Rewind: Braun gives Sharks needed spark in 3-2 SO win over Leafs

Rewind: Braun gives Sharks needed spark in 3-2 SO win over Leafs

TORONTO – After being a step behind the Maple Leafs all night on Tuesday, the Sharks were in desperate need of an offensive spark. 

It came from one of the unlikeliest sources.

Justin Braun found room in the slot, received a pass from Chris Tierney along the wall, and unleashed a swift backhand that cruised past goalie Frederik Andersen with just 7:17 left to go in regulation. It was Braun’s first goal since March 26, 2016, 34 games ago. 

That score cut the Leafs’ lead to 2-1, and jolted the San Jose bench. Joe Pavelski scored about two minutes later on the power play, and the Sharks went on to win 3-2 in a shootout at Air Canada Centre.

“We needed somebody to make a play, and I thought it was a great play by Brauny,” Pete DeBoer said. “He got up the ice, beat one of their guys, and stuck one in the net.”

Up to that point, and especially through the first two periods, the Sharks just weren’t sustaining any offensive pressure in falling behind, 2-0. They had 26 shots on Andersen through 40 minutes, but 11 of them came on the power play, and too many were easy stops for the former Ducks goalie.

Toronto is a noticeably faster team this season thanks to some skilled young forwards with bright futures. They weren’t allowing the Sharks, who were missing Marc-Edouard Vlasic, to get up the ice.

“We weren’t breaking out,” Pavelski said. “When you don’t break out clean it’s tough to get that first guy in on the forecheck, with the second guy coming with support. I think early that’s just kind of what it was. … Defensively, you can tell they’re a lot more detailed.”

Braun said: “Guys just didn’t have the grit, weren’t going. It was top to bottom. I think we found it in the third, but we can’t come out in games like that and just be that flat.”

After Pavelski tied it, a wild overtime ensued in which both teams had some point blank chances. Martin Jones denied Morgan Rielly and Mitch Marner in the extra session, while Andersen stopped a Kevin Labanc breakaway.

It took until mid-December, but the Sharks finally had their first shootout of the season. Jones, who was outstanding all night, stopped Marner, Auston Matthews and Nikita Soshnikov while Logan Couture was the only shooter to succeed.

“We’ve practiced it a little bit,” DeBoer said of the shootout. “Our personnel sets up that we feel pretty confident in those situations. Jonesy was our best shootout player. He was great on all three [attempts].”

Jones said: “[I just] try and think about who’s going to shoot and what moves they might do. Just stay patient, and try and make a good read.”

The victory was the Sharks’ second straight in which they were far from their best, including a 4-3 win over Carolina on Saturday when they registered a season low 20 shots. Still, they felt they may have deserved better in the two games before that, regulation losses to Ottawa and Anaheim in which they surrendered a late third period game winner.

Funny how things have a way of evening out.

“It’s nice to win. … The Ottawa game, Anaheim game, probably deserved to get some points out of those ones, and we didn’t,” Couture said. “These last two kind of got us back, with games that you don’t know if you really deserve to get points. That’s the way things work out in an 82-game season.”

The Sharks’ trip will get progressively harder throughout the week. They’ll play in Ottawa on Wednesday, Montreal on Friday, and Chicago on Sunday.

However they did it, they managed to get two points in what was the most winnable game of the four. Put another way, they were fortunate to be playing the Maple Leafs, because against more dangerous opponents they would likely have been buried after two.

“We found a way,” DeBoer said. “You’ve got to win all kinds of different ways in this league.”

Braun said: “Thankfully we came away with the win, but a lot of times when you’re that flat through two periods, you’re not going to come away with anything.”

Peter DeBoer talks Sharks' defensive woes against Leafs

Peter DeBoer talks Sharks' defensive woes against Leafs

SAN JOSE – The Sharks knew the test they had ahead of them with the fast, skilled Toronto Maple Leafs coming into town.

“We talked about what their strengths were and what we wanted to do to try and negate them,” coach Peter DeBoer said.

San Jose tried to do just that for the first 20 minutes of Thursday’s game, skating into the dressing room at the first intermission with a 3-2 lead. Then in the second frame, the wheels came off. San Jose allowed Toronto to use their speed to dictate the pace of the game and tilt the ice in their favor.

“It was the one thing we talked about not doing and then we did it,” DeBoer said. “We turned pucks over. Gave them a short-handed goal. Let them in behind us on some breakaways. Allowed them to play to their strengths." 

“I thought we beat ourselves tonight.”

 [RELATED: Sharks fall to Leafs]

 This isn’t the first time the Sharks bench boss has said something of this nature through the 20-game season. San Jose is now 9-3-3 on the season when they score first, meaning they’ve given up the lead six times on the early campaign. That’s not even counting each time the opposition has rallied from a deficit and left the Sharks making a late-game push.

 After Thursday’s 5-3 loss, DeBoer revealed he didn’t think the Sharks should’ve even had the lead against the Leafs. “I thought – yes, we had the lead in that game. But I didn’t feel like either we deserved to have a lead or played well enough at that point to be in that spot. I think when you find yourself in that spot and you haven’t really earned it, you probably end up getting what you deserve.”

 This hasn’t necessarily been the case in every game where the Sharks have given up a lead to a tough team. In their contest earlier in the week with the Nashville Predators, the Sharks’ first period was easily the best period of hockey they’d played all season.

A similar scenario occurred in the second frame of that game as with the second period of the Toronto game. After a period playing up to their strengths, the Sharks start giving up too many odd-man rushes and let the opposing team make a comeback.

 It’s a habit the Sharks don’t identify as being part of their game philosophy. Unfortunately, it’s happening with some regularity.

 “The frustrating part is just that we haven’t played to our identity,” Joe Pavelski said. “We do it for a few minutes ... and then all of a sudden there’s a breakaway, and another breakaway. (Martin Jones), we’re just hanging him out to dry at times with these odd man rushes and chances.”

 Brenden Dillon agreed. “We have the foundation,” he summarized. “When we’re playing at our best, we see how successful it makes us. We’re really not doing that for a full 60 minutes right now, we’re doing it in spurts.”

Both Pavelski and Dillon said the uneven play is likely a mental block the team has, and that it’s something they’re both confident the team can improve upon. As the hockey season rolls on, it’s something they’re going to need to improve quickly.

 “We’re only 20 things in, but we are 20 games in,” Dillon said. “It’s something we just have to continue to emphasize.”


Sharks takeaways: What we learned from 5-3 loss to Maple Leafs

Sharks takeaways: What we learned from 5-3 loss to Maple Leafs


SAN JOSE – You knew when Barclay Goodrow went for Nazem Kadri right off the opening faceoff that Thursday’s game between the Sharks and the Maple Leafs was going to be a doozy.

Team Teal came out buzzing against the visiting Toronto squad, but allowed the Leafs to move in and take the lead in the second frame. Although San Jose tried to roar back in the third period like they have so many times before, it was the Leafs who emerged victorious 5-3.

Here are three takeaways from Thursday’s game:

Odd-man rushes were an issue

This was something the Sharks had a problem with in their Tuesday night contest with the Nashville Predators as well. It’s especially been an issue in the middle of games when multiple opponents have crept up on them on the scoreboard. 

Such was the case again in the second period of Thursday’s game, most notably when Kasperi Kapanen had a short-handed breakaway and found the back of the net to give Toronto a 4-3 lead.

On that note …

San Jose needs to put up a strong defensive front for the whole game

In the first period of Thursday’s game, the Sharks displayed that full-team defensive effort they’ve been talking about this entire homestand. All forwards and defensemen were moving quickly, creating chances and helping goalie Martin Jones out.

The second period though, much like San Jose’s second frame against Nashville, told a different story. The Sharks started turning the puck over more against the skilled Toronto team and weren’t giving Jones the support he needs. (Not to say that Jones was perfect. But the team in-front of him wasn’t helping him out.)  By the time the Sharks began getting back to playing a stronger defensive game, they were down two goals late in the third frame.

Nobody on the Sharks seems particularly fond of Nazem Kadri

You may recall Kadri and Joe Thornton duked it out at the beginning of one of last season’s Leafs-Sharks meet-ups, and Kadri yanked a piece of Thornton’s Zeus-like beard right off his face. Despite the fact that Jumbo Joe shaved the signature facial hair at the start of the season, his teammates weren’t going to let the act go unavenged. Goodrow went right for him, Timo Meier got up in his grill – heck even Thornton himself exchanged a few words at the start of the second stanza.

While standing up for your teammates is great, letting a player like Kadri get under the team’s skin can also be costly. Like in the first frame when Meier went to the box after being poked by Kadri and Toronto ended up scoring during four-on-four play. Things got exceptionally heated after the Leafs scored their fifth goal on the evening and Kadri cross-checked Melker Karlsson and both player started to duke it out.