No panic early as Sharks recover, dominate Oilers in Game 1

No panic early as Sharks recover, dominate Oilers in Game 1

EDMONTON – Entering Game 1 of their first round series with the Oilers, the players listed on the Sharks’ roster had a combined 1,169 games of playoff experience, second only to Chicago. They are, of course, still the defending Western Conference champions, too.

Perhaps that’s why in the first intermission, when they trailed 2-0 and were on the verge of getting pushed out against a young, hungry Oilers team playing in front of a berserk crowd, yelling and screaming in the dressing room was not required.

“I think there wasn’t much that needed to be said. There wasn’t much panic,” Joe Pavelski said.

Pete DeBoer said: “At the end of the first the message from me, but more importantly from the guys in the room, was we feel good about [our] game and there’s a lot of hockey left. Just stick with it.”

They might have been the only ones that weren’t unnerved at that point. After all, the Sharks backed into the playoffs by playing their worst hockey in two years under DeBoer from mid-March on, and were without emotional and offensive leader Joe Thornton. Logan Couture, who did manage to play, was admittedly not very effective, either.

But a huge power play goal to start the second period by Joel Ward tilted the ice drastically in the Sharks’ favor. After a first period in which shots were 10 apiece, the Sharks had a 34-9 advantage the rest of the way, culminating in Melker Karlsson’s tiebreaking score a little more than three minutes into overtime.

Ward finished off a slick pass from Joonas Donskoi at 1:43 of the middle frame, with just three seconds to go on a hooking minor to Drake Caggiula, cutting the Edmonton lead to 2-1. It was all Sharks after that.

“Yeah, gained some momentum,” Ward said. “I thought we were still playing well, we just needed a little bit of a lift. It was good to put one home, and start it off for the fellas.”

Even with their renewed energy, though, it took the Sharks nearly 24 more minutes to tie it. In the third period, Tomas Hertl – the Sharks’ most effective forward of the night – took the puck hard to the net. Cam Talbot kicked it away, but Paul Martin charged in to deposit the loose puck at 5:22 of the third period.

It was encouraging for the Sharks to get contributions from guys like Donskoi and Hertl, especially, as those two had inconsistent regular seasons interrupted by injury but were such important contributors to the Stanley Cup Final run last season.

“We understand what those guys can do, all of us,” Pavelski said. “Those guys’ games just got better and better as the night went on. As they settled in, it was big for our team.”

Karlsson had the biggest moment of all. The Oilers failed to sort out coverage in their defensive zone, leaving the Swedish forward wide open. Pavelski found his linemate streaking ahead, and Karlsson whizzed a wrist shot past Cam Talbot’s glove hand at 3:22 of the extra frame.

Game, 3-2, visitors.

“I got a little space there and Pav made the pass, saw me going in the middle,” Karlsson said. “Had a half-breakaway, so it was nice.”

It was the proper result in a game the Sharks deserved to win.

“Wardo scored a big goal and for the rest of the game, the second period on, we had control of that game,” Couture said. “It was just a matter of time before the puck was going in.”


Banged-up Sharks make no excuses for losing streak after loss to Kings

Banged-up Sharks make no excuses for losing streak after loss to Kings

After the Sharks' losing streak hit four games in a 4-2 loss to the cellar-dwelling Los Angeles Kings, defenseman Brent Burns summarized it best to reporters in L.A.

“Every loss is doomsday, and every win feels good.”

Unfortunately for the Sharks, that doesn’t make Thursday’s defeat at the hands of the Kings sting any less.

With the defeat, the Sharks matched their season-long losing streak at four games – against the second-worst team in the entire NHL, no less. San Jose even entered the third period with a 2-1 lead, having taken over the pace of play in the second stanza and hemming even the Kings' best players in their own end.

Then, the Kings scored three unanswered goals in the final 20 minutes to emerge victorious. 

Meanwhile, the two Pacific Division teams bookending the Sharks in the standings – the Calgary Flames and the Vegas Golden Knights – are both on hot streaks and kept winning on Thursday while Team Teal was in L.A.

Nobody’s going to sugarcoat it – the Sharks know they have to be better.

“It’s a wake-up call for us,” center Tomas Hertl said. “We have to be ready because we have just eight games left. We saw how Calgary is playing right now, and we have to step it up.”

As if the Sharks weren’t already desperate for a win after dropping three straight contests, they got some bad news just before pregame warmups that center Logan Couture was a late scratch due to flu-like symptoms. With captain Joe Pavelski and defenseman Erik Karlsson already out, San Jose needed someone else to fill that void. 

“It’s always tough when you’re missing players like that,” Hertl said. “But we have a lot of skill and we didn’t improve (on) it today.”

Coach Peter DeBoer doubled down on not making excuses for big players being out of the lineup.

“You got to win this game anyway,” he told reporters. “You’ve got to find a way. Someone’s got to step up and be a first star. You’ve got to get a great performance from somebody in a game like this and I don’t think we got that.”

[RELATED: Watch Ron Burgundy's funny call of Hertl's goal vs. Kings]

With only eight games left in the regular season, San Jose needs to right the ship before embarking on a playoff run.

Getting Couture, Pavelski, and Karlsson back in the lineup healthy will certainly help. But, the Sharks' defensive effort and overall level of intensity has to be better. They’ve been outscored 19-9 over these last four games, and gone 1-for-13 on the power play. While there’s concern over this losing stretch, the Sharks have to buckle down and find a way to win immediately. 

“We’ve got to find a way to win some games,” DeBoer said. “We’re a little bit beat up, but you can’t use excuses this time of year. We need some guys to find another level for us. At this time of year, you need someone to give you a first-star performance either in net or up front or somewhere to stop the bleeding. We haven’t gotten that.”

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 4-2 loss to struggling Kings

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 4-2 loss to struggling Kings

The Sharks didn't play their prettiest game in Thursday's season-series finale with the Los Angeles Kings. Despite holding a lead headed into the third period, San Jose’s losing streak was stretched to four games as they fell to their LA rivals 4-2.

Here are three takeaways from Thursday’s game:

The first and third periods were, as DeBoer might say, ‘fugly’

If you hadn’t watched the Sharks play all season and tuned into Thursday’s game, you were probably shocked this team is in second place in the Pacific Division. San Jose came out discombobulated, turning the puck over so much that it’s no wonder the Kings scored the first goal on the evening. It’s impressive the Sharks were able to tie the game before the first intermission, with just four shots on goal through 20 minutes.

San Jose picked up momentum in the second stanza and took over the pace of the game. But, the Kings were able to swing that momentum back in their favor. For a team that’s punched their playoff ticket already, this is a trend that can’t continue.

On Martin Jones’ performance

Not surprisingly, all eyes were on Jones after he was given the hook last game against the Vegas Golden Knights. The goaltender needed to have a rebound evening, and after giving up the first goal on the night, it didn’t look like he was going to be able to make that happen.

He did a good job buckling down after that despite, Los Angeles continuing to outshoot San Jose. He had a few nice saves, but the Sharks’ defensive lapses in the third period did him no favors.

[RELATED: Watch Ron Burgundy's funny call of Hertl's goal vs. Kings]

Something has to give

We know – the Sharks are banged-up right now. They’re missing key players and nearing the end of a long season. But at this point, following up a six-game winning streak by losing four games – and one to the lowly Kings – is cause for concern.

Whether it’s getting healthy or just getting a few lucky bounces, the Sharks need to regroup quickly. San Jose spent stretches of Thursday’s game looking lost, and couldn’t capitalize on two power-play opportunities.

If the Sharks don’t right the ship soon, their stint in the playoffs is going to be short.