PHILADELPHIA – For the first time this season, the Sharks have lost four games in a row. On Saturday at Wells Fargo Center, Wayne Simmonds’ breakaway score pushed a desperate Flyers team over San Jose, 2-1.
But because this is the NHL, that losing streak doesn’t feel quite as miserable to them as it could. Three of the four losses have come past regulation, so the Sharks have managed to collect three loser points out of eight available. Only Thursday’s defeat in Boston was a convincing one.
“We’ve lost three games in overtime or shootouts. Those are coin flips,” Pete DeBoer said. “I don’t feel we’re in a rut, no. No.”
The first period against the Flyers was one of the worst the Sharks have played all season.
They had a power play goal overturned on a marginal goalie interference call, but otherwise were buried in their defensive end most of the time. Philadelphia, which came in having lost three in a row and is competing for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, had 34 shot attempts to just seven for San Jose. The Flyers won 13 of 20 faceoffs, too.
“We knew they would push. This is a team that can’t have a higher desperation level for where they’re at and with the number of games left,” DeBoer said. “They’ve got a full house, and it’s a tough place to play.”
The Sharks improved over the second and third, though. Ivan Provorov’s third period goal was answered three minutes later by Patrick Marleau on the power play.
Still, the Sharks would not have gotten a point were it not for goalie Aaron Dell. The backup made a number of remarkable saves, among them gloving a Simmonds chance in the first, and denying Sean Couturier with about a minute left in regulation with his left pad.
“It just kind of popped out, I managed to see it, and he kind of just banged at it,” Dell said of the late save. “[Couturier] just kind of jammed it into my pad.”
Pavelski said: “Deller played really good for us. Made a lot of big saves.”
The Sharks were without center Logan Couture, who was a late scratch with an upper body injury that DeBoer indicated wasn’t serious. That meant Kevin Labanc, who wasn’t expected to play, got in after his brief stint with the AHL Barracuda.
The 21-year-old was arguably the Sharks’ most effective forward, registering a team-high five shots as well as setting up Marleau’s goal. The overturned goal would have been his, too, as he was the last Sharks player to touch the puck before Chris VandeVelde directed it in by accident.
“I thought it should have been a good goal, but it is what it is,” said Labanc, who did not allow Michal Neuvirth to "do his job" before the puck crossed the line, according to the league. “You just have got to play hockey, stick to your structure [of] what Pete puts up on the board, and just keep playing hard.”
Labanc nearly won it for the Sharks in overtime, but his shot on a two-on-one was stopped by Neuvirth just seconds before Simmonds gave the Flyers the win.
The Sharks will try to salvage at least one win on their four-game road trip on Sunday afternoon in New Jersey. Don’t expect any drastic changes to their approach, despite the four-game skid.
“Maybe [we’re in] a little bit of a funk,” Joe Pavelski said. “Not panicking by any means, because they have been games that feel winnable. But, we’ve got better hockey, I think.”