The Sharks began a six-game homestand with three straight wins, and they ended it with three straight losses after Sunday's 4-3 defeat to the Colorado Avalanche.
San Jose took a 1-0 lead thanks to Joe Thornton's power-play goal in the first period and tied it 2-2 in the second thanks to Melker Karlsson's breakaway. The Sharks couldn't contain the Avalanche's top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Vladislav Namestnikov, however, and former San Jose winger Joonas Donskoi put the game away with his first goal since Jan. 2. Noah Gregor got the Sharks within one late, but San Jose's desperate push for a tying goal fell short.
Here are three takeaways from the Sharks' underwhelming homestand finale.
MacKinnon just missed out on the Hart Trophy in 2018, and he arguably was better last season. The 24-year-old showed Sunday why he deserves to be an MVP frontrunner -- if not the favorite -- this season.
MacKinnon socred or assisted three of the Avalanche's four goals. He unloaded a one-timer on a first-period power play for his 35th goal of the season, then matched his career-high with 58 assists in the second period. The Colorado star undressed Radim Simek with a deke and Landeskog buried the rebound in the second period, while MacKinnon's hounding of Brent Burns forced a turnover and allowed Landeskog to set up Vamestnikov on the Avs' game-winning goal.
The Sharks limited MacKinnon to five points in an epic seven-game playoff series last spring, but they had no such luck against the superstar Sunday. He'll play San Jose once more this season on March 17, with the 100-point mark in his sights for the first time.
Hits keep coming
The Sharks haven't had health on their side during the second half of the season. Captain Logan Couture fractured his ankle on Jan. 7, forward Tomas Hertl tore his left ACL and MCL on Jan. 29 defenseman, Erik Karlsson broke his thumb on Valentine's Day and blueliner Jacob Middleton is "week-to-week" after sustaining a lower-body injury last week. Hertl and Karlsson's injuries were season-ending, while Couture re-joined the Sharks' list of injured players after a deflected puck hit him in the face in the first period.
Ouch 🤕 pic.twitter.com/dgXm1SB5OU— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) March 9, 2020
Couture's first season as Sharks captain hasn't gone as he envisioned. San Jose likely will miss the playoffs for the first time in five years, and he missed 17 games due to the aforementioned ankle injury. The Sharks didn't release an update on his condition after the game, but he previously required offseason surgery after sustaining a gruesome mouth injury towards the end of the regular season three years ago.
The 30-year-old said he didn't consider shutting down for the year after his previous injury, and Couture surely will try to return to the lineup if the Sharks medical staff deems a return possible.
Thornton had only scored two goals through his first 60 games. The 40-year-old is on fire since then, though, and his power-play goal in the first period Sunday was his fifth tally in his last nine games. Evander Kane tapped a loose puck to Thornton, and the bearded center beat sprawling three sprawling Avalanche players -- including goaltender Pavel Francouz -- to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead.
4️⃣2️⃣0️⃣ goals for Jumbo pic.twitter.com/lHjSfqBR5a— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) March 9, 2020
Thornton's goal was his seventh of the season and the 420th of his career, with the latter mark tying Bill Barber for the 84th-most in NHL history. The recent hot streak gives Thornton a decent chance of scoring 10 goals in a season for the 19th time in his career, which would be tied for the 15th most in NHL history.
The veteran is enjoying some well-timed regression to the mean, proving that his shooting percentage through the first 60 games -- 3.3 percent -- shouldn't be considered Thornton's norm when he enters his 23rd NHL season next fall. Thornton isn't the player he once was, but he's proving he can still contribute in his early 40s.