Sharks winger Timo Meier’s power-play goal Tuesday against the Nashville Predators came at just the right time.
Up to that point, San Jose was on its heels at even strength. Nashville held a 5-2 edge in five-on-five shot attempts, and a 10-2 edge in all situations after an unsuccessful power play of its own before Sharks captain Joe Pavelski drew a holding penalty on Predators center Ryan Johansen.
Despite that, Meier buried a rebound on top of the crease and gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead on the ensuing power play. The lead lasted just 108 seconds, but San Jose and Nashville headed into the first intermission tied at 1 -- even though the Predators held a pretty clear edge in shot quantity and quality at even strength.
That’s because the Sharks’ special teams kept them in the game early, and eventually finished off the 5-4, come-from-behind win. Defenseman Brenden Dillon’s coast-to-coast, short-handed goal cut the Predators’ lead to one, and fellow blue-liner Brent Burns took back the lead for good on an Erik Karlsson-assisted one-timer.
The Sharks’ power play arguably was the best it had been through nine games this season. According to Natural Stat Trick, they generated shot attempts, shots and scoring chances at a higher rate with the man advantage than any other game this season, and high-danger chances at a higher rate than all but three.
The two Norris Trophy winners who combined for the game-winner were a big reason why. Karlsson was on the ice for 18 of the Sharks’ 23 shot attempts on the power play, nine of the 11 scoring chances and all three of the high-danger chances. Burns, meanwhile, attempted a season-high six shots on the power play and generated two scoring chances.
The Sharks have scored five power-play goals in their last two games, but there's still room for improvement. As of Wednesday, they’re in the top 12 in shot-attempt and shot rates but just 16th and 13th, respectively, in scoring chance and high-danger chance rates, per Natural Stat Trick. More performances like Tuesday's, and the Sharks should climb.
Dillon’s goal, meanwhile, was the Sharks’ league-leading fourth short-handed goal of the year. San Jose has been able to generate a decent amount of offense on the penalty kill all season, attempting shots at a higher rate than all but four teams and creating scoring chances at the eighth-highest rate in the NHL. It helps that the team has scored on 23.53 percent of its short-handed shots, a percentage that is largely unsustainable.
The Sharks also have given up plenty of good looks on the penalty kill. They’ve suppressed shots well, but they entered Wednesday allowing the eighth-highest rate of scoring chances and the second-highest rate of high-danger chances. The difference Tuesday was goaltending, as Martin Jones stopped every shot he faced on the penalty kill.
Still, the Sharks have been better on the penalty kill as a whole over the last five games. During that span, they have allowed shot attempts, shots and scoring chances at the lowest or second-lowest rates in the league, and high-danger chances at the eighth-lowest. That all represents definite improvement, but it remains to be seen whether or not the Sharks can sustain that over more than a handful of games.
But if they can, and the power play continues to improve, the Sharks will have nice compliments to their already strong even-strength play. In their best win of the season Tuesday, they got a preview of what that could look like.