Edmonton Oilers

Sharks still have room for improvement after hanging on to beat Oilers

Sharks still have room for improvement after hanging on to beat Oilers

Sharks captain Joe Pavelski couldn’t have summarized it better than he did after the Sharks' 3-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday.

“There’s always another level that this team can get to,” he told reporters in Edmonton. 

Sure, the Sharks did some good things in Thursday's win. Heck, getting in the win column at all after the run they’ve been on is progress. But with just one more game left before the Stanley Cup playoffs begin, the team still has things to work on before they consider themselves playoff-ready.

“I still think there’s some room for improvement,” Pavelski said. “Moving forward, as the atmospheres ramp up in away buildings and teams are pushing, we’ve got to stay on the attack and stay aggressive.”

The Sharks trailed 1-0 just 2:03 into the game, but rebounded to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission. When the Oilers tied the game early in the second period, San Jose found the response that proved elusive in Tuesday's loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

“Win or lose, I think we wanted to do the right things,” Logan Couture said after the game. “I think we did good things but there’s still stuff we need to work on.”

Couture even went so far as to suggest that getting in the win column was secondary to re-establishing good habits.

“At this time of year, in these games, you take the win-loss out of it and you want to play the game you want to play in a week or so,” he explained. “For a lot of that game, I thought we did a good job.”

San Jose certainly did a much better job with sticking to a defensive game, blocking 16 shots compared to Edmonton's seven. The Sharks also played a good physical game – something they’ll need against the Vegas Golden Knights once the playoffs start – out-hitting the Oilers 24-15. Props also have to go to netminder Aaron Dell, who rebounded nicely from allowing a goal on the first shot he faced. Without some of Dell’s seven saves in the third period, the Sharks might not have won.

But Dell's big stops also revealed an area where the Sharks still need to improve, and that's expanding upon leads while shutting down opponents. When San Jose was at its best this season, relentless goal-scoring and stingy defense were the hallmarks. 

In the last two road games of the regular season, the Sharks weren't able to expand upon their one-goal leads. That didn’t bite them against Edmonton like it did against Vancouver, but the takeaway is the same: The Sharks can't let opponents hang around. The Golden Knights can be a pain to beat if they’re given too much extra room to operate, especially in the playoffs.

“I still would like to see us put teams away and get a little bit of a cushion there,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer summarized.

[RELATED: Erik Karlsson skates in Sharks' practice as countdown to return continues]

With a one-goal lead in the third period, the Sharks didn't put the pedal to the metal offensively. The Oilers enjoyed a 7-5 edge in shots on goal in the final frame, and four of Edmonton's shots came from first-line threats Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. 

“I think we could’ve done a better job of attacking the third period. I thought we sat on our heels too much,” he said. “Would’ve liked to have seen us attack a little bit more instead of sit back and give them open ice. Which that top line loves to have. I would’ve changed that.”

But all in all, the good things the Sharks did Thursday will bring them one step closer to being ready for the playoffs next week. They still have some creases to iron out though, and one more regular season game to fix them.

“We’re working our way there,” DeBoer said. “It’s not there yet but I’m confident by next week it will be.”

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in much-needed 3-2 win over Oilers

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in much-needed 3-2 win over Oilers

BOX SCORE

For the second straight game, the Sharks had a lead after allowing an early first goal. For, the second straight game, they allowed a tying goal.

But there was no third-period meltdown against the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday, as Gustav Nyquist’s game-winning goal late in the second period lifted San Jose to a 3-2 win over Edmonton. 

Here are three takeaways as the Sharks improved to 45-27-9 (99 points) on the season:

A better reaction to giving up a lead

The Sharks' biggest problem in Tuesday's loss to the Vancouver Canucks was leaving the door open for a Canucks comeback in the third period. As a result, San Jose should take the response to Leon Draisaitl's tying goal in the second period as an encouraging sign. 

Still, the Sharks didn't build on their one-goal lead, leaving little cushion as the Oilers pushed to the tie the game again. When San Jose faces off against the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, scoring that extra goal could be the difference between winning and losing. 

Aaron Dell’s performance

After allowing five goals on 28 shots in Sunday's loss to the Calgary Flames, Sharks backup goaltender Aaron Dell told reporters he hoped it wasn't his last start of the regular season. 

“I’ll take as many as they’ll give me,” he said about getting another opportunity.

Dell took full advantage Thursday night. Despite allowing the early short-handed goal, he buckled down and looked really strong. He made a couple of big saves, including one particularly dicey stop on a Draisaitl chance in the third period that would've tied the game 3-3. The performance had to have given him, and his teammates in front of him, plenty of confidence. 

Speaking of  …

[RELATED: Karlsson takes another big step as return to Sharks nears]

Have the Sharks turned a corner?

Sure, the Sharks could have used another goal to make their job easier late in the game. But getting the win and holding the Oilers to just two goals should give them a nice boost as their playoff preparations continue. San Jose should feel less pressure heading into Saturday's regular-season finale against the Colorado Avalanche, knowing there isn't another losing streak on the line.

The Sharks can turn their focus back to getting healthy. Timo Meier took a tumble in the third period and did not return, and San Jose still has other players who are trying to bounce back and be ready for the start of the playoffs.

If the Sharks can get healthy and build off of Thursday’s game, they'll feel much better headed into the postseason.

Sharks vs. Oilers live stream: How to watch NHL game online on MyTeams

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NBC Sports California

Sharks vs. Oilers live stream: How to watch NHL game online on MyTeams

The Sharks will try to get back in the win column Thursday night against another lottery-bound team, but that's no guarantee that gets San Jose back on track. 

For one, the Edmonton Oilers boast two 100-point scorers in Connor McDavid (115 points) and Leon Draisaitl (102). For another, the Sharks haven't beaten a team who currently is on the outside looking in at the postseason since picking up a 3-0 win over the Minnesota Wild on March 12. 

[RELATED: Sharks look to turn things around vs. Oilers]

Since then, the Sharks have lost to the Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks. Six of San Jose's nine losses in its last 10 games are to non-playoff teams, making Thursday's game all the more important as the Sharks try to round into playoff form. 

Here's how you can watch Sharks-Oilers live on NBC Sports California and streaming on the MyTeams by NBC Sports app.

When: 6 p.m. PT on Thursday, April 4 (pregame show starts at 5:30 p.m.)
TV Channel: NBC Sports California Plus (see below for more details)
Live Stream: MyTeams by NBC Sports app