Sharks

How Sharks' third-period struggles have sunk team's NHL playoffs hopes

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USATSI

How Sharks' third-period struggles have sunk team's NHL playoffs hopes

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks keep finding new ways to lose.

Of their 25 regulation losses this season entering Wednesday night's game against the visiting Vancouver Canucks at SAP Center, precisely zero of them came in games in which San Jose held a lead going into the third period. 19 times had the Sharks taken an advantage into the second intermission, and they were 17-0-2 in those contests.

So much for that.

Where there was once a zero, there is now a one. San Jose never trailed through the first two periods Wednesday night and took a 2-1 lead into the third period behind goals from Tomas Hertl and Brent Burns. A winning recipe, right?

Wrong.

Within the first three minutes of the third period, Vancouver tied it up. Within the first seven minutes, the Canucks turned a one-goal deficit into a one-goal lead. Less than a minute after that, Vancouver scored the back-breaker, and the rout was on. An empty-net goal later, and the Canucks departed San Jose with a 5-2 victory.

Getting outscored in the third period is nothing new to the Sharks this season, as they've now been outscored 94-56 in the third after Wednesday's debacle. A considerable portion of that negative margin has been accrued in blowouts, though, as San Jose actually has won more than half of its games that have been decided by a single goal and two-thirds of its games that have been decided by two goals. When it comes to games decided by three-or-more goals, though -- like Wednesday night -- the Sharks have prevailed in less than one-fifth of those contests. They've also now given up 12 empty-net goals.

So, yes, the third-period numbers might be a bit inflated. Even so, that doesn't change the fact that San Jose clearly has struggled to finish games. Only twice had it come back to bite the team when leading entering the third period, and at least in each of those two hiccups, the Sharks managed to come away with a point. That wasn't the case against the Canucks, and Team Teal knew it missed a golden opportunity to gain much-needed ground in the standings.

"We didn't give them a lot 5-on-5 at all," Sharks interim coach Bob Boughner said after the loss. "We played a very good defensive game. A couple long shots go in and you find yourself in a hole a little bit. I know we produced a fair number of chances and we had some good zone time and we had some good rush play -- there's a lot of good about it. But, yeah, they found a way to go into the third, and that's where we're sitting right now."

"It was a tough one because I thought we played well enough to win," Boughner added. "I thought we did some really good things."

Sharks forward Barclay Goodrow's disappointment was both readily evident and simultaneously concise.

"It's something we'll have to get fixed soon," Goodrow said of the team's third-period issues.

[RELATED: Sharks feel duty to advocate for mental health awareness]

The Canucks are in first place and for good reason, but on home ice with a lead entering the third period and an obvious need for points, that's a game the Sharks had to have. They blew it, and even if they do fix their third-period problems soon, it might already be too late.

Why Sharks should sign Patrick Marleau for third go-around in San Jose

Why Sharks should sign Patrick Marleau for third go-around in San Jose

It has been widely presumed that if Patrick Marleau returns for a 23rd NHL season, he will do so with the Sharks, back where it all began.

He still is without a Stanley Cup on his career résumé after he and the Pittsburgh Penguins were eliminated by the Montreal Canadiens in the qualifying round of the NHL's expanded playoff format. The Penguins acquired him prior to the trade deadline in exchange for a 2021 third-round draft pick after he returned for his second go-around with San Jose early in the season.

Based on what his wife, Christina, tweeted Friday, it appears Marleau already has made up his mind about playing next season.

That really shouldn't come as a surprise. Though he isn't the top-end player he once was, Marleau showed this past season that he still has some left in the tank. And, on top of that, he only needs to play in 45 more games to pass NHL legend Gordie Howe for the most games played in league history.

Frankly, it would only be fitting if he set the record in a Sharks sweater. And now it would appear the ball is in San Jose's court as to whether or not Marleau will return to the franchise that drafted him with the No. 2 overall pick in the 1997 Entry Draft.

Aside from the appetizing narrative, there's reason why Marleau might get a third go-around in teal. All indications are that the Sharks intend to return to playoff contention next season, but due to their salary structure, don't expect any large salaries to be brought in -- San Jose already has plenty of those. Consequently, the Sharks are going to need to fill the lineup with some minimum-salaried players.

[RELATED: Sharks' Hertl 'finally back' on ice after tearing ACL, MCL]

At this point, you can bet that money isn't a top consideration for Marleau. If a true Cup contender doesn't present him with an offer, it would be difficult to envision a more appealing destination for him than San Jose. Marleau could be signed for the veteran's minimum, and given he scored 10 goals in 58 games with the Sharks this year, that might be a pretty good value.

It's certainly possible the Sharks find a superior player to take Marleau's hypothetical spot, or would rather give it to a younger player that is part of the future.

If that's not the case, though, signing Mr. Shark makes an awful lot of sense.

Ex-Shark Patrick Marleau, Penguins eliminated in NHL qualifying round

Ex-Shark Patrick Marleau, Penguins eliminated in NHL qualifying round

Sharks legend Patrick Marleau might have had his last decent chance to win a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL restart. Hopefully he gets another opportunity, because it ain't happening this year.

The fifth-seeded Penguins were stunned and upset by the 12-seeded Montreal Canadiens in the qualifying round after the Habs advanced to the playoffs with a 3-1 series victory on Friday. Pittsburgh lost Game 1 and was never able to recover, thanks in large part to Montreal goalie Carey Price.

The Penguins scored just eight goals in the series, none of which were deposited by Marleau. In fact, the long-time Shark didn't record a single point across the four games. The Penguins acquired him at the trade deadline in exchange for what is now confirmed to be a 2021 third-round draft pick, as San Jose wanted to give him an opportunity to check that last box on his career résumé.

Marleau now will become an unrestricted free agent. It has been widely presumed that if he indeed returns for a 23rd NHL season, it might come in a third go-around with the Sharks. San Jose finished dead last in the Western Conference this season, but the Sharks' record was largely impacted by injuries and they certainly could return to the playoffs next year.

Really, it would only be fitting if Marleau ended his career in teal.

As for the Sharks, the qualifying round has gone nearly as well as they could have hoped for. Of the four Pacific Division teams that were involved, only the Edmonton Oilers failed to advance.

Due to the wacky 2020 NHL draft lottery, each team eliminated in the qualifying round has a 12.5 percent chance to land the No. 1 overall pick. Whichever team lands it is widely expected to use it on consensus top prospect Alexis Lafreniere.

[RELATED: Sharks' Hertl 'finally back' on ice after tearing ACL, MCL]

So, there's an 87.5 percent chance -- barring trades -- that Lafreniere won't immediately end up in the Sharks' division.

Given the season they had, they'll take any win they can get.