The Sharks had an opportunity Monday night to grab their third consecutive win, along with first place in the Pacific Division.
Unfortunately for Team Teal, it couldn’t finish off 2018 on that high note.
The Sharks played a wild game against the Calgary Flames on New Year’s Eve, battling from behind the entire contest but keeping their hopes alive into the third period. The Flames never took their foot off the gas, though, and emerged with a thunderous third period that gave them an 8-5 home win.
Here are three quick takeaways from the game, which turned ugly in the final minute after Flames center Sam Bennett took a run at Sharks defenseman Radim Simek, who appeared to be injured by the hit.
Sharks never really took control of the game
It was no wonder how the Flames were ahead 3-1 in the first frame. They dominated the pace of the game, despite being outshot by the Sharks. (You also have to credit Calgary goalie David Rittich for making a couple key saves.)
San Jose tried to tilt the ice back in its favor in the second stanza, going 7-0 on the shot clock and getting a little help from Brent Burns' laser of a power-play goal. But Calgary added to its lead with its own power-play goal from Mathew Tkachuk. (More on that in just a second.)
It’s not readily clear what was going on with the Sharks, but they just didn’t look in sync as they did in their previous two games following the holiday break.
Not all doom and gloom for Team Teal in first 40 minutes
The Sharks did try their darnedest to come back and even the playing field. Lukas Radil tied the score at 1 in the first period, and every time the Flames went up by two goals, San Jose found a way to get another puck past Rittich.
But Calgary’s counterattack was better. The Flames (24-12-4, 52 points) capitalized on the Sharks' defensive hiccups and roared back with another goal almost immediately. You also have to give Rittich some credit -- he had a couple big saves in the second period when San Jose tried to even things up on the scoreboard.
The Flames' counterattack turned into a full-blown assault in the third frame, as the score went from 5-3 to 8-4 before the period was even halfway over. Sharks goalie Aaron Dell ended up allowing all eight goals and making just 19 saves.
What’s happened to San Jose's penalty kill?
The kill was the Sharks’ bread and butter for much of the first half of the season -- which was good, considering that stretch early in the season when San Jose was making a fair number of trips to the sin bin. But while the month of December has been relatively good for Team Teal, their success on the kill -- although it's still ranked third best in the NHL -- has diminished, and Tkachuk's power-play goal hurt in this game.
This is an area where the Sharks (21-13-7, 49 points) need to be better, particularly with the string of games it has coming up after the new year. The Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning are on the schedule later this week, and those teams have two of the NHL's best power plays.