Sharks

Sharks maintain controversial penalty was turning point in loss to Vegas

Sharks maintain controversial penalty was turning point in loss to Vegas

SAN JOSE – You could point to a couple of reasons why the Sharks lost the second game of their best-of-seven first-round matchup against the Golden Knights, but the controversial goalie interference call early in the second period was perhaps the biggest turning point of the entire contest.

Not surprisingly, the two teams are split on how everything unfolded and whether the officials made the right call.

At roughly 51 seconds into the second period with the scoreboard knotted up 3-3, Marc-Andre Fleury came out of the crease to defend a shot from Brent Burns, which Logan Couture appeared to tip into Vegas’ net. But the goal was almost instantly waived off, with the ref calling goaltender interference on Couture before sending him to the box to serve a two-minute minor. 

Instead of the Sharks going up 4-3 on Couture's tip-in, the Knights converted on the ensuing power play less than a minute later on their way to a 5-3 victory. 

Here’s where some explanation is necessary. According to NHL Rule 69.4

“If an attacking player initiates any contact with a goalkeeper, other than incidental contact, while the goalkeeper is outside his goal crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed. A goalkeeper is not “fair game” just because he is outside the goal crease. The appropriate penalty should be assessed in every case where an attacking player makes unnecessary contact with the goalkeeper.”

The issue of whether the “appropriate penalty was assessed” is where things get messy.

When Sharks’ head coach Peter DeBoer discussed what he referred to as a “devastating” call, he argued that Couture should not have been penalized and that San Jose should have been able to challenge the ruling on the ice.

[RELATED: Sharks and Golden Knights combine for historic first period]

“The problem I’ve got with that is that, for one, (Couture’s) entitled to that ice,” DeBoer recounted, “and because Fleury is outside the crease and he’s just going to that area outside the crease there’s no intent at all to run into Fleury.
 
“The travesty of the call is that if they had called it goalie interference, we could have challenged it,” he continued. “I think the league would’ve recognized Fleury was outside the crease, probably would have awarded us a goal and we’re up 4-3 at that time and it’s a different game. But it’s a two-goal swing, because he calls the penalty, even though there’s zero intent to hit Fleury and Fleury’s outside the area he should be.”

Members of the Sharks agreed, not holding back that they thought Fleury was too far outside of the paint for Couture to avoid him. 

“They do a lot of complaining about Fleury and the traffic in front,” Evander Kane said. “But, when you’re exiting the blue paint three extra feet, it makes it awful tough as an opposition to try and stay away from him without battling a d-man in front of the net. So, it was a pretty good reaction by [Fleury] and he tricked us. Tricked them.”

It probably doesn’t help that the players don’t think there is much consistency in enforcing the rule. “I was under the impression that if it was outside the blue, it’s not goaltender interference,” said backup netminder Aaron Dell, who was on the other side of the ice when the call occurred. “It looked like [Couture] barely touched him, from what I could see. I’m not sure what the ref saw on that side, he had a better angle of it. I don’t know, it’s just been kind of murky on the consistency on that one.”

Knights’ head coach Gerard Gallant, on the other hand, saw something very different from where he was standing behind Vegas’ bench. 

“(Couture) hit him in the head,” Gallant said to the press after the game, using the word “awesome” in reference to the call. “(Fleury) tried to play the puck, he's defending his goal. He's trying to play the puck, and the guy skates through the blue paint and bumps him in the head. So, to me, it's pretty obvious. I don't know what they're saying over there, but did you guys see? Did you guys see it? I mean, it's pretty obvious to me."

Fleury had his own view of the play when asked about it after the game. "I didn't have much of a view, it was just somebody in my face,” the netminder said. “I don't know. I was looking at the puck, and then I couldn't move to my right because he was there and that's where the puck was going. I'm glad the ref made a call."

The results of the call put Vegas in a position to take back the momentum of the game. Even though San Jose had four opportunities on the power play after that, they weren’t able to add to their score. Although the Sharks could have tied the contest back up, it’s hard to ignore the turning point less than a minute into the second period.

“That one call is a two-goal swing in the game and it’s devastating for our group,” DeBoer said. “It’s a shame.”

Sharks' Game 7 history in NHL playoffs filled with elation, heartbreak

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AP/USATSI

Sharks' Game 7 history in NHL playoffs filled with elation, heartbreak

Sudden death. Instant life. Nothing in sports is more intense than overtime in the Stanley Cup playoffs, as we learned anew in the Sharks’ thrilling and terrifying Game 6 double-overtime win at Vegas on Sunday.
 
That win ratchets the intensity of the first-round, best-of-seven series up even higher as we now confront a do-or-die scenario. A handshake will happen Tuesday night at SAP Center. What if this one also should go to extra time? The stress is fearsome to contemplate.
 
The Sharks and their fans have experienced the joy or heartbreak that accompanies a winner-take-all game exactly 10 times. Here’s the history.

1994 first round: Sharks 3, Red Wings 2

It still ranks among the greatest upsets in NHL history. A tenacious Sharks group populated by castoffs and youngters made their first-ever playoff appearance.  

The offensive magic of aging Red Army legends Sergei Makarov and Igor Larionov. The toughness and savvy of veterans Bob Errey and Gaetan Duchesne. The talent and young legs of pups Sandis Ozolinsh and Ray Whitney. Ulf Dahlen digging pucks out of the corner. Arturs Irbe defending his net Like Wall.

This greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts collective defeated a Stanley Cup favorite stacked with future Hall of Famers Sergei Fedorov, Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom, Paul Coffey and Dino Ciccarelli -- and they did it in Detroit, to boot. 

At 13:25 of the third period, Jamie Baker scored the most momentous goal in Sharks history as Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood strayed from his crease. Bakes’ winner was immortalized by the keen insight of color analyst Pete Stemkowski: “It’s in the net!”


1994 second round: Maple Leafs 4, Sharks 2

The real action in this series was in Game 6, when Sharks forward Johan Garpenlov’s potential overtime series-winner clanged off the crossbar behind Felix Potvin.

In Game 7, the Sharks finally ran out of gas. The Leafs cruised on home ice behind a pair of goals from Wendel Clark and one from Doug Gilmour.

1995 first round: Sharks 5, Flames 4, 2 OT

Another series projected as a mismatch saw the Sharks win squeakers while losing blowouts. In Game 7 in Calgary, original Shark Pat Falloon scored twice, but San Jose gave away a two-goal lead late in the third period.

They hung on for dear life until fellow franchise original Ray Whitney eventually beat Flames goaltender Trevor Kidd over the shoulder in the second overtime -- on assists from Russian icons Larionov and Makarov. To date, it remains the franchise’s only Game 7 Golden Goal.

Journeyman netminder Wade Flaherty, aka Flats, came up huge, making 56 saves to enable the upset.


2000 first round: Sharks 3, Blues 1

Then-Sharks analyst Drew Remenda voiced the view of the hockey world before the playoffs began: “There is no way the Sharks are winning this series.”

Oops!

In another stunning surprise, a San Jose squad that had barely snuck into the eighth spot overcame a President’s Trophy juggernaut led by all-world defensemen Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger. The Sharks shrugged off a 6-2 massacre in Game 6, and took the lead early in Game 7 on a goal from grinder Ronnie Stern.

Then a long-range skipper by Owen Nolan from out near the red line with just 11 seconds remaining in the first broke the Blues’ spirit. Sharks goalie Steve Shields got the better of the Blues' Roman Turek between the pipes, and San Jose had sprung another upset on the road. 


2002 second round: Avalanche 1, Sharks 0

This was the most bitter of Game 7 defeats. It was the best team in franchise history so far, featuring a mix of veteran performance (Teemu Selanne, Owen Nolan, Vincent Damphousse and Gary Suter) and young talent (Patrick Marleau, Brad Stuart and Marco Sturm) that also was strong in net (Evgeni Nabokov and Miikka Kiprusoff.)  The 2001-02 Sharks hung their first-ever Pacific Division banner.

But in Game 7 in Denver against the defending Stanley Cup champions, Selanne missed a wide-open cage from point-blank range with a back-hand shot early in the first. Avalanche legend Peter Forsberg scored early in the second, and Patrick Roy did the rest.


2008 first round: Sharks 5, Flames 3

It was a series much like the current one against Vegas — hotly contested and highly physical. Veteran forward Jeremy Roenick, better known for his accomplishments elsewhere, put his stamp on Game 7 with an epic performance, scoring twice and dishing out a pair of helpers.

Joe Thornton scored the opening goal, and the Sharks rallied from a 2-1 deficit at home with four straight scores, as Nabokov outdueled his former understudy Kiprusoff.

For Sharks fans, pain would pounce in the next round, when the season ended with a quadruple-overtime loss to the Dallas Stars in Game 6.


2011 second round: Sharks 3, Red Wings 2

This series ended up way too close for comfort, as the Sharks handed back every bit of a 3-0 lead to a Detroit team led by superstars such as Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. But in Game 7, San Jose got the jump on the Winged Wheel at SAP Center with first-period goals by Devin Setoguchi and Logan Couture.

Patrick Marleau scored the eventual game-winner -- his first point of the series -- in the third as the Sharks withstood furious Detroit pressure behind 38 saves from Antti Niemi.


2013 second round: Kings 2, Sharks 1

San Jose battled toe-to-toe with the defending Stanley Cup champs coached by former Sharks bench boss Darryl Sutter. It was a series in which every game was won by the home team, and the Sharks couldn’t get over the hump in a tight-checking finale at Staples Center.

Game 7 specialist Justin Williams scored both goals for the Kings, and LA goaltender Jonathan Quick sprawled and robbed Joe Pavelski with a spectacular glove save with 5:04 left in the third.

[RELATED: Limiting Sharks' chances is key to a Game 7 victory]

2014 first round: Kings 5, Sharks 1

A series that will live in infamy: the Reverse Sweep.
 
The Sharks took a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 series lead on Marleau’s overtime winner in LA, but they couldn’t finish the job. A trio of three-goal Kings wins eventually led to the clincher in San Jose.

Team Teal took a short-lived 1-0 lead on defenseman Matt Irwin’s goal, but they were then overwhelmed by an LA onslaught and ultimately completed the collapse they had flirted with in 2011. The Kings went on to lift their second Cup, and the Sharks went into a tailspin, missing the playoffs entirely the following season.

2016 second round: Sharks 5, Predators 0

In a series that matched San Jose’s strength and skill against Nashville’s speed, the Sharks left no doubt in a decisive home victory. Pavelski started the scoring on the power play, Couture scored a goal and added two assists, and Jumbo and Patty each contributed a goal and assist.

Sunday’s hero, Martin Jones, delivered a calm 20-save shutout. The most successful playoff run in franchise history ultimately would fall just two victories short of San Jose’s first Stanley Cup.

Sharks see limiting Vegas' dynamic offense as key to winning Game 7

Sharks see limiting Vegas' dynamic offense as key to winning Game 7

SAN JOSE – The Sharks’ victory in Game 6 on Sunday fit a winning formula they put into play during the regular season: Allow two goals or fewer, and you’ll win the game. That’s something that has proven to be true through the first-round series in the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Vegas Golden Knights, as San Jose has allowed two or fewer goals in all three of its wins. 

But despite that, the Sharks' last two games have showcased some troubling statistics. Namely, they've allowed a lot of shots to get through to goaltender Martin Jones.

Sure, Jones has been on his A-game the last two contests, and San Jose has done a better job of taking the center of the ice away from Vegas. But the Sharks still have room for improvement with the a decisive Game 7 at SAP Center on Tuesday. One of those things is, without a doubt, limiting the number of opportunities Vegas’ offense gets.

“We have to spend less time in our d-zone,” winger Evander Kane said Monday. “Be a little quicker to close and get out of the zone quicker. I think that will help cut down on some shots, and obviously we want to spend a little more time on the attack as well.”

Vegas has outshot San Jose in consecutive games. The Knights held a 32-29 edge in Game 5, then a massive 59-29 advantage in Game 6. They also created 19 high-danger chances compared to 12 for the Sharks, according to Natural Stat Trick. 

All of this happened even though San Jose’s defense has been pushing Vegas’ forwards out to the edges when they try to generate anything off of a rush. But, there’s no denying San Jose will want to bridge that gap in quality -- whether or not that also happens on the shot clock. 

“I thought there was a lot of perimeter stuff, but we’re still allowing those pucks to get to the net,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “So we’ve got to shut that down.”

Above all, limiting Vegas’ chances gives Jones the support he needs. After being pulled twice in three straight Sharks losses, their beleaguered starter has been absolutely nails, especially in the Game 6 win. San Jose center Logan Couture said Jones “was probably the reason we won that game.” Keeping the Knights – who will extra hungry after dropping two straight games – from getting any kind of a jump on Jones will be huge.

So how do the Sharks make that happen? Spending more time out their own zone, according to DeBoer.

"In order to do that, we have to forecheck better,” he said. “We have to play in the other team’s end more. I thought were a little disjointed offensively and excepted the game a little bit too much last night during some periods.”

That effort, however, doesn't start in the offensive zone. The Sharks, according to Couture, have to be more effective exiting their own zone. 

“I think we can forecheck better. Break out better," he said. "We can’t spend so much time in our own end and give up 59 shots again.”

[RELATED: How Sharks can (and can't) advance past Vegas in Game 7]

San Jose is all too aware of how momentum can shift back and forth in a crucial Game 7 situation. But the Sharks are more than up to facing that challenge.

“Things are going to happen, there are going to be swings throughout the game,” Couture said. “They’re fun games to play in. You relish it and enjoy it. This is what hockey is all about. That’s why it’s a fun sport to play.”