Sharks

Sharks try to avoid rare third straight loss

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Sharks try to avoid rare third straight loss

PROGRAMMINGALERT: Tune into Sharks Pregame Live on CSNCalifornia at 6 p.m. and Sharks Postgame Live immediately after thegame.

EDMONTON Its been more than three months since the Sharks lost three consecutive games in regulation. Theyll try to avoid it again tonight in Edmonton against the struggling Oilers.

San Jose won its season opener handily against Phoenix before dropping its next three games, including two to Anaheim. Since that time, the Sharks have gone two in a row with no points in the standings just twice, including last Thursday against Ottawa and Saturday afternoon vs. Vancouver.

Youre going to lose games. Ive always stressed that its important not to lose the next one, Dan Boyle said on Sunday after the teams skate at Rexall Place. It is going to happen at times, but I think weve done a pretty good job of coming back after losses with a pretty good effort.

Thats not to say that they dont suffer after the losses, though. For Boyle, its not necessarily a bad thing to keep those disappointing feelings close for a brief time.

I think you have to feel it for awhile. Were all different, and some guys turn the page a little bit quicker than others. I think it does need to sting for awhile, but then you do eventually have to turn the page and move on, he said.

Head coach Todd McLellan doesnt want his team to dwell on any kind of streaks, good or bad. Instead, he wants the team to focus each game individually.

I dont want us to carry streaks. I dont want us to refer to numbers, because when we won nine of 10 we werent running around saying hey, we won nine of 10. Thats not how we operate, he said. I want us to play our game, and play sharp.

The team hasnt necessarily played its worst hockey in the two losses. Vancouver capitalized on its primo scoring chances in a game that could have gone either way on Saturday, including a bad bounce on the game-winning goal by Cody Hodgson late in the third period.

And, yes, the team was outplayed by Ottawa on Thursday night, but goaltender Antti Niemi played one of his poorest games of the season - a major factor in the 4-1 loss.

I want us to play how we did in Vancouver, believe it or not, and clean up a few areas, McLellan said. Not major changes, but I want us to be that competitive and execute as well as we did on the power play and the penalty kill, finally. I want us to clean up a few moments in a game that probably cost us.

San Jose has been able to avoid long stretches of bad hockey for a couple of reasons, according to the coach.

Leadership and maturity. I dont think theres a big sense of panic when we lose games. The sense of urgency goes way up, but there isnt a sense of panic. To come out of a losing streak you have to do it collectively. You cant do it as individuals. I think were learning that lesson as we move on. Well win as a group, and well keep losing as individuals."

After a strong start to the year in which they were among the NHLs best defensive clubs, the Oilers have fallen off the map and look like theyll be challenging once again for the top pick in the draft next June. In fact, the Oilers are just six points ahead of Columbus, in 29th place in the NHL standings.

Edmonton is just 1-7-1 in its last nine games, its lone victory a 2-1 win over the Kings in overtime on Jan 15. The Oilers are also coming off of an ugly 6-2 loss to Calgary in Saturday nights Hockey Night in Canada broadcast, and coach Tom Renney subjected them to a hard practice on Sunday.

Thats not the effort we want, especially against a rival like that, on Hockey Night in Canada, Taylor Hall said. Thats not the effort thats going to be needed to win any games this year. This morning was a result of that. It was a tough practice.

Forward Ryan Jones said: I think thats exactly what we deserved. Toms sending a message, and its well received.

While McLellan doesnt want his team looking at the standings when it comes to the Oilers, the Sharks are likely well aware that the Oilers are fading. That doesnt mean theyll take Edmonton lightly, though, since it gave San Jose a tough match on Dec. 17 at HP Pavilion a 3-2 Sharks win in which Patrick Marleaus third period power play goal was the difference.

They got beat up pretty good last game, and teams most of the time seem to come back from something like that and come together, and usually come out with a pretty strong performance the next time, Boyle said.

Sharks headed in right direction, road trip to reveal who they really are

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USATSI

Sharks headed in right direction, road trip to reveal who they really are

The difference between a 2-3-0 start and a 1-4-0 start is bigger than two standings points.

The former is far from ideal, but if you squint hard enough, there's enough wiggle room to improve. There's still time with the latter, too, but the margin for error is much thinner moving forward.

The Sharks experienced that difference firsthand after Tuesday’s 5-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens. It's not an ideal record, but they’ve managed to salvage a poor start. 

There are still some flaws, to be sure. The power play isn't just the Kevin Labanc show after the top unit scored all three power play goals Tuesday, but is still carrying a disproportionate offensive load. The penalty kill’s scoreless streak came to an end, but they were called into action six times.

Despite all that, Tuesday's win was San Jose’s best effort this season. Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, and Joe Thornton all had multi-point games for the first time this year. Martin Jones had another strong game, and appears to have shaken off his slow start.

In short, San Jose’s game is headed in the right direction. It needs to be, with a five-game road trip beginning on Friday. 

Now comes the hard part.

It's on the road where we’ll get our best sense of who this team really is. Peter DeBoer won’t have the benefit of last change, and won't be able to dictate matchups. 

Under these circumstances, we’ll begin to really see if Joakim Ryan is ready for a top-four role, whether Kevin Labanc is a viable first-line winger, and how the rest of the young reinforcements stack up. They will have less time off, too, as all but one game occurs after one day (or less) of rest and travel. That missed practice time isn't ideal for any team, let alone one still trying to work out the kinks.

Fortunately, the competition is forgiving, at least on paper. Other than the Devils, none of the Sharks’ four other road trip opponents have winning records as of this writing. The topsy turvy nature of the standings, though, show how little “on paper” means this early in the season.

We’ll know a lot more about who these San Jose Sharks are by the time their road trip ends. Their record still won't tell the whole story, but by then, they'll have played about an eighth of the season. 

And by then, we’ll have a much better idea of how good this team really is.

Sharks' offense comes alive, leads charge in win over Canadiens

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AP

Sharks' offense comes alive, leads charge in win over Canadiens

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE — Logan Couture credited a teammate for scoring his second goal. He took credit for the first one.

Couture scored a pair of goals and the San Jose Sharks extended their dominance of the Montreal Canadiens with a 5-2 victory on Tuesday night.

Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl also scored for the Sharks, who have won the past 11 home games against the Canadiens, a streak that dates to Nov. 23, 1999.

On a power play late in the third period, rookie Tim Heed took a shot off a face-off that bounced free in front of the net. Pavelski couldn't get his stick on it but managed to kick it across the net for Couture, who found a huge opening.

"That was pretty special," Couture said. "I don't know if he knew I was there but he kept his balance and kicked it over."

Couture opened the scoring 3:30 into the first period, grabbing a rebound off the back board, skating across the front of the net to get Price to commit and then firing into an open net.

Jonathan Drouin and Shea Weber scored for the Canadiens, who are winless since an opening night victory at the Buffalo Sabres.

"It's a very poor start from our team, from myself, from a lot of individuals," Canadiens' Max Pacioretty said. "It's a good time to look in the mirror and see what we're made of because a lot of people are probably doubting this team right now."

Martin Jones stopped 28 of 30 shots for the Sharks, who finish their season-opening homestand with a 2-3 record.

"The biggest thing is finding that energy for the whole game," Jones said. "We started OK and then we got better as the night went on."

Carey Price, who stopped 31 of 35 shots, fell to 2-7-1 in 10 games against the Sharks.

The Canadiens responded 36 seconds later when Drouin picked up a pass from Artturi Lehkonen close in and fired it over Jones' left shoulder and into the net.

Pavelski gave the Sharks the lead for good when he redirected Kevin Labanc's shot just under a minute into the second period. The shot hit Weber's left shin pad and bounced into the net.

"There were a lot of good things out there," Pavelski said. "We didn't have the homestand we wanted but we can leave on a positive note to take on the road."

Hertl padded the lead midway through the second on a power play. Standing on the right side of the net, he was trying to control a pass from Joe Thornton but the puck fluttered off his stick and got behind Price.

"I'll take it any way I can get it," Hertl said. "There are times I've had great shots that just bounced off the post."

Weber's power-play goal two minutes later kicked off Jones' skates for the score.

The Sharks needed five seconds to score on a power play late in the second period. Tim Heed shot on goal and it bounced off Pavelski's skate. Couture picked it up and found a huge opening.

NOTES: After allowing three power play goals over their first five penalty kills, the Sharks killed off 14 straight until Weber scored in the second period. ... Couture recorded his 24th career multi-goal game. ... Sharks D Tim Heed recorded his first NHL point with an assist on Couture's power-play goal. ... Brendan Gallagher needs one assist for 100 with the Canadiens.

UP NEXT:

Canadiens: plays at the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday in their second back-to-back of the season.

Sharks: open a five-game road trip on the east coast with a game at the New Jersey Devils on Friday.