SAN JOSE – The Sharks were asked after snapping a seven-game losing streak Saturday if their win over the Vegas Golden Knights meant they were ready for the playoffs.
Sunday's 5-3 loss to the Calgary Flames showed they still have plenty of work to do.
That defeat was not the result of just one factor. As coach Peter DeBoer told reporters afterwards, it came down to a whole mix of things.
“You’re coming off an emotional game, back to back, and we’re banged up,” he summarized.
Whatever the reasons, the game got away from the Sharks after a strong opening 12 minutes. The Flames scored three goals in 1:15, and took a 3-1 lead into the second period.
Despite playing on the tail end of a back-to-back after an emotional win – and still missing key pieces of their lineup due to injury – the Sharks expected a better result in their fourth-to-last game of the regular season. They needed to put up more of a fight against Calgary, but instead fell short.
“You have to be better in those situations,” said Timo Meier, who scored his 30th goal of the season. “We’ve got to be ready to play this time of year, back-to-back against two good teams. We definitely weren’t ready tonight.”
The loss officially closed the door on the Sharks' slim hopes of Pacific Division and Western Conference crowns. Home-ice advantage is secure in the first round, but San Jose is locked into a matchup with Vegas when the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin in just over two weeks.
The Sharks had plenty to play for, but Logan Couture said the team didn't rise to the occasion.
“It’s a rivalry, this is a team we’re hoping to see down the line. We should’ve had more energy,” he said.
To the Sharks' credit, they started brightly.
All four lines clicked in the first half of the first period. Up until Meier gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead, it appeared they were building off of Saturday's win.
Then, the Flames tied the game just under three minutes later. 4:12 after taking the lead, the Sharks trailed by two goals.
“I thought we came out and played well for maybe seven, eight good minutes,” Couture said. “Kind of got a lucky bounce there to score a goal, we’re up 1-0. Then the next thing you know it’s 3-1. It’s in our game right now – we’re scoring goals and in the next shift we’re giving up a couple. We’ve got to figure out a way to fix that.”
It didn’t help that the Sharks had trouble getting out of their own zone once the Flames jumped ahead. In Saturday's win, the Sharks turned the game around with a strong second period. On Sunday, however, they only generated three shots on goal in the entire second stanza, and the Flames scored another goal before the period expired.
“We’re having a tough time breaking out of our end right now,” Couture summarized. “We’re just having a tough time exiting. When we don’t exit, it ends up in our net.”
However they fix it, the Sharks have just three more regular season games to do it. San Jose hits the road to face the lottery-bound Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers, before wrapping up the regular season next Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche.
As defenseman Brenden Dillon pointed out, those are two chances for the Sharks to right the ship.
“We’re going into buildings where teams are going to be playing a little bit loose and those are sometimes the hardest time to play,” he said. “I think these are going to be good tests for us to make sure we’re playing the right way.”