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Sharks hoping history of turning season around vs. Canadiens continues

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Sharks hoping history of turning season around vs. Canadiens continues

There's something about playing the Montreal Canadiens that prompts the Sharks to turn their game around.

San Jose is 14-4-0 against the Habs dating back to 2005, and some of those wins have occurred when the Sharks needed them the most. In Dec. 2015, San Jose broke out of a seven-game losing streak by beating the Habs in Montreal 3-1. In more recent history, a four-game losing streak -- which was followed by a closed-door meeting -- was snapped by another 3-1 victory at Bell Centre that turned the Sharks 2018-19 season around.

Now, in the first month of their 2019-20 campaign, San Jose could use another one of those turnarounds.

Granted, San Jose is facing some new problems this season than they were when they last defeated Montreal. They aren't coming off a lengthy losing streak or having glaring issues with their goaltending. This time around, however, the team is trying to establish its identity while integrating new players -- and that process hasn't exactly been a smooth one. Miscues and turnovers continue to end up in the back of San Jose's net, and getting a solid 60-minute game out of all four lines is still a work in progress.

Even with three straight victories in the middle of the month and some clear signs of improvement, the Sharks are still at the bottom of the Pacific Division. Plus, their current swing through the East Coast isn't going to get any easier. Perhaps playing against a team who they've fared well against in the past will turn things around?

To be clear, this isn't to say that there's some otherworldly magic that comes from the Sharks playing the Habs. Simply that the Sharks are playing them at yet another point of a season where they need to elevate their game. 

San Jose is coming off of back-to-back losses to the Buffalo Sabres, and even though they got a point out of Tuesday's 4-3 overtime loss, they also blew a 2-0 lead. Erik Karlsson told reporters afterward that "by no means should we be satisfied" despite picking up the one point. Head coach Peter DeBoer said he thinks the team is getting better, but "we're still not where we want to be."

Not every Shark is heading into Thursday's game on the struggle bus, mind you. Karlsson himself will take the ice in Montreal on a five-game assist streak and tallied his first goal of the season on Tuesday night.

Logan Couture has points in seven of nine games so far this season. Young center Dylan Gambrell scored his first regular-season goal in Tuesday's game and continues to play a key role in making San Jose's fourth line more effective.

[RELATED: Sharks' Thornton, Marleau piece together funny memories]

Even San Jose's goaltending looks better than it did last season -- there's no denying Martin Jones was a big reason Jack Eichel didn't allow the Sabres to run away with Tuesday's game in Buffalo.

But the fact is, the Sharks still need to turn things around if they're going to recover from a rough start to their season. And there's no better time for them to do that than on Thursday night against the Habs in Montreal. 

Sharks 'not satisfied' after earning point in overtime loss to Sabres

Sharks 'not satisfied' after earning point in overtime loss to Sabres

The Sharks put up a good fight in a 4-3 overtime loss to the NHL-leading Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday. But even after picking up a point, San Jose isn't happy with where its game is at right now.

"We got a point, but by no means should we be satisfied with tonight's game," defenseman Erik Karlsson told reporters at KeyBank Arena. "We need to find ways to win games and right now we're not doing that. We've got to figure that out."

The Sharks are still trying to find consistency. Whether it's getting more out of all four forward lines or cleaning up costly mistakes, San Jose is trying to put all the pieces together nine games into the season. 

"We're getting a little bit better, [but] we're still not where we want to be," coach Peter DeBoer said. "But at least we're showing some signs of competing against really good teams here."

The Sharks were better Tuesday after losing to the Sabres at home on Saturday, rebounding from a dicey first minute of play on the road by going up 2-0 before the first period expired. However, Buffalo was able to rally back thanks to a couple of power-play opportunities and an offensive jolt from captain Jack Eichel, who ended the night with two goals and two assists.

While the Sharks' penalty kill usually is sturdy, mistakes cost San Jose on Tuesday.

"When you go on the road, you can't beat yourself," DeBoer said. "And you beat yourself with penalties, turnovers, specialties... We've got to be better in all of those areas."

The coach did, however, compliment his team's resiliency late in Tuesday's loss.

After Jeff Skinner gave the Sabres their first lead just 45 seconds into the third period, the Sharks got a visible jolt and took over the rest of regulation. Buffalo gained momentum in the second period, but San Jose took it back and outshot the Sabres 13-4 as Karlsson forced overtime with his game-tying goal. 

"I liked our response," DeBoer said. "I think it would have been easy at that point, early in the third when they scored again, to pack it in. And we didn't. I thought we pressed hard and had some chances to win it late."

Those chances to win Tuesday didn't come to fruition, however, and the Sharks will continue on their five-game roadie Thursday in Montreal with just one point in the bank.

[RELATED: Dell likely to earn start in goal on Sharks' road trip]

Whether the Sharks need to take fewer penalties or simply do a better job of not beating themselves, they have areas to work on if they're going to turn their season around. Until that happens, they probably aren't going to be happy with their full 60-minute effort.

"It's small things out there that win you games," Karlsson said. "We're on the wrong side of most of them, and that's something that we have to figure out. That's a learning curve that as individual players and as a team we've got to figure out this year."

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 4-3 overtime loss vs. Sabres

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 4-3 overtime loss vs. Sabres

BOX SCORE

Well, you can't say the Sharks didn't make things interesting Tuesday night.

San Jose forced overtime at KeyBank Center but fell 4-3 to the red-hot Buffalo Sabres in the extra frame. The Sharks jumped out to a two-goal lead in the first period, but they trailed by a goal until defenseman Erik Karlsson tied the game with just under nine minutes left. 

Here are three takeaways from the Sharks' second straight loss. 

Why this loss is hard to swallow

The Sharks showed a lot of resiliency at the start of the game, rebounding from two defensive breakdowns in the first minute to leading 2-0 at the first intermission. Then, when they trailed for the first time in the third, they picked up the pace, grinding the Sabres down before Karlsson scored the equalizer.

But the Sharks slowly lost control of the game in the second period after the Sabres cut the lead in half on Jack Eichel's power-play goal. After rebounding so well in the first frame, coughing up a two-goal lead is a disappointment.

Jones vs. Eichel

Sharks goaltender Martin Jones stood on his head at times Tuesday, often stymying Buffalo's four-line attack. But Jones' most impressive saves came against the Sabres' young captain, who played on another level after a mid-game collision with Timo Meier. Eichel tallied six of Buffalo's 29 shots, and he could've scored more than two goals were it not for Jones. 

Jones allowed four goals on 29 shots, but that's not an accurate snapshot of how he played Tuesday, considering all the big saves he made. What the starter needs, now, is for the team in front of him to score another goal or two on the other end of the ice.

On that note ...

[RELATED: Watch Meier, Marleau and Vlasic go tic-tac-toe on Sharks goal]

Closer to establishing a four-line game

In all honesty, the Sharks looked better at even strength in Tuesday's game than they have all season. Their top two lines were clicking and even the fourth line got on the board, thanks to Dylan Gambrell's first regular-season NHL goal.

But it wasn't just the goal-scoring. the Sabres didn't hem the Sharks in their own end, and San Jose instead did a much better job pushing play forward and protecting the puck. If the Sharks can play like that on a more regular basis, they'll be a much harder team to play against -- even against some of the tough competition they have coming up on their schedule.