Sharks

Sharks have Martin Jones to thank for keeping winning streak alive

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USATSI

Sharks have Martin Jones to thank for keeping winning streak alive

SAN JOSE -- The SAP Center crowd was on the edge of its seats during overtime play as Brent Burns went to the box for tripping and the Sharks went on the penalty kill. 

But goaltender Martin Jones was there to keep the game moving right along, making stop after stop against the Red Wings and giving San Jose the boost it needed to get to the shootout and tally its sixth straight victory.

On a night when the Sharks weren't at their best, Jones was -- as head coach Peter DeBoer aptly put it -- San Jose's "best player." And this certainly wasn't the first time this month that he came up with some big saves at a very big moment.

Without Jones playing at the level he has been over the last few contests, the Sharks might not finally be climbing out of their early-season hole.

"When he can steal games like that, it's huge for us," Kevin Labanc said. "He had an unbelievable game today and that's why he's the goalie that he is. We have a lot of faith in him and he's winning us games right now."

Jones' work on the penalty kill was just one highlight of his performance from Saturday night. He was steady as Detroit's offense picked up steam and used its speed to wedge into San Jose's zone. Jones was quick to save some of the Red Wings' best shots, most notably a Brandon Perlini attempt that he batted out of the crease with his outstretched right leg. He then topped it off by completely stymying Detroit's top scorers in the shootout.

"A big reason we got the two points was him tonight," captain Logan Couture said of Jones. "He made massive saves. You think of that penalty kill, that save in the second there which was huge, big saves in the third that he made. He's playing great. And then the shootout -- he's been unbelievable in the shootout so far."

Considering the rough start Jones had this season, one wonders if he has been doing something different recently in his preparation for games. But when asked postgame why he's been more successful lately, the netminder -- who is typically a pretty cool customer -- couldn't pinpoint where his current confidence is coming from.

"I have to play the game," Jones said. "I can't rely on making a big save early, sometimes that's just the way the game unfolds. I get confidence from practicing hard and making sure I'm focused on the details."

Granted, Jones' numbers on the season as a whole still aren't great. He's 8-7-1 through 16 starts and currently possesses an .889 save percentage. Even over the course fo San Jose's current six-game winning streak, he's sitting on an .891 save percentage. While the team in front of Jones obviously is scoring enough goals to win games and piggyback on his big saves, it still needs to give him a little more help.

"I still think we can be tighter and better defensively," Couture critiqued. "Too many grade-As in our slot and breakaways. So we'll tighten up on that."

[RELATED: What we learned as Sharks beat Red Wings in shootout]

But the Sharks aren't going to scoff at another win, especially if it comes at the hands of a big performance from their goalie.

"When you're putting together a winning streak, you're going to have to win all kinds of different ways," DeBoer said. "You're going to put some really solid games together, and then you're going to win some like this where you've got a couple of guys with big performances."

In this case, Jones' performance is what kept the winning streak alive.

Sharks lament 'poor, poor effort' in third period of loss to Lightning

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AP

Sharks lament 'poor, poor effort' in third period of loss to Lightning

For the first 40 minutes of Saturday's game in Tampa Bay, the Sharks had the Lightning within their reach. Sure, San Jose went into an early 1-0 hole, but they kept grinding in an effort to even up the score.

But after finding themselves down 3-0 in the waning minutes of the second stanza, the Sharks' effort took a backseat on their way to losing 7-1. It collectively became a game San Jose wants to put in the rearview mirror as quickly as possible, but also served as an important lesson as the Sharks continue to iron out mistakes.

"It was a strange game," head coach Peter DeBoer told reporters at Amalie Arena after the loss. "At the end of 40, I was pretty happy with how we were playing. I didn't think we deserved to be down 3-0, but that was the reality. The third period was just unacceptable. A poor, poor effort. I think instead of sticking with it we started feeling sorry for ourselves after that fourth goal and maybe started thinking about tomorrow and you can't do that in this league. Throw that one out."

Logan Couture agreed with DeBoer's assessment.

"I thought we played pretty well through two, I thought we had some good five-on-five looks," Couture said. "I didn't like our third period. We gave them some many freebies and let our goalies down. For the first 40 I thought we played hard, it could have been a one or two-goal game."

San Jose generated a couple of good looks in the first 40 minutes, with a Kevin Labanc chance in the second being the best. But through two periods -- and most of the third period -- San Jose was unable to find the back of the net.

"I don't think we started as bad as maybe the score was telling us," Erik Karlsson said. "That's the way it goes sometimes."

Bolts' netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy stood tall as he came within minutes of handing the Sharks their first shutout loss of the 2019-20 season, but Couture insisted San Jose didn't put enough pressure on him.

"He played well, he made saves, but I think we could have done a better job with traffic," Couture said. "There were second opportunities around him and they did a good job of boxing us out. We've got to be hungrier around their net to score goals."

Even though the Sharks seemed content overall with how they play through the first two periods, there's no denying that the first five minutes set a tone for the rest of the evening. The Sharks were granted six minutes of power-play time thanks to a tripping penalty on Ondrej Palat 15 seconds into the game and then high-sticking double minor on Mathieu Joseph a little over five minutes later. San Jose couldn't convert on any of their chances, stretching their power-play goal drought to a ghastly 0-for-22.

While the power play isn't the only thing the Sharks have to correct after Saturday's loss, it has definitely raised concern.

"I've been trying to be patient through it," DeBoer admitted, "but it hasn't been good and it's getting to the point now where, tonight a big difference in the game was special teams. Especially when we get those early ones, that's a chance to grab some momentum on the road."

[RELATED: Hurricans poke fun at goalie after Thornton punch]

The Sharks are fortunate enough to have a quick turnaround after Saturday's loss, heading to Sunrise to face the Panthers in a Sunday matinee.

"Overall, I think this is a game we're going to have to learn from," Karlsson summarized. "We've got to figure out a way to be successful no matter who we are playing. Today was a tough one on the score sheet, but we have a game again tomorrow. We have to fix the things that make us successful."

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 7-1 blowout loss to Lightning

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USATSI

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 7-1 blowout loss to Lightning

BOX SCORE

The Sharks' Saturday night faceoff against the Lightning wasn't nearly as fast-paced as their previous game against the Hurricanes. And, unfortunately for the Sharks, it wasn't as good of a performance.

While the Tampa Bay squad has struggled this season, they overpowered San Jose thanks to a strong performance from their netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy, handing the Sharks a 7-1 loss.

Here are three takeaways from Saturday's game.

The other guy was better

It wasn't as if Martin Jones didn't make a couple of big saves early in the game. (At least, up until he was pulled from the game.) However, Vasilevskiy was superior on the other end of the ice.

The reigning Vezina Trophy winner was a brick wall against San Jose, coming within minutes of handing the Sharks their first shutout loss of their season.

It wasn't as if the Sharks weren't trying. They got good o-zone time and outshot the Lightning through the first 40 minutes of play. But even with a ton of pressure from San Jose's third line in the second period, Vasilevskiy remained un-phased. By the third period, the wind had been taken out of the sails of the Sharks' offense.

Doomed by special teams

This isn't the first time this season that the power play has come under scrutiny. Far from it, actually -- San Jose entered Saturday's game on a 0-for-19 stretch. But things got worse against the Bolts, as the Sharks got three opportunities in the first frame -- one minor penalty 15 seconds into the game and double minor later in the period -- and couldn't capitalize on any of them. Being on the man advantage almost looked to zap San Jose's energy.

When the Bolts got their own chance on the four-minute power play in the second stanza, they didn't have the same problem that the Sharks did. San Jose's league-leading penalty kill was almost all of the way through a Kevin Labanc high-sticking double minor when Steven Stamkos's shot picked the corner and beat Jones for Tampa's third goal on the evening.

Back on the hunt for a four-line effort

This one might seem obvious since the Sharks almost got shutout, but the effort put out by all lines needs to be noted. For a second straight game, the Joe Thornton-led third line was the strongest in San Jose's forward attack. But unlike in the Sharks' previous game, the other lines didn't generate too many good looks.

Simply put, the Sharks aren't going to win games if the majority of their team is playing a passive game like they did on Saturday. Even against a middle-of-the-pack team like the Bolts, San Jose's collective effort just wasn't good enough.