Rewind: Sharks slow starts help Kings get back into the race

Rewind: Sharks slow starts help Kings get back into the race

SAN JOSE – The Sharks could have approached consecutive games with the Kings with the mindset of burying their rival in the standings at what is nearly the midway point of the regular season.

Could have.

Instead, Los Angeles appeared to have the attitude that it was fighting for its life. The Kings jumped all over the Sharks in the first period in each game, including on Tuesday, a 2-1 overtime win against San Jose at SAP Center.

Instead of opening up a potential 13-point lead on Los Angeles, the Sharks are now ahead by just six. The Kings swept the home-and-home, including Saturday’s 3-2 regulation victory at Staples Center.

“We had a great opportunity. We didn’t bring our best games,” Logan Couture said. “Give them credit, they played well, but they took it to us at the start of both of these games we just played.”

Joe Pavelski said: “We haven’t been as good as we need to be [the] last few games.”

Tuesday’s game was there for the Sharks, though. Despite getting outshot 16-6 in the opening frame, their first period wasn’t nearly as poor as it was on Saturday, when they were frequently caught running around in their own end. They escaped with a scoreless tie, and took the lead on Couture’s second period marker at 11:56. 

“I think they had a lot of zone time,” Martin Jones said. “If you look at the first period, it’s not like we were giving up a ton of grade-A chances. I thought we defended pretty well.”

That 1-0 advantage remained until the third, when the white-hot Jeff Carter drew a penalty and scored the equalizer three minutes in.

The Sharks responded, though, and an entertaining, back-and-forth final 17 minutes commenced with each team getting a number of prime chances. The Sharks had the better of them, and their more dangerous attack was at least partially due to coach Pete DeBoer switching up his lines, including putting rookie Timo Meier on the top line and benching Mikkel Boedker.

Meier, who has shown no fear in getting to the front of the net in his nascent career, had a few good opportunities with his new linemates to bang in a loose puck or two.

“Just keep it simple, get pucks to the net. Fight for some space,” Meier said of his approach.

DeBoer said: “I thought we were getting better in the second even before we changed some things around. … We made some big changes in the third just because I just felt we needed that at that point.”

As has happened far too often this season, though, the Sharks just weren't been able to find that extra goal. They’ve scored two or fewer in regulation in six of their last seven, and although they’re still winning more than they’re losing, the lack of goal scoring is getting frustrating.

“We’ve got to start bearing down on some chances and score some goals,” Couture said. “I thought we created a lot in the third. Just not finishing right now, or all season. It’s tough to win in this league when you score one.”

What would have helped against the Kings, though, would have been showing up with the same kind of intensity from the outset that was on display from Los Angeles. It’s tough to break out on the scoreboard when you’re wasting 20 minutes, and Pavelski indicated the Sharks simply weren’t working hard enough from the drop of the puck.

“As we stuck our noses in there a little bit more we start winning a few more battles, and that’s when things opened up a little bit for us,” said the captain.

Had it been there earlier, the Sharks might have at least earned a split. Instead, the division standings are much tighter than they were two games ago.

How Sharks' power play broke out in blowout win over Sabres in San Jose

How Sharks' power play broke out in blowout win over Sabres in San Jose

It’s too easy to say the San Jose Sharks won Thursday night’s game because they scored more goals than the Buffalo Sabres. 

The Sharks' special teams came alive in that 5-1 victory, as the power play looked the best it has so far in this early season.

“This game, I think, was similar (to past games) in a lot of aspects,” Joe Pavleski told the media after the game. “Except we got some special teams production.”

After going 2-for-21 on the man advantage through their first six games of the regular season, San Jose put three PPGs on the board, including back-to-back markers in the first period to give them the early 2-0 lead. 

“All those (other) games we’ve had chances to take the lead, tie a game up, and we’ve come up empty,” Pavelski said.  “And tonight we got off to a great start.”

But the five-goal game says more about the Sharks than just what they can do on the power play. This is a team that created grade-A chances on their early road trip but didn’t have the goals to show for it. With persistence, that trend changed Thursday night on the Sharks’ home ice.

“We executed tonight, and we finished our chances,” Sharks’ coach Peter DeBoer summarized. “It’s that simple.”

As impressive as the power play was on Thursday night, San Jose has to carry that production over to more games. They will get an opportunity to do that right off the bat on Saturday night when they host the New York Islanders.

The Isles blanked the Sharks in New York almost two weeks ago. Despite being shut out, that game wasn’t unlike the games against the Rangers and Devils where the Sharks lost by one goal. San Jose had their opportunities but couldn’t find the back of the net.  

That’s difficult to do against a team like New York who’s coming off a 7-2 victory over the LA Kings. The Sharks appear up to the challenge, though, and will look to turn the tide this Saturday when the Isles pay SAP Center a visit.

“We created enough offense on the road trip to score goals,” DeBoer said. “We didn’t score and we had to stick with it. We did tonight and hopefully we can carry that over.”

Sharks overcome late game struggles with 'best period of the season'

Sharks overcome late game struggles with 'best period of the season'

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks were well aware of the score when they went into the dressing room at the second intermission. They had a 2-1 lead, just like they had in the previous two tilts on the road against the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils. In both of those games, San Jose gave away the lead in the third frame on their way to losing both games.

On Thursday night, however, Team Teal came out buzzing against the Buffalo Sabres. They lit the lamp three times during that frame, easily having their best third period of the early 2018-19 campaign. And while converting on the power play and scoring more than two goals on the evening weres keys to the victory, having a strong third frame really solidified it.

"I thought it was probably our best period of the season so far," Sharks' head coach Peter DeBoer said after the 5-1 victory. "Playing with the lead in a 2-1 game and handling it that way."

The response certainly paid dividends. The Sharks' offense managed to hem the speedy Sabres in their own zone, and just shy of five minutes into the frame Logan Couture found the back of the net to give San Jose a much-needed 3-1 lead.

When asked after the game about getting the two-goal cushion, Couture called it the turning point of the game. Evander Kane agreed. "We wanted to make sure we're not going to be a team that lets third period leads slip away," Kane said. "I thought that third goal was really big."

DeBoer mentioned that a couple players did extra work to pump the team up during the second intermission, including Joe Pavelski. When asked what the conversation was like, the Sharks' captain said it came down to knowing the Sharks have to be a dominant third-period team.

"We've been in that position a time or two. We've given up leads, we haven't been as good," Pavelski said after the game. "These are periods that we have to be good. We've got to lock these down."

The strong finish no doubt gives the Sharks the confidence they need headed into Saturday night's tilt against the Islanders. The Isles blanked the Sharks in New York on October 8. Having a third period like San Jose surely gives them confidence headed into that game.

"It's been uncharacteristic of us to have poor third periods with the lead," DeBoer said. "We wanted to nip that in the bud, and I thought the guys did tonight. I thought the third was excellent."