Sharks

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 4-3 overtime loss vs. Sabres

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 4-3 overtime loss vs. Sabres

BOX SCORE

Well, you can't say the Sharks didn't make things interesting Tuesday night.

San Jose forced overtime at KeyBank Center but fell 4-3 to the red-hot Buffalo Sabres in the extra frame. The Sharks jumped out to a two-goal lead in the first period, but they trailed by a goal until defenseman Erik Karlsson tied the game with just under nine minutes left. 

Here are three takeaways from the Sharks' second straight loss. 

Why this loss is hard to swallow

The Sharks showed a lot of resiliency at the start of the game, rebounding from two defensive breakdowns in the first minute to leading 2-0 at the first intermission. Then, when they trailed for the first time in the third, they picked up the pace, grinding the Sabres down before Karlsson scored the equalizer.

But the Sharks slowly lost control of the game in the second period after the Sabres cut the lead in half on Jack Eichel's power-play goal. After rebounding so well in the first frame, coughing up a two-goal lead is a disappointment.

Jones vs. Eichel

Sharks goaltender Martin Jones stood on his head at times Tuesday, often stymying Buffalo's four-line attack. But Jones' most impressive saves came against the Sabres' young captain, who played on another level after a mid-game collision with Timo Meier. Eichel tallied six of Buffalo's 29 shots, and he could've scored more than two goals were it not for Jones. 

Jones allowed four goals on 29 shots, but that's not an accurate snapshot of how he played Tuesday, considering all the big saves he made. What the starter needs, now, is for the team in front of him to score another goal or two on the other end of the ice.

On that note ...

[RELATED: Watch Meier, Marleau and Vlasic go tic-tac-toe on Sharks goal]

Closer to establishing a four-line game

In all honesty, the Sharks looked better at even strength in Tuesday's game than they have all season. Their top two lines were clicking and even the fourth line got on the board, thanks to Dylan Gambrell's first regular-season NHL goal.

But it wasn't just the goal-scoring. the Sabres didn't hem the Sharks in their own end, and San Jose instead did a much better job pushing play forward and protecting the puck. If the Sharks can play like that on a more regular basis, they'll be a much harder team to play against -- even against some of the tough competition they have coming up on their schedule.

Surging Sharks can't afford to lose 'tremendous' Tomas Hertl to injury

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AP

Surging Sharks can't afford to lose 'tremendous' Tomas Hertl to injury

The Sharks' game on Thursday was, without a doubt, the Tomas Hertl show.

Hertl has been playing at a high level throughout San Jose's current winning streak and added to that successful stretch Thursday by leading San Jose's offense with two goals against the Ducks. But then Hertl left the game in the third period after colliding with Anaheim forward Sam Steel and appearing to injure his leg. Hertl never returned to the game and was not available for comment following the Sharks' 5-3 victory.

Even after the postgame media scrum, there was no update on Hertl's status. But it's no secret that the Sharks, who are finally digging themselves out of their early-season hole, can't afford to lose him from their forward attack.

"He's playing tremendous," Logan Couture told reporters at Honda Center after the game. "You hate to say you get used to it because he's playing at such an elite level. But the way he's been playing over the last two years, he's been at that level. And he's getting better."

The captain isn't mistaken. Hertl really came into his own last season after head coach Peter DeBoer moved him to the center position, taking on more responsibility and becoming an irreplaceable force in San Jose's offensive arsenal. Now, after a slow start to the season, the Czech forward has come alive once again with goals in five straight games and is currently leading his team with 21 points. His performance through the first two periods of Thursday's game perfectly showcased the mix of physicality, goal-scoring prowess and relentless drive that makes him a power forward to be reckoned with. Not to mention, he plays well with a number of players on his wing, and the current combination with Timo Meier and Barclay Goodrow has been one of the best lines -- if not the best -- the Sharks have put out on the ice since the start of November.

That's precisely why San Jose can't afford to lose him as the team climbs its way out of the Pacific Division basement.

An injured Hertl wouldn't just force DeBoer to shuffle up his lines, as he also plays an important role on San Jose's special teams, which have been one of the team's saving graces since the start of the season. There's no doubt that the Sharks would be missing a major puzzle piece if Hertl has to miss any games.

The Sharks have a packed schedule through the end of November with a mix of competition to face, from hosting the lowly Detroit Red Wings this upcoming Saturday to visiting the rival Vegas Golden Knights next Thursday. Given how San Jose's season began, there is no opponent on the horizon that the Sharks can look past.

[RELATED: Three questions from fans after Sharks' six-game homestand]

If the injury Hertl sustained Thursday causes him to miss time, San Jose's job becomes that much more difficult.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-3 win over division rival Ducks

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AP

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-3 win over division rival Ducks

BOX SCORE

It wasn't the prettiest or most dominant game the Sharks have played this season. But heck, a win is a win.

San Jose spent a good chunk of Thursday's game trailing the Ducks on the scoreboard. But thanks to some late-game magic from the special teams, Team Teal was able to extend its winning streak to five games with a 5-3 victory over the SoCal rival.

Here are three takeaways from Thursday's game in Anaheim.

Stay strong, special teams

In all honesty, the Sharks didn't look like they had the upper hand for the majority of the game. But during a short span in the third period, San Jose completely took over the game thanks to a power-play goal from Brent Burns and a short-handed goal from Evander Kane within less than three minutes of each other.

San Jose's special teams have been one of the few bright spots through the slow start to the season. When facing an opposing goaltender that is on top of his game -- like John Gibson was for Anaheim on Thursday -- being able to score on both the man advantage and the penalty kill is huge.

Hertl power 

While three of the Sharks' four forward lines generated very little offense against the Ducks, Tomas Hertl and his linemates, Timo Meier and Barclay Goodrow, were on fire. Hertl had quite a night with two goals in the first 40 minutes, extending his goal-scoring streak to a career-best five games.

Hertl, Meier and Goodrow also accounted for the majority of San Jose's shots on goal within the first two periods. Although the rest of the offense began to come alive in the third, the Sharks still need to get to a point where all four lines play up to the level that the Hertl's played at against the Ducks.

Not-so-strong second 

Too often this season, the Sharks have followed up a strong first period with a sluggish second. Such was the case on Tuesday night, as San Jose grinded in the first period but came out in the second stanza flat-footed.

To make matters worse, the Sharks couldn't stay out of the penalty box in that period, which allowed Anaheim's dismal power play to find the back of the net. While the Sharks were able to tie the game back up before the period expired, they can't keep undoing all their hard work.