Sharks' win over Avs is sign of growth, improvement

Joseph Korenar, Brent Burns

The Sharks had very little, if anything, to play for on Wednesday night. They were less than 48 hours removed from being officially eliminated from playoff contention, and one could make a very legitimate argument that San Jose has much more to gain by losing its remaining games than winning them.

Meanwhile, the Sharks' opponent Wednesday, the Colorado Avalanche, had everything to play for. The Avs still have a decent chance of catching the Vegas Golden Knights for the top overall seed in the Honda West division, and the lowly Sharks represented a tremendous opportunity to further narrow the gap.

So, naturally, the Sharks came back from a two-goal deficit to win 3-2 at SAP Center.

Though it has long been obvious that the Sharks were not headed to the playoffs this season, you couldn't tell by the way they played Wednesday night. They easily could have thrown in the towel after Colorado scored two goals within a three-minute span late in the second period. Heck, it would have been somewhat understandable if they lacked any jump from the get-go whatsoever.

But that's not what happened.

Tomas Hertl cut the deficit in half with 13 seconds left in the second period and then pulled San Jose even with his second goal of the night less than three minutes into the third. Erik Karlsson's power-play goal with just over 10 minutes remaining proved to be the game-winner.

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Afterward, Sharks coach Bob Boughner was proud of the way his team competed, particularly against such a star-studded opponent.

"With the exception of the first game," Boughner said of the season series with the Avalanche, "[they were] close games, so we're hanging with them. When their big line goes off ... I said this the other day, it may be the best line on the planet. So, it's tough to have an answer for that line every night. But we managed our game and we made adjustments through the four games -- different things off of face-offs, different things on our power play, our breakouts, how we wanted to play them in certain situations -- so, it's a great learning experience."

"I'm proud of the young guys. ... It's a great experience for these guys to be able to play this kind of talent, these kinds of teams, and be in those situations."

That experience likely will serve the Sharks better in the long-term than improved draft positioning (resulting from a loss) could. They have a long way to go to turn things around, but Wednesday's performance was a promising sign that slowly, but surely, they're moving in the right direction.