SAN JOSE -- A missed chance at redemption.
The Sharks (22-26-4) were dominated by the Vancouver Canucks (29-18-4) in their final game before the All-Star break. On Wednesday night at SAP Center, it looked like San Jose might even the score, but a third-period collapse ruled out that possibility.
Facing the first-place team in the Pacific Division, the Sharks got off to a great start, with Tomas Hertl scoring less than five minutes into the game. Brent Burns gave the Sharks a one-goal lead in the second period, and Team Teal would take that same advantage into the second intermission. But three straight Canucks' goals in the first half of the third period turned a small lead into a larger deficit, and San Jose never caught back up.
Martin Jones put in an uneven performance in his first start since Jan. 16, stopping 20 of 24 shots. The 5-2 loss widened the gap in the standings between the two teams, which now stands at a whopping 14 points.
Here are three takeaways from a game the Sharks are going to regret:
The night started wonderfully for Hertl, but he didn't get a chance to finish it.
The Sharks' lone All-Star representative -- and the guy that should have been the All-Star Game MVP -- didn't take long to enforce his will against the Canucks. Hertl's tremendous cross-ice saucer pass to Timo Meier ultimately set up his own goal, as Vancouver goaltender Jacob Markstrom was unable to control the rebound from Meier's resulting shot. The puck popped right back to Hertl, who promptly deposited into the back of the net. His goal song? The "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" theme song. Duh.
Shortly after hearing some M-V-P chants from the SAP Center crowd, Hertl awkwardly went into the boards after colliding with two Vancouver players and appeared to sustain a leg injury. He went back to the bench under his own power, but was quickly taken up the tunnel to San Jose's locker room.
Hertl came back out onto the ice minutes later during a TV timeout and appeared to be testing his leg, but after reconvening with the Sharks training staff, he was taken back into the locker room and was ruled out for the rest of the game soon thereafter.
It's unknown if Hertl will miss any time, and if so, how much. But with Logan Couture already missing from the lineup, if Hertl joins him, that might be the final straw for the Sharks' bleak playoff hopes.
Jones' first audition
If Wednesday was the first of 10-15 auditions for Martin Jones throughout the remainder of the season, we didn't exactly learn a whole lot.
Jones wasn't great, but he wasn't bad, either. There were a couple goals that maybe he should have had, but in most situations, he was dealing with a ton of traffic in front of him. And, to his credit, he came up with a few timely saves to keep his team in front through the first two periods. But then the third happened, and, well, the timely saves weren't there.
Sharks interim coach Bob Boughner expressed earlier in the week that he wants to make sure Jones doesn't have too many long layoffs, and planned to do a fairly even split with counterpart Aaron Dell. Boughner also conceded, though, that if one of San Jose's two netminders got hot, they'd be given a chance to keep it going. Jones didn't get hot Wednesday night against the Canucks, and it'll probably be Dell on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Sharks dominated Vancouver in both shots (40-25) and hits (21-9). Those are usually signs that a team had a fairly successful night, but obviously, that's not what happened for San Jose. Part of the reason why was the Canucks' dominance in the face-off circle, where they won 38 draws to the Sharks' 20. That's a huge disparity, and continues a disturbing trend for San Jose, as the Sharks have now won fewer than 45 percent of the faceoffs in each of their last four games. That's their longest such streak of the season, and perhaps its no surprise that they've been outscored 15-7 over that span and lost three of the four contests.
It's tough to score when you don't have the puck, and clearly, the Sharks needed the puck a lot more Wednesday night.