Rewind: Sharks keep finding a way to win, down Sens 4-3

Rewind: Sharks keep finding a way to win, down Sens 4-3

OTTAWA – The guy who was honored in a pregame ceremony for recently playing in his 1000th NHL game had a chance to be the shootout hero.

Instead, it was the kid playing in his 17th.

Kevin Labanc was the only player to convert his chance in the skills competition, beating goalie Mike Condon and earning his team an extra point in the standings on Wednesday night at Canadian Tire Center. The Sharks beat the Senators, 4-3, winning their second shootout on the road in as many nights.

Just before Labanc converted his chance, longtime Sens agitator Chris Neil - playing in his 1,002nd career game - tried playing the puck off of his skate in order to beat goalie Martin Jones. It didn’t work. On his subsequent try in the fourth round, Labanc skated in slowly, kicked up his left leg while faking a shot to freeze Condon, and slipped it through his wickets.

“[Labanc’s] move at the end was fun to watch,” Joe Pavelski said. “It’s a fun situation with Neil going before that. Big two points right now.”

Labanc saw Mikkel Boedker, Pavelski and Brent Burns fail on their chances before deciding what move he was going to do.

“It was nice to go last,” he said. “Kind of feel out the goalie and see what he kind of gave. I just got the option to see his tendencies.”

While the ending was satisfying, the game was far from perfect for San Jose, which went 0-for-7 on the power play and lost Logan Couture to an apparent head injury. Marc-Edouard Vlasic could be in line for supplementary discipline, too, after seemingly spearing Erik Karlsson in the second period.

Failing to get a goal on a five-minute power play they got after Mike Hoffman’s dirty cross-check on Couture was especially disappointing. An apparent Patrick Marleau goal was nullified when replays showed the puck came just out of the zone seconds earlier.

“You’d like to be a lot better on that power play,” Pavelski said. “We had some looks, we did. We score that goal, it’s offsides. … Just in general, the power play could have created a little bit more momentum for us.”

Still, the Sharks showed some resolve after Dion Phaneuf gave the Sens a 3-2 lead with just 3:46 left in regulation. Chris Tierney managed to deposit his third goal of the year just a minute and a half later when a shot by Burns from along the wall ricocheted to the slot, where Tierney was hanging out.

The Sharks have struggled tremendously to get scoring from any of their depth players this season, and after getting goals from Pavelski and Burns earlier in the night, Tierney’s score was a welcome development.

“We needed that,” DeBoer said, pointing out that the Sharks lost to Ottawa just one week ago on a late third period score. 

The game was essentially the third straight that the Sharks haven’t been at their best, yet they found a way to collect the two points and remain in first place in the Pacific Division. They beat the Hurricanes last Saturday, 4-3, despite getting just 20 shots on goal, and were lethargic through two periods before coming back in the third period in Toronto on Tuesday night to get a 3-2 shootout win.

Brenden Dillon said: “We know we weren’t at our best, in a situation being back-to-back where things weren’t really clicking on the power play. We just found a way.”

DeBoer echoed Dillon. “We found a way, and on the road that’s all you ask for,” he said.

Why Sharks' tension with Nazem Kadri boiled over in loss to Maple Leafs

Why Sharks' tension with Nazem Kadri boiled over in loss to Maple Leafs

SAN JOSE -- Barclay Goodrow wasn’t happy with Nazem Kadri.

The two jawed before the opening face-off Thursday night, and Goodrow grabbed the Toronto Maple Leafs center once the puck was dropped, trying to make him drop the gloves. Kadri would not, and the Sharks forward alone headed to the box for roughing eight seconds in.

It was a chippy start for teams that only play twice a season. So, what set off Goodrow?

“[Kadri] chose to fight Jumbo last year off of the opening face-off,” Goodrow told reporters after the Sharks’ 5-3 loss, “who quite frankly shouldn’t have to do that. So, I thought I would try to return the favor.” 

Let’s rewind to Jan. 4 in Toronto, when the teams last met. 

Kadri and Thornton jockeyed for stick position ahead of the opening face-off. The two traded slashes, then words, and finally punches after they were kicked out of the face-off circle before the puck was dropped. 

Kadri also grabbed a piece of Thornton’s beard in the fight, but said at the time that it was unintentional. He told reporters Thursday he figured that fight caused the immediate tension.

“I’m not quite sure why they were still so bitter about it,” Kadri said, “especially when he’s the one [who] initiated it with me, so it’s not like I went out looking for it. … I kind of knew they were pretty agitated from the start, and I figured I’d run with that.” 

The Leafs scored seconds after the ensuing power play expired. 

With the man advantage winding down, Toronto center John Tavares threw the puck in front of the net from behind the goal line. The puck bounced off San Jose defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s skate and helplessly through goaltender Martin Jones’ pads.

Up to that point, the Sharks allowed one shot on goal and three attempts on the penalty kill. 

"The biggest thing is [Kadri] got us a power play to start the game,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. “They're gonna say it's not a power-play goal because I think there was one second or something [on the clock], but that's a power-play goal. It's a great way to start the game.”

Kadri, who is known for getting under his opponents’ skin, was hit a game-high six times. He drew another penalty later in the first period, then drew and received two of his own when he and Sharks winger Melker Karlsson were twice penalized for roughing in the third.

Still, the Sharks out-attempted (18-16), outshot (11-7), and out-chanced (9-5) the Leafs with Kadri on the ice five-on-five, according to Natural Stat Trick. San Jose tied the score 3:18 after Tavares’ tally, and held a lead at the end of the first period. 

[RELATED: DeBoer talks Sharks' defensive woes against Leafs]

Goodrow and Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said they did not think Kadri threw the Sharks off their game. DeBoer thought Kadri “crossed the line” fighting Thornton, but said the pre-puck drop confrontation “was the end of it.”

If there is any remaining tension, we’ll know in fewer than two weeks. The Sharks and Leafs conclude their season series Nov. 28 in Toronto. 

Peter DeBoer, Sharks riddled by defensive woes in loss to Maple Leafs

Peter DeBoer, Sharks riddled by defensive woes in loss to Maple Leafs

SAN JOSE — The Sharks knew the test they had ahead of them Thursday night, 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, skating into the dressing room at the first intermission with a one-goal lead. Then in the second frame, the wheels came off. San Jose allowed Toronto to use its 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 after the Sharks’ 5-3 loss at SAP Center. “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 now is 9-3-3 on the season when it scores first, meaning it has 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 the loss, DeBoer revealed he didn’t believe 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,” he said. “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 against the Nashville Predators, the Sharks’ first period easily was 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 started 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 for them, 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. 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 likely is a mental block the Sharks have, 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.”