Sharks will have to avoid lapses in Cup Final rematch


Sharks will have to avoid lapses in Cup Final rematch

SAN JOSE – Some disturbing lapses have cost the Sharks in back-to-back losses to Arizona and Calgary. 

The second period of the Coyotes game on Tuesday night, and the first period against the Flames on Thursday resulted in a pair of 3-2 San Jose defeats to clubs that simply aren’t as good as they are on paper.

Perhaps it’s a good time, then, for the Pittsburgh Penguins to visit SAP Center on Saturday. The Sharks know they’ll have to be geared up from the drop of the puck if they want any shot at knocking off the club that ruined their championship dreams last June, and is once again one of the best teams in the league at 7-2-2.

“I think sometimes you expect certain things to happen when you play certain teams, which we shouldn’t,” Paul Martin said. “With Pittsburgh, you have to prepare like it’s the best team in the league. You have to earn everything that you get, so you have to come ready to play. You need everybody.”

Pittsburgh has already knocked off the Sharks once since raising the Stanley Cup at SAP Center last June 12. The Penguins erased a 2-0 third period hole to score three times before the end of the frame, stunning the Sharks at PPG Paints Arena on Oct. 20, 3-2.

“Gave up a lead in the third. Sat back, and they came after us,” Logan Couture recalled. “We’re focused on ourselves right now. We’ve got to play better, and that’s what we’re going to focus on going into [Saturday].”

The most impressive aspect of that win for the Penguins two weeks ago is that they did it without arguably their two best players, Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang. Both are back and expected to play on Saturday.

“Two of the top players in the league at their position,” said Martin, a former teammate of both. “Able to create so much on their own, and change aspects of the game. It’s one of those things that for us it will be a team effort and we’ll need everyone to be on their game and make sure that we stay sharp.”

Crosby is off to an impressive start after missing the first six games of the season with a concussion. He has six goals, tied for the team lead with Evgeni Malkin, and eight points in just five games.

Couture got to know the reigning Conn Smythe winner at the World Cup of Hockey, as both were a part of the victorious Team Canada. He came away impressed with the 29-year-old both on and off the ice.

“He’s the best player in the world. He does everything so well,” Couture said. “The puck follows him around, he’s strong on it, you can go on and on all day about all the things he does well. He’s tough to play against.”

“He hung out with the guys from the Sharks actually, quite a bit. We got along well, him and all the other guys on our team. Great guy, humble, down to earth. Easy to get along with.”

Should be easy to get up for playing against Crosby and his teammates, too, as the Sharks try and put an end to their two-game losing streak.

“If you don’t, you’re going to be in trouble against that opponent,” DeBoer said. “We know our game, we know when we’re not playing our game for long enough periods. We have to get back to it, it’s that simple.”

Paul Martin rewarding Peter DeBoer's faith in NHL return


Paul Martin rewarding Peter DeBoer's faith in NHL return

When Sharks defenseman Paul Martin confirmed reports in January that he was willing to go elsewhere for more playing time, his head coach was insistent that the team would need the veteran blueliner. 

"I really believe we need eight NHL defenseman here," DeBoer told reporters in January (via The Mercury News). "If it happens that he isn't here, then that'll be disappointing for us. I'm not hoping that's where this goes. I'm hoping this goes to a place where he can maybe go down, play some games and keep himself ready, because I know we're going to need eight defensemen."

That's pretty much exactly what's happened.

After clearing waivers in January and playing with the AHL's San Jose Barracuda, Martin was called up ahead of the Sharks' four-game road trip at the end of February. He did not play until last Saturday in Vancouver, when an upper-body injury to rookie defenseman Joakim Ryan, whose play pushed Martin down the depth chart in the first place, created an opening alongside Brent Burns. 

Martin's now played three straight games with Burns, his defensive partner for the vast majority of the previous two seasons. It's the first time Martin's played in three consecutive NHL games all season, and although he hasn't played much (11:53 in average time-on-ice), he's acquitted himself nicely in a sheltered role.

His five-on-five possession numbers (52.78 percent corsi-for; 53.33 percent fenwick-for) are the second-best marks among Sharks defensemen over the last three games. Burns, too, has posted better possession numbers with Martin (47.62 percent corsi-for; 50 percent fenwick-for) during the last three contests than without his longtime partner (43.40 percent corsi-for; 41.67 percent fenwick-for). 

The Sharks have also outscored (3-0) and outchanced (17-16) opponents with Martin on the ice, neither of which was the case in Martin's first three appearances earlier this season. The former is owed to a decent amount of puck luck, as the Sharks have converted on 17.65 percent of their shots with him on the ice, but the latter is an extension of his solid underlying numbers. 

Martin's played the least amount of total minutes among Sharks defensemen since coming back, even as Marc-Edouard Vlasic missed time in two of the last three games, and has barely been used in special teams. His days of averaging 20-or-more minutes a night are likely behind him, but the 37-year-old has played well in a limited role. 

Considering Martin's NHL days appeared to be behind him as recently as last month, his play has been a pleasant surprise. With the exception of his head coach, that is. 

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.