Sharks

Martin Jones' third-period effort helped set Sharks up for overtime win

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AP

Martin Jones' third-period effort helped set Sharks up for overtime win

Like the team playing in front of him Wednesday evening, Sharks goaltender Martin Jones didn’t have his best stuff in the second period of Game 3 of the Western Conference final against the Blues. Heck, a .875 save percentage overall isn’t exactly stellar.

But with his team down a goal heading into the final 20 minutes of regulation, No. 31 did a full 180-degree turn and became the reason San Jose was able to stay in the game and tie things up with less than two minutes left to play. 

Jones’ ability to stay calm and collected made a huge difference for Team Teal.

“For him to keep his composure ... He came up with some huge saves to get it to overtime,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said after San Jose won 5-4.

DeBoer admitted he didn’t think that four-goal period for St. Louis was entirely Jones’ fault either.

“I felt bad for Jonesy,” he said. “I think two of their pucks went in off of Justin Braun in the second period. I don’t know when we’ve given up four goals in the second period, I can’t remember the last time. And you look at the goals and it was some seeing-eye stuff where it hit us and deflected in a perfect spot.”

The nature of the goals makes it even more impressive how Jones kept it together, stopping some grade-A chances from the surging Blues offense. His stop on David Perron in the third period  -- which stopped Perron from registering a hat trick, no less -- visibly gave his team a boost. 

Of course, when asked about his big third period in an interview with NBC’s Jeremy Roenick, Jones maintained that even-keel attitude Sharks fans have come to expect from him.

“Just wanted to give our guys a chance and then we did a great job there,” he said with a shrug. “It sucks giving up four and obviously giving up a two-goal lead. Just stick with it. We were down one goal, we were still in the game.”

Jones’ big stops set the foundation for Logan Couture to score the game-tying goal with 1:01 left on the game clock, en route to a heavily-debated overtime win for the Sharks. For Jones, at least, he did his part in giving the Sharks a chance to make it to overtime in the first place and help get them a two-games-to-one series lead. 

[RELATED: DeBoer disagrees with notion Sharks have gotten "lucky" in playoffs]

Now, he and his team can’t let that second-period slump happen again.

“Pretty gutsy win, but we’ve got to play better, we know that,” Jones critiqued. “The second period, we had too many turnovers, too many lost battles. But we found a way to come back late in the third and I thought we played really well in overtime.”

“Anything can happen, especially in the playoffs,” Jones said. “We’ve seen that already in the first two rounds.”

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 3-2 comeback win in OT vs. Devils

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 3-2 comeback win in OT vs. Devils

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks got a taste of redemption Thursday night, earning a 3-2 overtime win over the New Jersey Devils at SAP Center. Captain Logan Couture, playing in his second game since returning from a 17-game absence, scored 38 seconds into the extra session. 

After dropping a 2-1 contest in New Jersey eight days prior, the Sharks turned the tables and split the season series with the Devils. It required a come-from-behind effort, as San Jose dug a significant 2-0 first-period hole.

The Sharks found their groove in the second frame, however, and maintained that surge throughout the rest of the game. With the victory, San Jose ended a five-game losing streak.

Here are three takeaways from what the Sharks hope is the start of a resurgent six-game homestand.

Black and white

Since taking over for Pete DeBoer, interim coach Bob Boughner has been adamant that he wants the Sharks to be a "hard" team to play against, one that isn't easily pushed over and never relents. They couldn't have been further from that in Thursday's first period.

The Sharks edged the Devils 12-5 in hits in the first period, but that was deceiving. In the moments when it truly mattered to bring a physical presence, San Jose provided the resistance of tissue paper.

On the Devils' first goal, for instance, the Sharks allowed Miles Wood to drive straight from behind their own net and across goaltender Martin Jones' crease. San Jose lost sight of the puck in the resulting collision at the side of the net, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic ended up accidentally pushing it across the line.

The Sharks went into the first intermission trailing 2-0. Whatever was said in the locker room in between periods certainly worked, because when San Jose returned to the ice, it looked like a completely different team.

The second period belonged to the Sharks, and they got back to the kind of style Boughner wants to see. They out-shot, out-hit and outdueled the Devils in the faceoff circle in the middle frame, and managed to tie things up going into the third.

At this point in the season, establishing an identity is more important to San Jose than points are. As upset as Boughner must have been after the first period, he had to (mostly) like what he saw from the Sharks from that point on.

Strength re-established

There was about a 10-game stretch in mid-January when the Sharks' penalty kill -- which had been the team's undeniable strength all season long -- experienced a bit of a down spell. Any issues appear to have been solved, as San Jose's penalty kill has been back near top form over the last handful of games and was again Thursday night.

Not only did the Sharks kill all four of the Devils' power plays on the evening, but they also managed to score on one of them themselves. Joel Kellman and Marcus Sorensen combined for a perfectly executed 2-on-1 on a second-period kill, and Sorensen's resulting goal pulled San Jose even at 2-2. It was the Sharks' seventh short-handed goal of the season, which ranks in the top 10 in the NHL.

You don't often see bad teams ranking atop the league's special teams, but that's the case with San Jose. On one hand, the Sharks can be proud of how consistently strong they've been while short-handed this season. On the other, they must be disappointed that it hasn't meant much in the grand scheme of things.

[RELATED: What Kane hopes to teach young Sharks for rest of season]

Growing pains

After the trade deadline passed, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson insisted that the team would use the final 20 games of the season to see what some of the younger, lesser-proven players could provide. San Jose has been true to that word in the two games since, and as is often the case with youngsters, there seems to be a corresponding down for every up.

Thursday was no different.

New Jersey's second goal came immediately following a terrible defensive zone turnover by defenseman Jake Middleton. San Jose's first goal was scored by Mario Ferraro, and assisted by fellow rookie Noah Gregor. Shortly thereafter, Lean Bergmann -- playing in his first NHL game since Nov. 7 -- took a bad tripping penalty in the offensive zone, sapping much of the team's momentum. Several minutes later, Kellman made a tremendous cross-ice pass to find Sorensen for the tying goal.

Get used to the growing pains. This is who the Sharks are for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.

What Evander Kane hopes to teach young Sharks for rest of lost season

What Evander Kane hopes to teach young Sharks for rest of lost season

The Sharks are as baby-faced as it gets after the NHL trade deadline. 

Brenden Dillon, Barclay Goodrow and Brenden Dillon no longer are no longer walking through San Jose's locker-room door after being traded to the Eastern Conference. A cadre of rookies is, however, with six dressing against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night at SAP Center.

The youth movement is on with the Sharks entering Thursday's contest 14 points back of the Western Conference's final wild-card spot, and the onus is on San Jose's veterans to lead by example, according to winger Evander Kane. 

"I think that's exactly what you gotta do," Kane told NBC Sports California's Bret Hedican before Thursday's game. "You've just gotta go in there and work hard, do what you do best and just kind of encourage them to play their game. They're all here for a reason, [so] go out there and prove it. Go out there and show it."

The Sharks want Kane to set the example. He was benched during the entirety of the third period of Saturday's loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, starting the next game on a line with depth forwards Alexander True (a rookie) and Stefan Noesen. 

Kane didn't score Sunday or against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday, but he did lead the Sharks with nine shots on goal during that time and played more than any other forward (20:43) in the loss to the Flyers. It was exactly what Sharks interim coach Bob Boughner wanted to see. 

“I thought he was good,” Boughner told reporters in Uniondale, New York on Sunday of Kane's performance against the Islanders (via The Athletic). “He had a lot of puck possession, he played the right way. I’d say I was hoping that, but I knew that he’s a guy that has a lot of pride and wants to play hard for his team. I think that’s good that he came back with that kind of showing.”

[RELATED: Jumbo ready to help Sharks after deadline disappointment]

Kane, 28, is in the second year of a seven-year contract extension he signed with the Sharks in 2018 when he passed on testing the market as an unrestricted free agent. Neither he nor San Jose would've envisioned that second season would end without a playoff appearance, but Kane and the Sharks are committed to each other for the long haul. 

He and his fellow veterans will be counted on as teachers for the rest of the season, and the Sharks will need their young players to be quick studies in order to return to the playoffs next spring.