Sharks

Sharks 'just weren't good enough' vs. Coyotes in first loss of 2019

Sharks 'just weren't good enough' vs. Coyotes in first loss of 2019

You have to hand it to the Sharks, they put on quite the show to kick off 2019. They’ve shown incredible growth since the start of the season, and battled through a jam-packed schedule to defeat some difficult teams and put together a stellar winning streak in the process.

That in of itself probably makes their first loss of the new year -- a 6-3 defeat at the hands of the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night -- a letdown.

“We just weren’t good enough,” Sharks forward Logan Couture told the media in Arizona, “and it’s tough because we were on such a nice run.”

The Sharks were, in fact, shooting for their eighth win in a row. They had just beaten the Pittsburgh Penguins the night before, in arguably one of their most complete 60-minute efforts this season. Playing a lower-level team like the Coyotes afterward can, of course, result in a little bit of a letdown.

However, the Sharks had yet to fall into that trap in 2019, defeating the lowly Los Angeles Kings after a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Ottawa Senators two nights after beating the Vegas Golden Knights. This is a team that, clearly, knows not to overlook lesser competition.

But even knowing the difficulties such a game can present, the Sharks had trouble early against the Coyotes.

“We knew coming in that we had to get our emotional level back engaged again after last night,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer acknowledged. “We didn’t do it quickly enough or for long enough.”

[RELATED: Sharks GM says trade deadline deals must strike right balance]

It didn’t help either that San Jose was playing Arizona on the tail end of yet another back-to-back. All three times these teams have met this season have been on the second night of a Sharks back-to-back. The Coyotes, on the other hand, were well-rested after losing to the Calgary Flames on Sunday.

That extra time showed on Wednesday. 

“You have to give [Arizona] credit,” DeBoer continued. “They were rested, and they played with a lot of energy and won a lot of battles.” 

San Jose has battles of their own to fight, and no time to dwell on the end of a season-long winning streak. The Sharks entered Wednesday just one point behind the Calgary Flames in the Pacific Division, but fell back another point after the Flames lost to the Buffalo Sabres in overtime.

Plus, they'll have another emotionally-charged game coming up on Saturday when they travel to Tampa Bay for a rematch with the Lightning. San Jose’s already beaten the Bolts once before, and a loss to the Coyotes shouldn’t deter them from thinking they can do it again.

“We’re not happy about this loss, but we’ve got to keep doing what we’ve done before,” Timo Meier said. “We’ve done some good things, we’ve played some great hockey. We’ve got to continue.”

Sharks credit perfect penalty kill in sealing big win over Hurricanes

Sharks credit perfect penalty kill in sealing big win over Hurricanes

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks' 5-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night was no easy feat.

In fact, the team was fairly unhappy with how they played in the first period at SAP Center, despite heading into the first intermission with a 3-1 lead. 

But the Sharks were happy with was how their special teams propelled them to their third straight win. Although a potent power play helped get them on the board early, the penalty kill made the biggest difference.

"Our penalty kill, we've taken a lot of pride in it for a long time," coach Peter DeBoer said. "It's been good for a few years here."

The Sharks ended the night with the NHL's third-best penalty kill with a 91.7 percent success rate. San Jose has not allowed a power-play goal in each of its last three wins.

Evander Kane's first-period hat trick gave the Sharks a boost, but they spent too much time in their own zone at even strength Wednesday. The Hurricanes, who were playing the second night of a back-to-back, gave San Jose netminder Martin Jones plenty of work to do. Carolina dominated the shot clock and had the game's better chances.

But when things got extra interesting in the second period and the Sharks got into penalty trouble, their kill came to the rescue. Barclay Goodrow, a mainstay on San Jose's penalty kill, credited the Sharks' short-handed success to their pace.

"We're moving our feet, we're pressuring the opposition," he summarized. "We're forcing them to make plays a little quicker than they would like to. I think that, and we're blocking shots. And we're getting clears when we want to, so it's going well."

The Hurricanes had a golden opportunity to climb out of their two-goal hole late in the second period. Goodrow and Patrick Marleau simultaneously sat in the penalty box for hooking minors, giving Carolina 46 seconds on the 5-on-3. 

But with help from Jones, the Sharks penalty kill kept the 'Canes off the scoreboard.

"Your goalie's always your best penalty killer," DeBoer said. "He was really solid. I thought that first period [the score] could've been 3-3. He's given us two really good games in a row."

[RELATED: Watch Kane score Sharks' first-ever first-period hat trick]

While every game carries its own momentum, the Sharks undoubtedly would like for the success of their penalty kill to carry over into their next game.

The Sharks close out their three-game homestand Saturday night against the Buffalo Sabres, who currently have the second-best power play in the league. As a result, San Jose knows its penalty kill will once again be a key point. 

"We're going to be playing a good Buffalo team," Sharks captain Logan Couture observed. "I think they lost tonight but they've been playing very, very well. Their power play is very hot. So it'll be a good test for us."

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-2 win over red-hot Hurricanes

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-2 win over red-hot Hurricanes

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks knew the Carolina Hurricanes would be a big test Wednesday night at SAP Center. If that test was being graded, you would be hard-pressed not to give them an A.

Fueled by Evander Kane's first-period hat trick and a potent power play, the Sharks played perhaps their best game to date and stymied the Hurricanes in a 5-2 win.

Here are three takeaways from San Jose's third straight win.

Evander Kane, obviously

When a player becomes the first in Sharks history to score a hat trick before the first period ended, not giving him his own takeaway would be a crime. 

Kane's first goal deserves some recognition because of how quickly he scooped up the loose puck at Tomas Hertl's feet to chip it past Hurricanes netminder James Reimer.

But his next two power-play goals were also impressive, and his third was downright Pavelskian.

The Sharks struggled to get traffic in front of the net during their winless start, but Kane and his teammates have been much better lately getting in the goalie's grill. On Wednesday night, that effort paid off. Big time.

Martin Jones keeps rolling

When Jones made a swift glove save on Teuvo Teravainen 1:07 into the game, you could tell he was about to have another strong outing.

The 'Canes spent most of the game in the Sharks' zone, and Carolina dominated the shot clock for the duration. But Jones was in the zone.

The Sharks won't be happy that Jones faced a lot of strong chances, even if San Jose collectively did a better job at minimizing the turnovers in this game. At least with both goaltenders playing well, the Sharks have a better chance of keeping those mistakes out of the back of their net.

[RELATED: Sharks' Labanc keeping focus on future after turnaround]

A special night for the power play and penalty kill

When the Sharks' special teams were in a rough state at the very start of the season, coach Peter DeBoer said he wasn't worried about it. He had a feeling it would figure itself out, and he was right.

In addition to Kane's two power-play goals, the Sharks penalty kill came up big in the second period when they killed off the Hurricanes' two-man advantage. Even though Carolina was visibly tired due to playing on the tail end of a back-to-back, the Eastern Conference leaders were still getting some good looks in front of Jones. The Sharks penalty kill, however, was on point. 

That bodes well for Saturday when the Sharks host the Buffalo Sabres, who currently have the NHL's second-best power play.