's going on, but right now we're cold. We're paying a price for that."

The Sharks outshot the Stars 30-20, including 12-6 in the third period.

Dallas (29-33-10) is barely alive in the playoff race with 10 games remaining.

"It's been a tough year," Lehtonen said, "so after a game like this it feels especially good. Just the way we played the whole 60 minutes. It was really cool. Guys were blocking shots and getting all the rebounds."

Dallas' other shutout this season was Lehtonen's 3-0 win Dec. 3 at Colorado.

"He found a few pucks through traffic that were big saves for us," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "He made big saves when we needed it."

Neither team scored during the first period as they totaled 14 shots on goal, eight by the Sharks.

San Jose's Logan Couture, who has 25 goals, almost got another in the first, but Lehtonen stopped the shot with his foot.

"It was just a difficult situation when Couture has some time and I'm already down, so I have to do something tricky," Lehtonen said. "I thought he was going to shoot right away, and he was trying to go around me. That's where the long legs came to help me."

The Stars had another good chance in the second after McKenzie's goal, but Dell stopped a 3-on-1 rush. San Jose again outshot Dallas, 10-8, for an 18-14 advantage after two periods.

San Jose couldn't score even after pulling Dell with just under two minutes remaining. Dallas missed two tries at the empty net.

"It's a 1-0 game," Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said. "Feeling is, just stick with it. We can't hang our head. Just got to find a way to be a little bit better."

NOTES: Sharks C Chris Tierney was out for the first time this season, sidelined by the flu. ... Dallas C Jason Spezza did not play because of back spasms. ... Stars D Dan Hamhuis went down on the ice at the end of the second period. He was hit in the face by Couture's stick when the Sharks' center followed through on a shot from the right corner. Hamhuis returned after taking stitches during the intermission. ... The Stars were coming off a 1-3 road trip — they were outscored 17-5. ... San Jose has been shut out five times this season. ... Each team was 0 for 2 on the power play. ... Dallas C Tyler Seguin won 10 of 13 faceoffs.


Sharks: Play the second of a four-game trip Wednesday at Minnesota before returning to Dallas to play on Friday.

Stars: Travel to Chicago to play on Thursday.

Couture scores in OT, helps Sharks make up ground on Golden Knights

Couture scores in OT, helps Sharks make up ground on Golden Knights


SAN JOSE -- Seconds after almost costing the San Jose Sharks a game with a turnover, Logan Couture ended it with his backhand.

Couture scored 39 seconds into overtime after getting bailed out by goalie Martin Jones and the San Jose Sharks won their season-high sixth straight game, 2-1 over the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night.

"I was able to make a move on their guy," Couture said. "(Marc-Edouard Vlasic) did a good job of driving their backchecker back and I was able to go far side."

Couture's goal came at the end of an opening shift of the overtime that started with him losing the puck in his own zone, giving Jonathan Marchessault a chance alone in front. Jones got enough of the shot to stop it, and then Vlasic sent the puck ahead to Couture for the winning goal that moved San Jose within seven points of first-place Vegas with eight games remaining in the regular season.

Brent Burns also scored and Jones made 24 saves to help the Sharks open a four-point lead over third-place Los Angeles in the Pacific Division with a game in hand as the Sharks close in on home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

"For us to get a win tonight was important," captain Joe Pavelski said. "Plus, just plant that seed. If we stay hot, you never know, we might be able to catch them and get home ice. We took care of business tonight and we'll try to keep playing well."

Tomas Tatar scored the lone goal for the Golden Knights, who were kept in the game by a sterling performance by goalie Malcolm Subban. He stopped 42 shots but it wasn't enough for Vegas to come up with the win, although he helped earn a point that gave the expansion team 100 this season.

"It's impressive," forward James Neal said. "It's a great season for our guys. Guys came together real quick. A great job so far but we're not done yet."

The Golden Knights struck first on a pretty passing play early in the first period that ended when Marchessault found Tatar cutting through the slot ahead of Justin Braun. Tatar skated past Jones and backhanded the puck into the open net.

Vegas has been dominant when getting off to a lead, posting an NHL-best 31-5-1 record when scoring first heading into this game. But the Sharks carried the play in the second period, outshooting the Golden Knights 18-4 and getting the equalizer on a blast by Burns from the point after another strong shift by San Jose's fourth line.

"We want to be playing really good hockey this time of year and heading into the playoffs. I think that's the goal," coach Peter DeBoer said. "Whether we would have won tonight or lost, I like how we played for most of the game, so that's what I'm concentrating on."

Vegas managed to keep it tied despite the lopsided shot totals, killing off a four-minute penalty to Colin Miller and another late power play that started late in the second.

That penalty carried over until the third period and the Sharks got 25 seconds of a two-man advantage after Brayden McNabb was called for throwing his stick but still couldn't get anything past Subban.

The Golden Knights squandered a power-play chance later in the period when Miller was called for cross checking with the man advantage. That nearly led to a power-play goal for San Jose but Subban appeared to get a piece of a shot from in close to Joe Pavelski to keep the game tied at 1.

"He's the main reason we got the point," coach Gerard Gallant said. "He looked comfortable."

NOTES: Vegas G Marc-Andre Fleury didn't make the trip to San Jose with an undisclosed injury but is expected to join the team for Saturday's game in Colorado. ... Burns became the 15th player to play 500 career games with the Sharks.

Golden Knights: Visit Colorado on Saturday.

Sharks: Host Calgary on Saturday.


How the Sharks can catch the Golden Knights and win the Pacific


How the Sharks can catch the Golden Knights and win the Pacific

About a month ago, the Sharks appeared locked into the Pacific Division's second, third, fourth, or fifth spot. At the end of trade deadline day, they were 12 points back of the division-leading Vegas Golden Knights, and only two points up on the fifth place Calgary Flames.

24 days later, thanks to an 8-2-0 record over the last 10 games (second-best in the NHL), San Jose's still in second place. Now though, those margins are eight points and 11 points, respectively. 

The latter's pretty much locked the Sharks into a playoff spot, while the former's created a path for a late run at the Pacific Division crown. Beginning Thursday night, they will play the Golden Knights twice over both team's final nine games. 

What does the path look like to the Sharks' first division title since 2011? To start, they'll have to beat the Golden Knights twice in regulation to even have a shot. 

That is the foundation of any run at the Pacific's top spot. If the Sharks win both remaining games in regulation, they'll trail the Golden Knights by four points, leaving aside results against other teams for now.

They have to win in regulation, however. A win in overtime or the shootout on Thursday would only cut the gap to seven, and a subsequent win in regulation would leave it at five. Two losses, in any situation, would create a gap of 10-12 points, which would be nearly impossible to overcome this late in the season. 

One point doesn't seem like a lot, but this late in the season, it makes a world of difference. A five-point gap means they'll need to earn six more than the Golden Knights in those other seven games, while a four-point gap means they'll need to earn five in order to pass them. 

The simplest way to five extra points, is for the Sharks to have a record that's two wins and an overtime loss better (2-0-1) than the Golden Knights in the seven games where they don't play each other. That's impossible if Vegas earns at least 10 points in those seven games, so a 5-2-0 or 4-1-2 record would ensure a division banner raising in Sin City.

Taken all together, then, the Golden Knights' 'magic number' is 10 points. Even if the Sharks win on Thursday, their path to a Pacific title remains difficult, if not improbable. 

If a season with an expansion team leading their division has taught us anything, though -- it's that improbable is not impossible.