Sharks

Sharks rue 'key moments' as they are knocked out by Oilers

Sharks rue 'key moments' as they are knocked out by Oilers

SAN JOSE – The clock said there was seven minutes and 48 seconds remaining in the third period. It was frozen there for a bit after Patrick Marleau’s goal brought the Sharks back to within a single score of Edmonton.

Filled to capacity, the Shark Tank came to life, ravenous for the equalizer. The next several minutes offered a reminder of the team’s thrilling 2016 playoff run, when the Sharks finished just two wins away from a championship while taking their fans along for a ride they had never been on in a quarter-century.

But those seven minutes and 48 seconds quickly wound down, leaving the Sharks worlds away from what they did just a year ago. The Oilers held on for a 3-1 win, ending the Sharks’ season in a first round series that lasted six games.

Other than Game 4, a Sharks blowout victory, all the games were competitive.

“There were just a couple key moments in the series,” Joe Pavelski said.

In Game 6, the key moments that won the game for Edmonton came early in the second period. Justin Braun’s point shot was blocked leading to Leon Draisaitl’s goal to open the scoring, and Chris Tierney’s pass to Paul Martin at the point was just off the mark, allowing Anton Slepyshev to glide ahead untouched for another goal. The scores both came within the first two minutes of the middle frame, and were just 56 seconds apart.

That was probably poetic justice in that the Oilers were the much more aggressive and hungry team in the first period, they just weren't rewarded on the scoreboard.

Joe Thornton agreed with a suggestion that the Sharks were “a little bit sloppy” early, “but we got better. I thought we played a great second period and pushed in the third period. Just not enough time left on the clock.”

The Sharks did seem to get their game going just after Slepyshev’s score, but couldn’t solve Cam Talbot more than once. Pavelski nearly tied it with 3:45 to go, but his backhander from down low glanced off of both the crossbar and the post.

Key moments.

“It felt good coming off the stick, it really did,” Pavelski said of his chance. “It was there.”

Connor McDavid’s empty net goal with less than a second on the clock capped the scoring, sending the Oilers and former Sharks coach Todd McLellan on to the second round. 

Other than Game 4, which they dominated 7-0, the Sharks managed just seven goals in the other five games. Brent Burns failed to record a point in five of the six games, while Pavelski had just a single assist outside of Game 4.

The depth scorers also failed to come through, no surprise after the Sharks got little from them for much of the season.

“They defended well, Talbot played well. They were all close games,” Pete DeBoer said. “You’ve got to find a way to win 1-0, 2-1 in the playoffs. It’s not realistic you’re going to get three or four every night. They found a way to win more of the close games than we did.”

Burns said: “Series was pretty tight. I think it’s like Pavs said, it’s just little moments here and there. So much is luck, just puck luck, creating that luck. It’s a tight series, back and forth.”

The Sharks face an uncertain offseason, as there is little reason to believe their current roster, as constructed, will be able to compete with an Oilers team that has not only proven to be better now but is only going to improve. Whether Thornton and Marleau return remains an uncertainty, too.

“This is a big summer. We’ve got some guys that are up, and the expansion draft and whatnot,” Logan Couture said. 

“Every year I’ve been in this league, the team has never been the same the next year. There’s always been changes. Unfortunately, that’s the way that this league works. We’ll see what happens this summer, and come back hungrier next year.”

In the meantime, the Oilers will continue their push for a Stanley Cup while San Jose’s visit to the final round last year will only become more and more of a distant memory.

Logan Couture returns to Sharks practice after collision with teammate

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USATSI

Logan Couture returns to Sharks practice after collision with teammate

Sharks fans can breathe a sigh of relief, because Logan Couture returned to practice Wednesday morning.

Couture was sidelined at the end of Tuesday morning's practice after he collided with rookie center Rourke Chartier during three-on-three drills. DeBoer didn't immediately have an update on the center's status following Tuesday's practice, but indicated Wednesday that everything was okay.

No. 39 has three points (1 goal, 2 assists) through six games so far this season, all of which were logged during the Sharks' five-game road trip. He made the early-season highlight reel when he set up Kevin Labanc for the game-winning overtime goal against the LA Kings on Friday, October 5.

San Jose was hit with early season injury woes after top line staple Joe Thornton was sidelined after the second game of the regular season due to an infection in his surgically repaired knee. The 39-year-old forward rejoined the team on Tuesday after missing the tail end of the team's road trip.

He has participated in both practices since the Sharks have returned to San Jose, although there isn't clear when he'll next suit up for a game.

Sharks notes: Joe Thornton applauds team for 'playing great' in his absence

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San Jose Sharks

Sharks notes: Joe Thornton applauds team for 'playing great' in his absence

SAN JOSE -- Sharks center Joe Thornton had a fan’s view of the team’s last four games, and he said he liked what he saw.

“I think they’re playing great,” Thornton said Tuesday after his first practice since going on injured reserve Oct. 7. “I think the record could be 5-1, 4-2. We looked solid, [five-on-five] play looked really solid.

“But I really, really like our five-on-five play. It felt like what I was watching we were dictating most of the games.”

Thornton experienced swelling in his surgically repaired right knee the day after San Jose’s 3-2 overtime win over the Los Angeles Kings. In the next four games, the Sharks largely controlled play at even strength, attempting 58.92 percent of the five-on-five shots and out-chancing opponents 102-76, according to Natural Stat Trick.

Yet, the Sharks finished the Thornton-less portion of the trip 1-2-1, falling to 2-3-1 overall. That’s, at least in part, because San Jose scored on just 6.56 percent of its five-on-five shots, and 7.27 percent overall.

Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said the team wants to clean up some details but also must be prepared to just ride out this stretch. 

“I think there are some things you can do to help yourself,” DeBoer said. “Some net-front traffic, and some more commitment to bearing down. But I also think you’ve got to be careful, too, and some of it is just sticking with it. There are stretches where it just doesn’t go [in].”

Risk-y Business

So, how did Thornton spend his week away from the team?

“Watched the games, played some Risk on my computer, go to hockey games with my kid,” Thornton said. “There’s always stuff to be busy with.”

Yes, Thornton -- along with a surprising number of NHL players, as Sports Illustrated’s Alex Prewitt documented in a great story last year -- is an avid player of the Hasbro classic.

He grew up playing with his older brothers during his childhood summers, and has gotten some of his current and former teammates hooked: HC Davos roommate Rick Nash and former Sharks center Chris Tierney were among the converts mentioned in Prewitt’s story.

Gambrell earns 'a look here soon'

The Sharks did not practice Monday, so rookie center Dylan Gambrell spent the night in an AHL game, suiting up for the San Jose Barracuda. Gambrell scored or assisted on both of San Jose’s regulation goals, all with DeBoer in attendance.

The 22-year-old was one of the last cuts of training camp, and he traveled with the team after Thornton was placed on injured reserve. Gambrell has not played for the Sharks yet this season, but he now has five points in two AHL games. 

“He’s gone down and handled the demotion the right way by being the best player on the ice most nights he’s down there,” DeBoer said. “He’s gonna get a look here soon, and hopefully he takes it and runs with it.”

Gambrell played on the wing at Tuesday’s practice, skating with Timo Meier and Logan Couture while Tomas Hertl sat for a maintenance day. Gambrell played on the wing in the preseason, too, and DeBoer said that can only help his cause. 

“If you’re a centerman, you want to be able to knock on the coach’s door and say, ‘Hey, listen, I can also play wing until you need [one],' ” DeBoer said. “He’s got that versatility to his game because of his speed, so I think the more positions he can play, the more opportunities he’s going to get.” 

Fine Lines

While Kevin Labanc also sat for a maintenance day, Thornton returned to the top line alongside Joe Pavelski and Evander Kane. Other than him and Gambrell, there were no other changes to the line combinations and defense pairs from the end of the road trip, and they shook out as follows:

Evander Kane - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Timo Meier - Logan Couture - Dylan Gambrell
Marcus Sorensen - Antti Suomela - Joonas Donskoi
Barclay Goodrow - Rourke Chartier - Melker Karlsson

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Erik Karlsson
Joakim Ryan - Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon - Justin Braun
Radim Simek - Tim Heed

Second-line center Logan Couture collided with Rourke Chartier in a drill Tuesday, and appeared to be holding his wrist afterward. DeBoer did not have an update immediately after practice.

If Couture doesn’t skate Wednesday, the Sharks could ice much different lines in his absence.