Holiday break comes at right time for Sharks after third straight loss

Holiday break comes at right time for Sharks after third straight loss

The Sharks found a way to push both games of their weekend back-to-back past regulation, and managed to snag a point in each. While they felt they had more to give against bottom-feeder squads like the Los Angeles Kings and Arizona Coyotes, they also recognized the reality of the situation.

Their hectic schedule from the first few months of their season finally caught up to them.

“I feel like the break is coming at the right time,” coach Peter DeBoer told the media after Sunday’s 4-3 shootout loss to Arizona. “I feel like our team is running on fumes a little bit. The tank’s a little empty. We’ve had to dig deep the last two nights to find a way to scratch out a couple points.”

Not that you can blame them. Through 37 games so in the 2018-19 campaign, San Jose has played 18 games on home ice as opposed to 19 on the road. Since the beginning of November, the Sharks have played in six back-to-backs, four of which have been away from SAP Center. According to Stats LLC, 17 of their 31 games were played on one day's rest, on top of the aforementioned back-to-backs. That doesn’t even get into how many time zones this team has jumped since the puck first dropped on Oct. 3.

Nobody on the Sharks is going to use the rigorous schedule as an excuse. But the players expect to play at their best night in and night out, and know they could’ve reached another level over their last three games at home.

“All three of them, we should’ve collected points,” Logan Couture recalled to the press regarding losses to the Winnipeg Jets, Kings, and Coyotes. “The Winnipeg one, we couldn’t cough that one up. LA, we didn’t play our best and tonight we didn’t play our best.

“We weren’t at our best.”

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The Sharks did get a boost in the third period of Sunday’s game from forward Tomas Hertl, who notched two goals to help push San Jose’s contest with Arizona into overtime. Hertl told the media after the game that, while he was happy he could contribute the two goals, he knew the whole team was capable of playing better overall before against the Coyotes and Kings.

“In both games we [fell] asleep a little bit,” Hertl said. “You pushed for one point, but we can’t really be happy after the last two games because they weren’t our best games. We got two points and that’s huge for us before Christmas, but we’ve got to get some rest and play a little bit better against these teams.”

Now, the Sharks will have their NHL-mandated three days off before they host the division rival Anaheim Ducks. Even if three days doesn’t seem like much time off, it could be what they need to rebound from their last two games, and get back to how they were playing during their five-game winning streak.

“I think we’re looking forward to the break,” DeBoer said. “Refresh and have a great second half.”

Sharks credit perfect penalty kill in sealing big win over Hurricanes

Sharks credit perfect penalty kill in sealing big win over Hurricanes

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks' 5-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night was no easy feat.

In fact, the team was fairly unhappy with how they played in the first period at SAP Center, despite heading into the first intermission with a 3-1 lead. 

But the Sharks were happy with was how their special teams propelled them to their third straight win. Although a potent power play helped get them on the board early, the penalty kill made the biggest difference.

"Our penalty kill, we've taken a lot of pride in it for a long time," coach Peter DeBoer said. "It's been good for a few years here."

The Sharks ended the night with the NHL's third-best penalty kill with a 91.7 percent success rate. San Jose has not allowed a power-play goal in each of its last three wins.

Evander Kane's first-period hat trick gave the Sharks a boost, but they spent too much time in their own zone at even strength Wednesday. The Hurricanes, who were playing the second night of a back-to-back, gave San Jose netminder Martin Jones plenty of work to do. Carolina dominated the shot clock and had the game's better chances.

But when things got extra interesting in the second period and the Sharks got into penalty trouble, their kill came to the rescue. Barclay Goodrow, a mainstay on San Jose's penalty kill, credited the Sharks' short-handed success to their pace.

"We're moving our feet, we're pressuring the opposition," he summarized. "We're forcing them to make plays a little quicker than they would like to. I think that, and we're blocking shots. And we're getting clears when we want to, so it's going well."

The Hurricanes had a golden opportunity to climb out of their two-goal hole late in the second period. Goodrow and Patrick Marleau simultaneously sat in the penalty box for hooking minors, giving Carolina 46 seconds on the 5-on-3. 

But with help from Jones, the Sharks penalty kill kept the 'Canes off the scoreboard.

"Your goalie's always your best penalty killer," DeBoer said. "He was really solid. I thought that first period [the score] could've been 3-3. He's given us two really good games in a row."

[RELATED: Watch Kane score Sharks' first-ever first-period hat trick]

While every game carries its own momentum, the Sharks undoubtedly would like for the success of their penalty kill to carry over into their next game.

The Sharks close out their three-game homestand Saturday night against the Buffalo Sabres, who currently have the second-best power play in the league. As a result, San Jose knows its penalty kill will once again be a key point. 

"We're going to be playing a good Buffalo team," Sharks captain Logan Couture observed. "I think they lost tonight but they've been playing very, very well. Their power play is very hot. So it'll be a good test for us."

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-2 win over red-hot Hurricanes

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-2 win over red-hot Hurricanes

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks knew the Carolina Hurricanes would be a big test Wednesday night at SAP Center. If that test was being graded, you would be hard-pressed not to give them an A.

Fueled by Evander Kane's first-period hat trick and a potent power play, the Sharks played perhaps their best game to date and stymied the Hurricanes in a 5-2 win.

Here are three takeaways from San Jose's third straight win.

Evander Kane, obviously

When a player becomes the first in Sharks history to score a hat trick before the first period ended, not giving him his own takeaway would be a crime. 

Kane's first goal deserves some recognition because of how quickly he scooped up the loose puck at Tomas Hertl's feet to chip it past Hurricanes netminder James Reimer.

But his next two power-play goals were also impressive, and his third was downright Pavelskian.

The Sharks struggled to get traffic in front of the net during their winless start, but Kane and his teammates have been much better lately getting in the goalie's grill. On Wednesday night, that effort paid off. Big time.

Martin Jones keeps rolling

When Jones made a swift glove save on Teuvo Teravainen 1:07 into the game, you could tell he was about to have another strong outing.

The 'Canes spent most of the game in the Sharks' zone, and Carolina dominated the shot clock for the duration. But Jones was in the zone.

The Sharks won't be happy that Jones faced a lot of strong chances, even if San Jose collectively did a better job at minimizing the turnovers in this game. At least with both goaltenders playing well, the Sharks have a better chance of keeping those mistakes out of the back of their net.

[RELATED: Sharks' Labanc keeping focus on future after turnaround]

A special night for the power play and penalty kill

When the Sharks' special teams were in a rough state at the very start of the season, coach Peter DeBoer said he wasn't worried about it. He had a feeling it would figure itself out, and he was right.

In addition to Kane's two power-play goals, the Sharks penalty kill came up big in the second period when they killed off the Hurricanes' two-man advantage. Even though Carolina was visibly tired due to playing on the tail end of a back-to-back, the Eastern Conference leaders were still getting some good looks in front of Jones. The Sharks penalty kill, however, was on point. 

That bodes well for Saturday when the Sharks host the Buffalo Sabres, who currently have the NHL's second-best power play.