Sharks

Sharks 'competed our asses off' in rewarding win over Kings

Sharks 'competed our asses off' in rewarding win over Kings

LOS ANGELES – It’s only mid-January, but the Sharks have already concluded the five-game season series with their biggest rival. That could be a good thing, as Sharks-Kings games are rarely for the faint of heart. 

“I’m glad to be done with them. If we don’t see them again, I’ll be alright with that,” Pete DeBoer quipped.

On the other hand, Wednesday’s latest and final head-to-head matchup resulted in perhaps the Sharks’ most rewarding win of the season, 3-2 at Staples Center. 

San Jose got contributions from up and down its lineup. Despite being without several key players (including Logan Couture, who missed the game due to illness), the Sharks worked hard and smart all over the ice and put some distance between themselves and Los Angeles, which is fighting to remain in playoff position.

“It was a good feeling in this [dressing] room when we came in here [after the game],” said Joe Pavelski, who scored one of the Sharks’ three goals. “Just felt like you put a complete effort out there.”

DeBoer said: “A little bit of a thin lineup, and I thought we competed our asses off. Played hard. This isn’t an easy building to win in. They play a physical game. We stood in there, and I thought played a real complete game.”

Special teams was key, as the Sharks got a power play goal from Pavelski and held the Kings to no goals and just one power play shot on four chances. Martin Jones was his typical solid self, even throwing in a highlight reel save on Dwight King in the third period to preserve the one-goal. Brent Burns continued to dominate, getting yet another goal in the first period (his 19th), and Joe Thornton notched a pair of assists.

And, the fourth line got in on the action, too. Micheal Haley was one of the team’s best forwards of the evening, beautifully setting up Tommy Wingels on a two-on-one, who gave the Sharks a 2-1 lead they would not relinquish with less than five minutes to go in the first period.

“Just tried to make an early pass so [Wingels] had enough time to have a good look, and he made a great shot,” Haley said.

DeBoer said: “Big goal from those guys.”

Defensively, Los Angeles was held to just 24 shots, as the Sharks kept the Kings’ stars at bay. That includes Jeff Carter, who was the best player on the ice in the most recent meeting on Jan. 3, and has been far and away Los Angeles’ most valuable player this season.

“He’s a world class player and he’s having a world class season,” DeBoer said of Carter. “He’s dangerous every time he’s on the ice.”

The Sharks played a committed and detailed game in their own end, though, not giving Carter or anyone else much room to operate in their offensive zone. Los Angeles’ scoring chances were few and far between.

Last week, the Sharks failed to put some distance between themselves and another division rival nipping on their heels, the Flames. They didn’t want that to happen again with the Kings, who could have pulled to within four points of San Jose with a regulation win.

Instead, the Kings are now eight points back of San Jose after losing three of the five meetings. And they don’t have any more of those four-point games left on the schedule.

“You always want to win a season series,” Pavelski said. “It was just important because I think we all know it was pretty tight in the standings. It goes [to] four or eight [points], you know?”

Haley said: “We want to make that distance farther and farther. They’re always in the back of our head.”

Sharks vs. Capitals watch guide: Projected lines and defensive pairs

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USATSI

Sharks vs. Capitals watch guide: Projected lines and defensive pairs

The Sharks have one more chance to get in the win column on this road trip, Tuesday evening in D.C. against the Washington Capitals.

San Jose is coming off its third straight loss, a 6-2 defeat at the hands of the Florida Panthers. The team has given up six goals in three straight games for the first time since February 1997, per Elias Sports.

The Caps haven’t fared much better, coming into Tuesday’s contest having dropped five games in a row. The defending Stanley Cup champions held a players-only meeting on Monday following their 8-5 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

This is the first time the Sharks and Capitals have met up this season.

Through 41 total franchise meetings, San Jose holds a 27-11-1-2 record.

The Sharks traveled from Florida to the nation’s capital ahead of Tuesday’s game, while the Capitals held an optional skate.

Line combinations may vary at the start of Tuesday’s game.

Sharks projected lines and pairs:

Marcus Sorensen – Joe Thornton – Melker Karlsson
Timo Meier – Logan Couture – Joe Pavelski
Evander Kane – Tomas Hertl – Joonas Donskoi
Lukas Radil – Barclay Goodrow – Kevin Labanc

Radim Simek – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – Tim Heed

Martin Jones – projected starter
Aaron Dell

Capitals projected lines and pairs:

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie 
Jakub Vrana – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Tom Wilson 
Dmitrij Jaskin – Lars Eller – Brett Connolly 
Chandler Stephenson – Travis Boyd – Andre Burakovsky

Dmitri Orlov – John Carlson
Michal Kempny – Matt Niskanen
Jonas Siegenthaler – Brooks Orpik

Braden Holtby – projected starter
Pheonix Copley

Sharks point to botched third-period penalty kill after loss to Panthers

Sharks point to botched third-period penalty kill after loss to Panthers

In a steep loss, it can be hard to pinpoint exactly where things went wrong. In the Sharks' 6-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on Monday night, though, there was one point late in the game where the wheels really seemed to come off. 

For the most part, the game wasn’t completely out of San Jose’s reach. Heck, after the Sharks tied the game up 2-2 ahead of the second intermission, they looked primed to grab the lead in the third period and get back into the win column. Then, they gave up two power-play goals at the start of the final frame, and the game got away from them.

“That was the difference,” captain Joe Pavelski told reporters in South Florida after the loss. “They came out and scored two quick power-play goals, and sometimes it can happen as quick as that.”

“Quick” is right. The game was still tied when Evander Kane was sent to the penalty box 1:56 into the third for high-sticking Panthers center Nick Bjugstad. Bjugstad drew bad and San Jose needed four minutes of lockdown hockey – of the stellar effort their penalty kill put on the ice night after night earlier in the season.

Instead, they gave up two power-play goals in nine seconds.

“We were in a good spot,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said of heading into the penalty kill with the tie, adding he didn’t think Kane was making an undisciplined play when he got penalized. However “at that point, we need a big kill, we need a big save. We didn’t get either.”

[RELATED: Karlsson will miss final games before NHL All-Star break]

Through their recent seven-game winning streak, the Sharks were able to minimize their mistakes. Whether playing against the highly-competitive Vegas Golden Knights or the less-adequate Ottawa Senators, San Jose played a detailed and defensive game that helped exploit their opponents’ weak spots. In Monday’s loss to Florida, the Sharks didn’t play up to that same level for a full 60 minutes. 

“We weren’t doing the little things right (and) that hurt us at the end,” Timo Meier acknowledged. “I think we were sloppy at some points of the game that cost us some goals.”

This is, without question, an area of San Jose’s game that has changed as of late. Over their current three-game skid, they’ve allowed six power-play goals on 12 opportunities and 18 goals overall. Through the seven games before that, the opposition only scored twice in 17 opportunities on the man advantage, and just 14 goals overall. The tight defensive and disciplined game they were playing hasn’t been put forth for a full game, and those mistakes are costing them.

San Jose has one last chance to get in the win column on this road trip as they visit the Washington Capitals on Tuesday. The Caps are another top team on a losing skid looking to turn things around before the break, and one that can make the opposition pay dearly for their mistakes. If the Sharks are going to go into the break on a high note, that part of their game has to be tighter.