Sharks

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-3 loss to Golden Knights in Game 2

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-3 loss to Golden Knights in Game 2

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SAN JOSE -- You could call the second game between the Sharks and Golden Knights many things. But boring sure as heck isn’t one of them -- especially after San Jose rallied from a three-goal hole in just a little over two minutes time. Unfortunately, the pendulum swung in the opposite direction after that, and the rival Vegas squad was able to tie the first-round series up at a game apiece with a 5-3 victory. 

Here are three takeaways from Game 2:

So many swings of momentum 

To say the Sharks started the first period of Friday’s game on the wrong foot is an understatement. All the problems that plagued them during their losing streak late in the regular season came back to bite them -- letting Vegas score in the first minute of the game, then letting them take over the neutral zone and increase the lead to 3-0. Which made things even more interesting when San Jose came roaring back to tie everything up 3-3 before the first 20 minutes expired. 

San Jose then fell victim to a series of unfortunate events early in the second stanza, having Logan Couture’s go-ahead marker waived off for goaltender interference and then giving up the go-ahead goal on the ensuing Vegas power play. 

Speaking of the power play …

Missed opportunities 

While the Sharks ran into adversity early in the second period, they weren’t without their chances to even the score back up. Vegas did not play a clean game, racking up seven penalties in the first 40 minutes alone. But just one game after their special teams were a huge contributing factor in a victory, the Sharks went 1-for-8 on the man advantage on the evening.

Although San Jose was able to get one goal during 4-on-4 play within their first-period push, the rest of their opportunities on the power play didn’t look very strong. They spent a lot of time passing to each other instead, and the Knights' kill did a good job of getting their sticks in lanes. The real nail in the coffin, though, was that Vegas was able to score two short-handed goals over the course of the evening -- and seeing as how the Sharks lost by two goals, that was clearly a big deciding factor.

Dell minimized some of the damage 

Martin Jones might’ve had a good showing in Game 1, but he got the hook pretty quickly in Game 2 after giving up three goals in just a little over six minutes. Aaron Dell inherited a tough task, but made a couple big saves along the way that helped stave off the Knights' momentum. He made a particularly nice gloves save on Max Pacioretty towards the end of the second period that could have easily put San Jose in a bigger hole.

Dell ran into trouble, though, when San Jose’s power play lost possession and William Karlsson got a speedy breakaway and was able to tuck the puck away with a backhanded shot. Dell stretched out on the ice and tried to keep the puck out, but Karlsson was too fast for the skaters or the goalie to keep up.

Key for next game? Get back to the formula from Game 1 of tightening up the defense so the Knights don’t get any more golden opportunities like that off of a rush.

How Sharks can benefit from Erik Karlsson injury at NHL trade deadline

How Sharks can benefit from Erik Karlsson injury at NHL trade deadline

The Sharks undoubtedly would prefer if both players were healthy, but San Jose can take advantage of Tomas Hertl and Erik Karlsson's season-ending injuries. 

Hertl already is on long-term injured reserve after tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee last month, and Karlsson should soon join him after breaking his thumb. That puts the Sharks in a unique position heading into the trade deadline, as the fine folks at Cap Friendly observed Saturday. 

The Sharks were 11 points back of the Western Conference's final wild-card spot as of this writing, with four teams between them and the Arizona Coyotes. San Jose also doesn't own a 2020 first-round pick as a condition of the Erik Karlsson trade, and its prospect pool is considered to be one of the weakest in the NHL. It would make a lot of sense, then, for the Sharks to take on -- or retain -- salary in exchange for prospects and/or picks. 

There are a host of playoff contenders lacking salary-cap space, as Cap Friendly noted. The Coyotes, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Vegas Golden Knights and Calgary Flames all currently have fewer than $3 million in space, per Cap Friendly. Trading with a Pacific Division rival might prove difficult, but Sharks general manager Doug Wilson should be able to field calls from the likes of the Florida Panthers ($141,250 in current space), Philadelphia Flyers ($2.08 million), Washington Capitals ($2.45 million), Dallas Stars ($2.93 million), Boston Bruins ($3.12 million) and Pittsburgh Penguins ($3.51 million), among others. 

Finding a contract is another matter entirely. The Stars could trade injured center Martin Hanzal, but he already is on LTIR. It's difficult to envision the Panthers trading pending free-agent winger Mike Hoffman or the Capitals dealing soon-to-be free-agent goalie Braden Holtby for salary relief, let alone when you consider both players' trade protection (and Hoffman's history with Erik Karlsson).

The Bruins would love to trade David Backes, but he won't become a free agent until 2022 and can't be placed on LTIR after Bruins general manager Don Sweeney admitted Backes was "fit and able to play" after being waived. Wilson said he wants the Sharks to contend in 2021, and they can't afford to have another $5 million against the cap considering how many players have signed long-term contracts in the last few years. 

[RELATED: Why Hannan sees silver lining in Karlsson injury for Sharks]

Retaining salary seems to be a likelier option. The Sharks' pending free agents all have manageable contracts, but defenseman Brenden Dillon -- rumored to be one of the top blue liners available -- could be more appealing if teams aren't taking on all $3.275 million of his salary-cap hit. 

The trade deadline now is just over a week away, and the Sharks probably won't be buyers as a result of Hertl and Karlsson's injuries. They'll still be in an advantageous position, however, and Wilson has a chance to start re-stocking San Jose's pool of prospects and draft picks. 

Sharks' Erik Karlsson to undergo season-ending thumb surgery Monday

Sharks' Erik Karlsson to undergo season-ending thumb surgery Monday

Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson will undergo season-ending thumb surgery on Monday in Los Angeles, he told reporters Sunday. 

Dr. Steven Shin will operate on Karlsson's broken thumb. Shin also operated on Warriors star Steph Curry and New Orleans Saints star Drew Brees in the past. 

Karlsson broke his thumb Friday in the Sharks' 3-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets. NBC Sports Bay Area's Scott Bair first reported the news Saturday. It was later confirmed by the team. 

The 29-year-old told reporters Sunday that he injured his thumb when he was hit with a slap shot, not from falling over teammate Joe Thornton. He said the initial X-rays didn't show anything complicated. 

[RELATED: Karlsson injury creates opportunity for Sharks' depth]

Karlsson has scored 40 points -- six goals, 34 assists -- this season in 56 games. His 5.0 shooting percentage is his best since the 2016-17 season, but Karlsson's minus-15 plus-minus is his the third-worst of his 11-year career.

The Sharks re-signed Karlsson to a massive eight-year, $92 million contract last June. Since acquiring him from the Ottawa Senators before last season, Karlsson has scored 85 points -- nine goals, 76 assists -- in 109 regular-season games.