Sharks

Rewind: Breakdowns, bad night for Jones doom Sharks in stunning loss

Rewind: Breakdowns, bad night for Jones doom Sharks in stunning loss

SAN JOSE – Missing two of their better defensemen is a difficult enough task for the Sharks to overcome. Missing two of their better defensemen combined with a rare rough outing by their goaltender, though, is a recipe for disaster.

And disaster it was on Thursday at SAP Center against Minnesota. San Jose coughed up a pair of two-goal leads while Martin Jones had perhaps his worst full game of the season in a 5-4 loss, the Sharks’ third straight (0-2-1).

The frustrating part of it from San Jose’s perspective is that through two periods, they were playing a nearly perfect game. The Wild had just 11 shots on goal at the second intermission, trailing 2-1, and even though they tied it early in the third, the Sharks got a couple more to reclaim their second two-goal cushion of the night.

But even that wasn’t enough. Justin Braun failed to clear a puck from the defensive zone and that led to Eric Stall’s rebound score, and a pair of goals by Mikko Koivu – one of which came on a terrible rebound by Jones, and the second on a shot from the top of the circle that was also stoppable – capped the scoring in a 5-4 Wild win.

“We were really good for two periods,” Jones said. “Just one of those things, they get a couple bounces, get some momentum, and they really started buzzing there in the third.”

Pete DeBoer said: “We did a lot of really good things up until that point [leading 4-2], then the roof collapsed. We’ve got to find a way to stop the bleeding – either a save, or an [offensive] zone shift. We didn’t tonight. That’s what happens.”

The Wild have been one of the hottest teams in the league since the start of December, and had a 12-game winning streak recently snapped on New Year’s Eve. Goalie Devan Dubnyk has been their rock, and entered the night as the NHL’s leader in both save percentage and goals-against average.

Getting four past him was an accomplishment. It should have been enough.

“We’ve been winning a lot of nights with two [goals],” DeBoer said. “The fact we got four is a bonus. That should result in a win, and [it] didn’t tonight.”

While Jones was off his game, the Sharks continue to have utter moments of chaos in their own zone without Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and to a lesser extent, David Schlemko.

Vlasic missed his third straight game since blocking a shot with his face against the Flyers on Dec. 30, and the absence of the team’s best defenseman in his own zone is evident. The Wild spent all kinds of time in San Jose’s zone after getting that third goal, including a long shift that eventually was capped off by Koivu’s game-winner.

“When they were in the zone, I don’t think we were closing as fast as we should. [We were] giving them too much time, and they’re good players,” Braun said. “With time, they’re going to make plays, and they did.”

Braun also pointed out that it wasn’t the inexperienced third defense pair of Dylan DeMelo and Mirco Mueller on the ice for the Wild’s four third period goals. He and partner Brenden Dillon were on for the first two, while Brent Burns and Paul Martin were the pair trying to defend on Koivu’s two.

“It was guys that play regularly, and we’ve got to take more pride in that,” Braun said.

DeBoer said: “We’ve got guys getting an opportunity to play, and the veterans that are in the lineup need to do a little bit more. … Giving up five goals is inexcusable, and you’re not going to win in this league giving up five. That’s on our goalie, our team defense, everybody.”

The coach didn’t let himself off the hook, either, indicating he should have used a timeout at some point in the third period to settle the troops. It was easy to see the Wild were coming hard, but DeBoer opted to save the timeout in case he needed it for a challenge.

“Hindsight, I probably should have [used a timeout],” he said.

Still, he wasn’t going to toss the game tape in the fireplace, despite the late collapse.

“We controlled most of that game,” he said. “The momentum swung, and we didn’t stop it.”

Joel Ward said: “It was a game we had slip out of our hands, but you couldn’t ask for a better position, up by two late in the game.”

Sharks' crazy comeback over Capitals is a testament to their character

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USATSI

Sharks' crazy comeback over Capitals is a testament to their character

Suffice to say, just about anyone watching the end of the Sharks-Capitals contest Tuesday night probably assumed the game was over in the last few seconds. Heck, even members of the Sharks thought they were about to lose to the defending Stanley Cup champs before Evander Kane scored the tying goal with one second left in regulation.

“I thought the game was over,” Logan Couture admitted. “I came to the bench and I changed, and I was frustrated. Broke my stick over the bench. And then I look up and Kane’s putting the puck in the net.”

You really do have to hand it to the Sharks. They went into Tuesday’s game on the back end of yet another back-to-back with travel involved. They were coming off their third straight loss --- not to mention their third consecutive game where they’d given up six goals. Plus, they have a banged up starting lineup going up against a desperate Capitals team looking to snap a five-game losing streak of their own. 

Oh, and Alex Ovechkin registered a hat trick. Don’t forget about that part.

But the Sharks hung around. Although San Jose was down two goals partway through the third frame, they kept pushing so Kane could find the back of the net at 19:59 to send it to overtime -- where the Sharks would eventually seal the win.

“The guys knew we were in a tough one tonight,” Sharks’ coach Peter DeBoer told the media after the 7-6 overtime victory. “With the scheduling of it and the way the road trip has gone and some of the injuries we’ve got. We could’ve used it as an excuse and mailed it in at a bunch of different points tonight and we didn’t.

“I think that’s a testament to our character.”

That character helped to catapult the Sharks offense in the third frame after Ovechkin tallied his third goal to give Washington a 6-4 advantage at 5:52 in the period. San Jose kept grinding, with Tomas Hertl capitalizing on the power play halfway through frame and Kane beating Braden Holtby at the final buzzer. The push culminated in overtime when Martin Jones stood his ground in three-on-three play so Couture, Hertl, and Timo Meier could carry the puck the other way. Hertl scored the game-winner, notching his third career hat trick -- which also made him the first player in team history to register a hat trick that included a game-winning goal in overtime.

To top it off, the Sharks didn’t just hand the Capitals their sixth straight loss. It was also the first time Washington lost a game in which Ovechkin scored a hat trick

Kane gave a nod to the team’s resilience while being down. “We never stopped thinking we could get back,” he said. “As long as we kept getting that next goal and [Washington] didn’t make it a three-goal lead. Big win going into the break.”

Speaking of that break, the majority of the Sharks get a 10-day breather with their bye week occurring immediately after All-Star weekend. This team has had a crazy schedule and is facing adversity with the injuries. Getting that win over Washington no doubt allows the team to start that break in a positive frame of mind.

“It’s been a grind,” DeBoer acknowledged. “It’s nice to go into the break with a big emotional win like that. Makes the time a little more enjoyable.”

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in wild 7-6 overtime win over Capitals

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AP

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in wild 7-6 overtime win over Capitals

BOX SCORE

Fans probably weren’t expecting a goal-scoring clinic when the Sharks and Capitals met up for the first time this season Tuesday night, but it turned into a goal-scoring frenzy, as the teams went back and forth for the good part of 60 minutes. 

It was an absolutely insane sequence of events between San Jose and the defending Stanley Cup champs -- especially when Evander Kane tied the game up at 19:59 in the third frame to send the contest into overtime. In the end, Tomas Hertl played the role of the hero, securing a hat trick in overtime to give the Sharks the 7-6 victory.

Here are three takeaways from the Sharks' last game before the break:

The defense struggled again

Neither the Sharks nor the Capitals were particularly successful at breaking up plays in their own end, which didn’t give either starting netminder much help. Braden Holtby and Martin Jones didn't exactly do themselves a lot of favors, though, as they weren’t particularly good at preventing rebounds.

Nevertheless, this is an aspect of San Jose’s game that has suffered as of late, and can't be entirely attributed to top members of their blue line being sidelined with injury. The Sharks’ overall defense was stellar before they went on this road trip. They have to get back to that way of playing heading down the stretch toward the playoffs.

Special teams produce, but still room for improvement

Neither team’s special teams were particularly consistent -- Washington gave up a 3-on-0 for crying out loud. San Jose’s improved as the game went on, as Logan Couture scored a short-handed goal in the second stanza, and Tomas Hertl found the back of the net on the man advantage in the third. 

While the short-handed goal proved to be crucial, the Sharks' penalty kill still has to be better when play resumes out of the All-Star break. San Jose had the second-best kill in the league earlier in the season. That’s a level they need to return to if they’re going to get back in the win column on a regular basis.

Defensive identity

Even though the Sharks won Tuesday’s game, they can't be happy with how many goals they gave up. Six goals in four straight games? The Sharks haven't done that since 1995, and it’s not the mark of a sound defensive club. This team has to play a tighter game, and getting a little time off could help them reset and do just that.

After the All-Star break, the Sharks' travel schedule is more forgiving than it has been up to this point in the season. Plus, San Jose should get a couple injured players back and healthy. They've stumbled a bit going into the long break, but all they can do at this point is look ahead to how they can be better after the 10-day bye.