SAN JOSE – One constant we’ve seen from the Sharks throughout this first part of the 2018-19 campaign is that they remain confident in their ability to win, even when they’re trailing on the scoreboard.
That much was true in Thursday's 5-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. Although the visitors jumped out to an early lead, the Sharks expected to push back and take over.
“We expected to win this game,” Sharks captain Joe Pavelski admitted after the loss. “Especially with the way we’ve been playing, with the way our game is trending.”
The loss did, indeed, snap the Sharks five-game winning streak. Nevertheless, it’s clear San Jose has vastly improved over the past month.
If nothing else, the Sharks saw how well they match up against one of the heaviest offenses in the league – and how they continue to give themselves chances to win.
“I think we’re playing better and better,” defenseman Erik Karlsson said. “Tonight was a heavyweight game for us and we wanted to win this one.”
San Jose was well aware of the task at hand with the Jets coming into town. Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said as much at Thursday’s morning skate, acknowledging the Winnipeg squad could play both fast and hard without giving much up. So after the Jets went up 1-0 early in the first period, the Sharks buckled down and came roaring back to tie things up less than a minute later.
Evander Kane ties it up pic.twitter.com/eeSddEGZyP— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) December 21, 2018
The teams went back-and-forth for 20 minutes, heading into the first intermission with the visitors holding a 3-2 lead. San Jose then turned up the heat and massively pinned Winnipeg in its own zone, outshooting the Jets 19-9 and notching the tying goal just seconds before the period expired.
Donskoi scores right before the period ends pic.twitter.com/pEekKNGWZn— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) December 21, 2018
The effort made it that much more deflating when Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers broke the tie with 3:07 remaining in the third period. Yet even though the Jets stopped the Sharks’ winning streak at five games, DeBoer still liked what he saw from his team.
“This might’ve been our best game in the last six games, and it was the one we lost,” DeBoer told the media after the game. “I liked our first period. It was one of those games where you’re sitting there going ‘I like how we played’ and we’re down.
"We didn’t get out of our game plan. We stayed structured, we didn’t give them anything in the second period and third. Earlier in the year, we would’ve opened that game up and it would’ve turned into a track meet.”
Karlsson said he thought the high-octane game was fun to be a part of, but that there are still lessons that have to be taken from it.
“We’ve got to learn from it," Karlsson said. "We expect to be one of the top teams in here. Today we showed it in bits and pieces, but the full-time effort wasn’t there.”
San Jose can put those lessons to work right away with a home back-to-back on the horizon just ahead of the holiday break. While the Los Angeles Kings and Arizona Coyotes may be lower in the standings, San Jose needs to apply what was learned from the Winnipeg game into the weekend in order to bounce back.
“We’ve got to get back here and finish these next two games off before Christmas,” DeBoer concluded.