Sharks

Sharks were unlucky and poor in Saturday's loss to Kings

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USATSI

Sharks were unlucky and poor in Saturday's loss to Kings

It’s better to be lucky than good, but it’s worse to be unlucky and bad. The San Jose Sharks were both in Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings.

The Kings’ third goal was textbook. Well, it was if we’re talking about a physics class. as the puck bounced off of Brenden Dillon’s stick, Joe Thornton’s jersey and past Jones. The fourth might as well have been set to “Yakety Sax” when Jones dropped a dump-in and left the puck on a platter for ... Sharks forward Melker Karlsson?

Two weird goals in less than two minutes ended Martin Jones’ night and all but sealed San Jose’s second loss of the season. It’d be tempting to chalk it up to bad luck, but that does not paint the whole picture.

The Kings may have been lucky, but they were also very good.

They outshot the Sharks 39-25 in all situations, including a 27-23 advantage at even strength. The ice was tilted well in Los Angeles’ favor, and they spent extended stretches in San Jose’s defensive zone.

Frankly, it could have been worse. Luck may not have been on San Jose’s side all night, but it certainly was on the penalty kill. The Sharks pressured the puck down a man, but the Kings were able to mitigate that pressure easily and generate plenty of chances. An inch here or there, and perhaps Jones is pulled sooner.

The Sharks weren’t inches away from getting back in the game. They didn’t do much at even strength, and they did even less on the power play.

It was an area in which the team struggled last season, and one they don’t appear much better in after two games. They scored twice with the man advantage in Wednesday’s season opener, albeit off of a broken play and a deflected pass. That process doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, even if the results do.

Luckily, the Sharks don’t play again until Thursday. There’s time to diagnose what’s ailed them, and to overcome their first 0-2 start since 2005, when Joe Thornton was still in Boston. The Sharks won’t need to turn back the clock that far to find solutions, but it’s clear they need to do something differently.

So sure, the Sharks were unlucky to allow some of the goals they gave up on Saturday. The loss still could have been worse. And if they don’t manage to improve their play, luck will be the least of their concerns.

Martin Jones has not made up for Sharks' recent defensive struggles

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AP

Martin Jones has not made up for Sharks' recent defensive struggles

For just the third time this season, the Sharks scored three goals for the third consecutive game in Sunday night’s loss to the Wild. San Jose’s scored 13 goals in the last three games, which is a dramatic improvement for one of the league’s lowest-scoring offenses.

Sunday also marked the fourth time in the last five games the Sharks, one of the NHL’s best defensive teams, allowed four goals. All four have come in starts by Martin Jones since he returned to the crease on Dec. 2.

San Jose’s looked poor defensively in front of Jones following his return, and it’s been difficult to fault him on many of the goals. The Sharks’ defensive numbers over his last four starts match the eye test.

Normally, 21.66 percent of the shots Jones faces in five-on-five situations and 26.9 percent of the shots he faces in all situation are of the ‘high-danger’ variety, according to Corsica Hockey. Over his last four starts, those numbers are 29.90 percent and 32.23 percent, respectively.

But Jones also has not been up to his usual standards. At even strength this season, his high-danger save percentage is .798, and .821 in all situations.

Over the last four games, those numbers have fallen significantly. His high-danger save percentage at even strength is over seven points lower (.724), and nearly 13 points lower in all situations (.692).

So the Sharks, essentially, have allowed a higher share of high-danger shots in Jones’ first four starts after coming back from injury. Jones, meanwhile, hasn’t been able to offset that increase.

It’s unclear whether that increase, or Jones’ own performance, deserves a larger share of the blame. It’s clear, however, that the Sharks can’t expect to win if either trend continues.

San Jose’s remained in playoff contention this season because of their defense. As they’ve struggled to score, they’ve prevented their opponents from scoring, and won games on the backs of stingy defensive efforts.

The assumption with the Sharks was that, so long as their defensive effort remained level, an offense rounding into form would allow them to climb up the standings. The former’s gotten worse, and the Sharks are struggling more than their record would indicate.

Since Jones returned, San Jose is 2-2-1, and 1-2-1 in his starts. That mark could very easily be 0-2-2 or 0-3-1, if not for a three-goal comeback against the Hurricanes.

That’s worrisome ahead of one of the most vital stretches of the season. San Jose’s next six games are against divisional opponents, and they have an opportunity to gain significant ground in the division.

That opportunity will be wasted if the Sharks defense, and Jones, aren’t able to tighten up.

 

Sharks comeback falls short in wild loss to Minnesota

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USATSI

Sharks comeback falls short in wild loss to Minnesota

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- Nino Niederreiter scored 3:26 into overtime and the Minnesota Wild beat the San Jose Sharks 4-3 on Sunday night after squandering a three-goal lead.

Eric Staal scored twice and Ryan Murphy added a goal as the Wild extended their winning streak over the Sharks to four games.

Tomas Hertl tapped in a loose puck for San Jose with five minutes left in regulation to tie it at 3.

Hertl's goal followed a furious Sharks attack that Wild goalie Alex Stalock was able to fend off until a shot from Dylan DeMelo bounced off his shoulder pads and into no man's land just above the crease.

Brent Burns scored twice for the Sharks, who had won five of seven.

Stalock made 31 saves in his first appearance against his former team. Martin Jones stopped 20 shots for the Sharks.

The Wild, winners in four of their last five games, scored twice in the first 10 minutes. A series of sharp passes set up Murphy for a power-play goal just more than four minutes in. Staal sent a pass to Jason Zucker behind the net and he found Murphy for a 1-on-1 score.

Staal's first goal came after Ryan Suter recognized an advantage when Burns ran into Jones, knocking him off his feet. Suter delivered a pass to Staal, who easily fired it over Jones.

Early in the second period, Staal was able to push the puck through Jones' skates for a 3-0 Wild lead.

Burns got the Sharks on the scoreboard with a power-play goal during a two-man advantage late in the second period. Burns scored again on a power play with a slap shot from just inside the blue line midway through the third, his 12th multi-goal game.

NOTES: Sharks forward Jannik Hansen appeared in his 600th NHL game. ... Burns has six points in his last three games, including three goals. ... Murphy scored his first goal in 69 games. ... Staal had his second multi-goal effort in five games. ... Wild forward Jason Zucker has points in eight of his last nine games.

UP NEXT

Wild: Open a three-game homestand against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday.

Sharks: Begin a three-game road trip in Calgary on Thursday.