After a hot streak that churned out seven consecutive wins, the Sharks have lost two games in a row. But don’t be mistaken -- the losses against the Arizona Coyotes and Tampa Bay Lightning were definitely not the same.
Wednesday’s contest against the Coyotes was one of San Jose’s least inspired games of the season. Saturday’s contest against the Lightning, on the other hand, was a significantly better effort.
“I didn’t think the score was super indicative of how the game went,” Evander Kane told the media after the 6-3 defeat. “I thought we carried the play, to be honest, for most of the game.”
He wasn’t wrong. San Jose pushed the tempo for a good chunk of Saturday’s game before Tampa Bay gained some late momentum and built up their lead. While the Sharks fell to the Lightning, there were positives -- as well as lessons learned -- they can take away from a season series that consisted of two playoff-caliber games.
“I thought it was a little bit of an opportunistic game for them,” Kane continued. “Every time they got an opportunity, it seemed (like it went) in the back of our net.”
Head coach Peter DeBoer agreed. “We made some mistakes, I think mental mistakes tonight, taking some penalties when we didn’t need to,” he explained. “A couple decisions you can’t make against an opportunistic team like that. Having said that, I thought when we had it at 2-2 we had a couple opportunities to grab control of the game.”
The Sharks certainly showed they hadn’t lost their composure when the Lightning jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. Thanks to a two-goal effort from Kane -- one at the end of the first frame and another to open up the second -- San Jose was able to tie things up. In the end, they outshot Tampa Bay and were better in the faceoff circle.
However, the Sharks also got into some penalty trouble which gave the Bolts the opportunities they needed to retake the lead and create some breathing room on the scoreboard. A tandem of penalties gave Tampa Bay just 17 seconds of five-on-three power play time, but it was enough time for them to gain momentum, and reigning Norris Trophy winner Victor Hedman found the back of the net during the resulting five-on-four.
Hedman’s marker gave the Lightning another two-goal lead, which was easily the turning point in the game. The Sharks kept pushing but couldn’t beat Tampa Bay netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy. “We had some chances that didn’t go in,” Kane admitted.
Clearly, this was a game the Sharks never felt out of, especially since they defeated the Lightning in San Jose just a couple weeks ago. There was some speculation that Erik Karlsson’s sudden absence from the lineup was a factor. Kane pointed out when asked about it by the press that the Sharks expected to put up a winning effort nonetheless.
“It’s a loss but it’s not an excuse,” Kane said. “We played with three guys who are normally not in the lineup against [Tampa] at home and beat them.”
The Sharks now have to take what they learned from the loss and apply it to the last two games of this road trip. They have yet another back-to-back -- this time against Florida and Washington -- before the All-Star break.
“We’ll move on and regroup and get ready for Monday,” Kane said.