Erik Karlsson

Sharks lament 'poor, poor effort' in third period of loss to Lightning

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AP

Sharks lament 'poor, poor effort' in third period of loss to Lightning

For the first 40 minutes of Saturday's game in Tampa Bay, the Sharks had the Lightning within their reach. Sure, San Jose went into an early 1-0 hole, but they kept grinding in an effort to even up the score.

But after finding themselves down 3-0 in the waning minutes of the second stanza, the Sharks' effort took a backseat on their way to losing 7-1. It collectively became a game San Jose wants to put in the rearview mirror as quickly as possible, but also served as an important lesson as the Sharks continue to iron out mistakes.

"It was a strange game," head coach Peter DeBoer told reporters at Amalie Arena after the loss. "At the end of 40, I was pretty happy with how we were playing. I didn't think we deserved to be down 3-0, but that was the reality. The third period was just unacceptable. A poor, poor effort. I think instead of sticking with it we started feeling sorry for ourselves after that fourth goal and maybe started thinking about tomorrow and you can't do that in this league. Throw that one out."

Logan Couture agreed with DeBoer's assessment.

"I thought we played pretty well through two, I thought we had some good five-on-five looks," Couture said. "I didn't like our third period. We gave them some many freebies and let our goalies down. For the first 40 I thought we played hard, it could have been a one or two-goal game."

San Jose generated a couple of good looks in the first 40 minutes, with a Kevin Labanc chance in the second being the best. But through two periods -- and most of the third period -- San Jose was unable to find the back of the net.

"I don't think we started as bad as maybe the score was telling us," Erik Karlsson said. "That's the way it goes sometimes."

Bolts' netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy stood tall as he came within minutes of handing the Sharks their first shutout loss of the 2019-20 season, but Couture insisted San Jose didn't put enough pressure on him.

"He played well, he made saves, but I think we could have done a better job with traffic," Couture said. "There were second opportunities around him and they did a good job of boxing us out. We've got to be hungrier around their net to score goals."

Even though the Sharks seemed content overall with how they play through the first two periods, there's no denying that the first five minutes set a tone for the rest of the evening. The Sharks were granted six minutes of power-play time thanks to a tripping penalty on Ondrej Palat 15 seconds into the game and then high-sticking double minor on Mathieu Joseph a little over five minutes later. San Jose couldn't convert on any of their chances, stretching their power-play goal drought to a ghastly 0-for-22.

While the power play isn't the only thing the Sharks have to correct after Saturday's loss, it has definitely raised concern.

"I've been trying to be patient through it," DeBoer admitted, "but it hasn't been good and it's getting to the point now where, tonight a big difference in the game was special teams. Especially when we get those early ones, that's a chance to grab some momentum on the road."

[RELATED: Hurricans poke fun at goalie after Thornton punch]

The Sharks are fortunate enough to have a quick turnaround after Saturday's loss, heading to Sunrise to face the Panthers in a Sunday matinee.

"Overall, I think this is a game we're going to have to learn from," Karlsson summarized. "We've got to figure out a way to be successful no matter who we are playing. Today was a tough one on the score sheet, but we have a game again tomorrow. We have to fix the things that make us successful."

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 3-2 shootout loss vs. Hurricanes

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AP

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 3-2 shootout loss vs. Hurricanes

BOX SCORE

There’s nothing like some fireworks to kick off a tough road trip.

The Sharks and Hurricanes might only see each other twice a season, but boy did things get heated between the two teams in their second and final meeting of the 2019-20 campaign Thursday night at PNC Arena. It was a fast-paced and entertaining matchup all the way through overtime. In the end, San Jose got only one point after Carolina prevailed 3-2 in the shootout, but there were a lot of good things that came out of this one.

Here are three takeaways from Thursday's exciting game:

Thornton ruffles some feathers

Joe Thornton has come up in conversation a bit lately, but mostly because he hasn't produced much over the first two months of the season. But Jumbo Joe has gotten back to what he does best -- setting up goals -- which he has done in three of the last five games. Against the Hurricanes, he looked like his vintage self, and even responded in kind when Carolina goalie Petr Mrazek slashed him late in the second period. 

[RELATED: Watch Jumbo send 'Canes goalie to ice with forearm shiver]

Thornton was the leader of the Sharks' third line Thursday, which was easily the team's best. His work setting up Marcus Sorensen for San Jose's first-period goal was especially impressive, as he displayed great patience in setting his young linemate up with Hurricanes skaters pressuring. Not only was the assist a beauty, but it also brought Thornton within four helpers of tying Adam Oates for seventh on the NHL's all-time list. 

Dell bounces back

Dell was coming off a couple of rough outings, but in his first start since Nov. 27, he put up a strong performance in Raleigh.

After giving up the first goal of the game within the opening minute, Dell really settled in and had a good handle on the Canes’ offense. He was very strong at the start of the second period when Carolina came out with a ton of energy and generated plenty of grade-A chances. But perhaps his best came on a third-period penalty kill to keep the game tied up 2-2. 

Or maybe his saves in overtime were better. Really, he put some great tape together.

Karlsson keeps it going

The Sharks are paying Erik Karlsson to be one of their best players, and he was exactly that against the Hurricanes.

The defenseman has been heating up over the last couple of weeks, and on Thursday he looked downright elite. His work on both ends of the ice was superb, and he set up some of the Sharks' best plays of the game. His incredible work setting up Logan Couture's game-tying goal in the second period was the cherry on top of his highlight-reel performance.

Sharks GM Doug Wilson defends signing Erik Karlsson to giant contract

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USATSI

Sharks GM Doug Wilson defends signing Erik Karlsson to giant contract

When the Sharks acquired star defenseman Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators in September 2018, they made sure he wasn't just a rental. Sharks general manager Doug Wilson had long-term plans for his team and Karlsson. 

Wilson proved how badly he wanted Karlsson to stay in San Jose by signing him to a record eight-year, $92 million contract this past June. Despite Karlsson being a two-time Norris Trophy winner, the contract didn't come without scrutiny for its length and dollar figures. 

"I never judge or value other contracts or how other people do their jobs, but I know this: If we hadn’t signed Erik, there would have been 20 teams lining up to pay him," Wilson said to The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun in a recent interview. "He’s a special, special player, as is Brent Burns. Those players are going to get their money." 

Karlsson struggled with injuries during his first season with the Sharks, but he still managed to post 45 points (three goals, 42 assists) in 53 regular-season games. He recorded 16 points (two goals, 14 assists) in 19 playoff games, which ranked second on San Jose.

The defenseman didn't play in the Sharks' season-ending loss in Game 6 of the Western Conference final to the eventual Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues after aggravating his groin in Game 4 and playing just 10:32 in Game 5.

When Karlsson did play, the Sharks went 30-16-7 in regular-season games and 10-9 in the playoffs. 

"You look back last year when Erik was 100 percent healthy, his performance for about two months was as good as I’ve ever seen," Wilson said. "I give him a lot of credit. He went back to get the proper surgery (in the offseason) to now be 100 percent and his last couple of games, just watching him play, his game makes us a better team."

The 29-year-old underwent groin surgery in the offseason, but the only game he has missed this season was to be there for the birth of his child. 

Through 27 games, Karlsson has scored 21 points -- three goals (tied for his total last season) and 18 assists -- this season, good for 0.78 per game. That iss down from his 0.85 points per game average in 2018-19, but his 6.5 percent shooting percentage is way up from last season's career-low of 1.8. 

[RELATED: Sharks set up to make move in standings]

Karlsson seems to be coming on strong lately, scoring five points in the Sharks' last four games in 12 over 15 games in November. He looks to be regaining his strength on the ice, and it's clear the Sharks have one of hockey's premier stars. 

Adding the defenseman for years to come is a move Wilson never will second-guess.