Sharks

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in nail-biting 4-3 win over Coyotes

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in nail-biting 4-3 win over Coyotes

BOX SCORE

There was no time to worry about the loss to the Dallas Stars the previous night. Sharks coach Peter DeBoer through the lines in the blender, and sent out his back-up goaltender as Sharks visited Arizona for their first meeting of the season with the Coyotes.

After San Jose jumped out to an early lead, the Desert Dogs came roaring back to tie the game up in the third period and make things interesting. In the end, though, it was Sharks rookie winger Lukas Radil who pulled his team out of danger and scored the game-winning goal in San Jose's 5-3 win. 

Here are three takeaways from the Saturday night contest:

The fourth line is starting to click

Something happened to the fourth line after Kevin Labanc was placed there last week against the Carolina Hurricanes. For the better part of the season, the line couldn’t find good chemistry – perhaps, in part, because the lines have been shuffled so much.

But over the last couple of games, the bottom line really started to come alive, with both Barclay Goodrow and Melker Karlsson creating more offense.

Although setup extraordinaire Labanc was moved up to the third line on Joe Thornton’s wing, the line continued to thrive with Lukas Radil back in the lineup. Even before the big Czech forward  the back of the net until the third period of, he made two quality attempts in the first and second periods. Radil’s level of physicality was a perfect addition to the Sharks’ bottom six, who continued to grind and create chances.

Building on that first goal is key

Getting the first goal in a game should be a good sign a team is on the path to a victory. But as the Sharks demonstrated against the Stars on Friday night, getting that first goal isn’t quite enough. Building on that opening tally is what helps push the team the extra mile.

San Jose did just that on Saturday night against Arizona. After Joe Pavelski’s redirect at 14:36 in the first period, the team continued to push. The reunited line of Logan Couture, Timo Meier, and Tomas Hertl converted on their next shift when Couture found a way around six-foot-six netminder Adin Hill to give the Sharks a 2-0 lead. 

That being said ….

Second-period response is still an issue

As everyone knows at this point, the Sharks have a problem with following up a strong first period with an equally strong second. It looked at first as though San Jose would break that pattern when Evander Kane found the back of the net in the second stanza to give the Sharks a three-goal advantage.

Then, Arizona came roaring back to notch two quick goals to cut the deficit down to one.

San Jose got hyped after that second goal though, fueled by a heated exchange between Joe Pavelski and Coyotes winger Richard Panik. They really began to grind and gain momentum as the frame expired.

Unfortunately, Panik was also the player who notched the tying goal in the third period when the Sharks broke down. But, Radil was there to bail them out with his first NHL goal. 

Why Sharks believe they're turning things around after win over Oilers

Why Sharks believe they're turning things around after win over Oilers

SAN JOSE -- Suffice to say, the Sharks don't look like the same team that started a six-game homestand on Nov. 1 with one of the worst records in the NHL.

With a 6-3 win over the Pacific Division-leading Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night, the Sharks have won four in a row and appear to be climbing out of the hole they dug themselves in the first month of the season.

Not to jump the gun or anything, The Sharks aren't out of the woods yet. But after the past six games, it looks like they're finally turning the corner and playing the way they expect to.

"Every game, I feel like we're more comfortable," said Tomas Hertl, who scored a goal Tuesday. "Everybody plays better. So now we have to just keep going."

The Sharks spent a good chunk of the first month of the season looking out of sync -- offensively, defensively, you name it. The culprit? Focusing too much on individual play and not working together as a unit.

"We weren't playing our system," Marc-Edouard Vlasic summarized Tuesday. "We were freelancing. We were doing our own thing. And it's funny when you stick to it, to what you do best, the results follow."

Erik Karlsson, Vlasic's defensive partner, agreed.

"We lost ourselves a little bit," said Karlsson, who had three assists Tuesday. "But right now we're working hard for each other and getting ourselves in good spots out there."

Sticking to that system yielded positive production on Tuesday against the Oilers. The Sharks scored six goals, and largely contained Oilers superstars Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. 

"We had a big task in stopping one of the best lines in hockey and I think we did a good job of that," Karlsson said. "I think everyone contributed offensively and defensively. I think we played the right way for 60 minutes even though they scored three goals. But I think we stuck with it."

"They're at the top of the division and I thought we did a good job of defending McDavid and Draisaitl as a group tonight," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer added. "I thought we had some individuals who did a really good job, but I thought everyone on the ice with those guys was aware."

Of course, getting the jump on the Oilers fewer than five minutes into the game didn't hurt, either. 

"We got the first goal, which took a little bit of the pressure off," DeBoer said. "We got to play out in front most of the night. Those kinds of things make a difference."

[RELATED: Sharks' Baker shares mental health journey in HEADSTRONG]

Now, as Hertl mentioned, the Sharks have to keep going. With an 8-10-1 record, San Jose is still under .500.

That's not good enough for a team accustomed to playing in the postseason. 

"If you're under (.500) you're not in the playoffs," Hertl said. "We're trying the best and over the last four games, we actually look like the Sharks."

If they keep looking like the Sharks that Hertl is talking about, the outlook on the season gets a little brighter.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 6-3 win over Pacific-best Oilers

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 6-3 win over Pacific-best Oilers

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- If there was a high note for the Sharks to end their six-game homestand on, they hit it against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday.

The Sharks offensively overpowered the Pacific Division-leading Oilers at SAP Center. Logan Couture and Erik Karlsson had multi-point nights and Barclay Goodrow registered a Gordie Howe hat trick as San Jose skated to a 6-3 victory. 

Here are three takeaways from the Sharks' fourth-straight win.

Coming alive 5-on-5

As fans are probably all too aware, the Sharks had a ton of trouble scoring goals at even strength at the start of the homestand. But as they have improved over this six-game span, their 5-on-5 game has come alive. San Jose scored five even-strength goals in the first 40 minutes Tuesday, the team's most impressive 5-on-5 performance of the season. 

To make things better, the Sharks got scoring from their bottom six in Tuesday's game courtesy of third-liner Patrick Marleau's first-period goal. If San Jose can start getting production from the fourth line as well, the Sharks' offense will be in really good shape going forward.


Playing more than 20 minutes

The Sharks went into the first intermission with a 3-0 lead but had a feisty Oilers' team pushing to get on the board. And as the Sharks learned from their back-and-forth 6-5 win over the Minnesota Wild last week, only playing well for the first 20 minutes isn't a good formula for winning games. 

But the Sharks didn't sit back on their heels, instead scoring another goal 1:26 into the second period and then another before the intermission. Even though the Oilers scored three goals in the last two periods, San Jose had enough of a lead to keep the damage minimal.

Not too shabby for a team with one of the league's worst goal differentials at the start of the homestand.

[RELATED: Sharks' Baker shares mental health journey in HEADSTRONG]

The Sharks' best game to date?

Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. The Sharks have certainly played much better over the last four games, but there are still a couple of areas they need to tighten up as they try to climb their way to a .500 record.

Although the Sharks built a big enough cushion, they did let up a bit Tuesday and allow two goals in the third period to let the Oilers make things interesting. As we discussed earlier, that's exactly how the Sharks almost gave up last week's game to the Wild.

While San Jose goaltender Martin Jones did a pretty solid job against Edmonton's offense, the defense in front of him needs to stay tight late into games so they don't end up blowing any late leads.