Sharks

Uncharacteristic sloppiness costs Sharks in OT loss

Uncharacteristic sloppiness costs Sharks in OT loss

SAN JOSE – Here’s the thing about the Sharks’ February schedule – they aren’t facing a single team that is a legitimate threat to win the Stanley Cup. Further, seven of the 11 are against Eastern Conference opponents, while the other four are against Vancouver and Arizona (twice each), the two worst teams in the Pacific Division.

It’s only human nature that the Sharks might not be as mentally focused during a stretch of opponents that aren’t traditional rivals, and that they aren’t going to see in any postseason series. That includes the Florida Panthers, who even if they squeak into the playoffs, aren’t in any kind of position to make a deep run.

The Sharks had their legs against Florida on Wednesday night, outshooting them 36-22. But mental mistake after mental mistake allowed the Panthers to pile on six goals, including Jonathan Huberdeau’s game-winner in overtime, in a 6-5 Florida win.

“You look back at all their goals tonight, [they are] on our sticks,” Logan Couture said. “We gave it to them, and their young skill – they thrive off of turnovers. That’s where they get creative and create chances like they did. Tic-tac-toe, it’s in the back of our net. That’s on us, those are our mistakes.”

“Yeah, we made some errors tonight,” Joe Pavelski said. “They’re one of those teams with a lot of speed, and they’ve got some guys that like to make plays. They finished.”

Florida jumped out to an early 3-1 lead, scoring their first two when Brent Burns and then Brenden Dillon weren’t in the right position. The third came on a blatant Marc-Edouard Vlasic defensive zone turnover.

After getting one back later in the first, San Jose dominated the second period and tied it on a Vlasic slapper, making it 3-3 after two.

A couple more turnovers though, by Timo Meier and Chris Tierney, helped the Panthers gain a two-goal cushion in the third again. Nick Bjugstad swiped in an Alex Petrovic pass to make it 4-3 when Meier couldn’t clear the zone, and Aleksander Barkov finished off a pretty passing play from Jaromir Jagr and Petrovic, after Tierney slid it up to Petrovic's blade high in the zone.

“We didn’t give up a lot of shots, but we gave up a lot of grade-A opportunities, which is a little uncharacteristic,” Pete DeBoer said. “That’s a team that will stick it in the back of the net if you give them grade-A looks. I think that was our biggest error tonight. It wasn’t the number of chances, it was the quality of them. … We’re usually better than that.”

Neither DeBoer nor Vlasic agreed with the theory that the Sharks weren’t as mentally prepared against an opponent like the Panthers, even if their miscues with the puck suggested otherwise. “No, I don’t sense that at all,” said the coach. “We were up tonight, we had great energy. We weren’t smart with the puck in some situations, and it burnt us.”

And, the Sharks nearly won the game anyway. Pavelski scored a pair of late goals to force overtime, getting some help on a redirection by Michael Matheson at 16:39 in his own net, and then lifting in a loose puck off of the post with just 38 seconds to go in regulation.

The captain’s efforts allowed the Sharks to record at least a point in the standings for the 13th time in their last 15 games, even if they’ve won just one of their last six.

“We wanted to get one just to give ourselves a chance,” Pavelski said, “[and] we end up tying it up there. It’s definitely a good feeling.”

In overtime, though, it was more sloppiness that cost San Jose. David Schlemko was pressured into a turnover below the goal line by Huberdeau, who then took a pass from Barkov and slid it past Martin Jones at 1:38 of the extra session.

Had the Sharks just been a little cleaner with the puck - and their heads screwed on a little more tightly - it could have been a routine victory.

“I never for a second thought we weren’t in control of that game,” Couture said. “I thought we had the majority of the chances, just we kept turning the puck over. They made us pay for it. Every turnover ended up in our net.”

Sharks win second straight, beat Devils to start road trip

Sharks win second straight, beat Devils to start road trip

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. — Martin Jones made 28 saves for his first shutout of the season and 16th overall in the San Jose Sharks' 3-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.

Melker Karlsson, Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi scored and Justin Braun had two assists to help the Sharks open a five-game East Coast trip.

Keith Kinkaid, the top goalie for New Jersey with Cory Schneider on injured reserve, stopped 30 shots as the Devils' three-game winning streak came to an end.

The Devils couldn't muster a strong push in the later stages against the rested Sharks. It was New Jersey's second game two nights following a 5-4 overtime victory in Ottawa. And it showed against the Sharks, who played a solid road game, pressed their advantage and solidly supported Jones.

Karlsson scored the lone goal of the opening period at 14:11 on a close-in shot following a slick behind-the-net setup pass from Tomas Hertl.

The shots were 13 for each team in the evenly played period. The Devils came close on several occasions as former Shark Mirco Mueller and Blake Coleman both hit the crossbar and Jones robbed Drew Stafford on a dead-on drive from the slot.

Pavelski and Donskoi got second-period goals as the Sharks steadily tightened their grip on the game.

Pavelski tipped in Braun's point shot at 5:49. Joe Thornton got the second assist, his 1,395th point, to pass Luc Robitaille for 21st on the career list.

Donskoi backhanded a rebound shot with 1:10 left in the period in which the Sharks outshot the Devils 11-6.

The remaining drama centered on Jones' shutout bid.

NOTES: The Devils placed Schneider on injured reserve Friday with a lower-body injury and recalled Scott Wedgewood from Binghamton of the American Hockey League to serve as Kinkaid's backup. ... Mueller, a healthy scratch in three of the previous four games, returned for the Devils to face the Sharks, the team that drafted him in the first round, for the first time. He was dealt to New Jersey over the summer.

UP NEXT

Sharks: At the New York Islanders on Saturday night.

Devils: Host Ottawa on Friday night.

As Joakim Ryan returns home, Sharks reunite with a former top prospect

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AP

As Joakim Ryan returns home, Sharks reunite with a former top prospect

When Joakim Ryan suits up in his first NHL road game against the New Jersey Devils Friday night, he’ll do so in a familiar place.

Ryan, a New Jersey-born Swede, played for the Devils’ youth program and nearby Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) in high school. In fact, he’s already played at the Prudential Center, skating in the state championship game with CBA in 2009.

He’s not the only one due for something of a homecoming, as the Sharks may see a familiar face line up on the opposing blueline.

This is the Sharks’ first matchup against New Jersey since trading 2013 first round pick Mirco Mueller ahead of June’s Expansion Draft. Mueller was once considered the future on the San Jose blueline, a smooth-skating defenseman with size to boot.

The Swiss defender never fulfilled his potential, in part because his development was rushed from the start. He made the NHL roster as a rookie in 2014-15, almost by default. Other than Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the only defensemen ahead of him on left side of the depth chart were a far past-his-prime Scott Hannan and regular scratch Matt Irwin. Such was the nature of the Sharks’ “step back” that year.

Mueller finally got regular playing time, albeit in the minors, during his second professional season. By then, he was pushed down the organizational depth chart by the team’s acquisitions of Brenden Dillon and Roman Polak, and the development of Dylan DeMelo. David Schlemko’s signing last summer kept Mueller there for most of 2016-17, but it was Ryan and Tim Heed that ensured Mueller’s NHL future would lie elsewhere. The Swedes surpassed him, and emerged as perhaps the AHL’s best defensive pair in the process.

It’s fitting, then, that Ryan and Heed will be in the lineup tonight, and Mueller may not, as the fresh start he needed hasn’t quite panned out. He’s averaging a career-high 18:44 in ice time, but has been scratched in three of New Jersey’s seven games, including Thursday night’s overtime win in Ottawa.

So Ryan comes home to New Jersey under much happier circumstances than Mueller will reunite with the Sharks. One prodigal son returns, and the other is simply trying to save face.

It’s still early in his Devils tenure, of course, and Mueller may yet emerge as a regular on the New Jersey blueline. His Sharks reunion, though, will serve as a reminder of what once was, what could have been, and what is now San Jose’s future on defense.