Marcus Sorensen

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 3-2 win over desperate Jets

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AP

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 3-2 win over desperate Jets

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The Sharks gave defenseman Brent Burns the best gift he could've asked for in his 1,100th NHL game. Other than a pair of antelope, that is. 

San Jose came back to beat the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 on Friday night, thanks to a pair of quick third-period goals from Melker Karlsson and Timo Meier. The Sharks turned a one-goal deficit into a one-goal lead in just under 90 seconds, opening their two-game road trip with a well-earned victory over a team desperately pushing for a playoff spot. The Jets nearly forced overtime, but Kyle Connor hit the post with just under 20 seconds remaining in regulation.

Here are three takeaways from the Sharks' third straight road win.

Sticking with it

The Sharks entered the third period with a 24-14 advantage on the shot clock and nothing to show for it. Then, the third period happened. 

Karlsson and Meier scored 1:29 apart early in the final frame, all while the Jets couldn't sustain any offense. Winnipeg didn't attempt a third-period shot until San Jose goaltender Aaron Dell stopped Patrik Laine's wrister 8:17 in.

The Sharks will welcome that change of pace, despite the Jets' late flurry as they pushed for a tying goal. San Jose has given up a higher share of 5-on-5 shots and quality chances under interim coach Bob Boughner than predecessor Peter DeBoer, but the Sharks had massive edges in both areas Friday and that set up their third-period comeback. 

Penalty kill nearly a killer again

Connor's between-the-legs beauty nearly swung the game. He evened things up with a stunning power-play goal, and Blake Wheeler gave the Jets a 2-1 lead soon after.

Connor's goal was just enough to briefly get the Jets back in the game, and the Sharks continued an ugly trend, too. San Jose has now allowed 10 power-play goals in the last 11 games, killing off just 22 of their 33 penalties. 

The penalty kill bounced back by keeping the Jets off the board in the third period, but a downward slide down the stretch could spell trouble. Dominant 5-on-5 efforts like Friday's more than makeup for short-handed struggles, but San Jose's penalty kill needs to start pulling its weight.

[RELATED: Should Sharks retire Jumbo, Patty's numbers on same night?]

A long time coming

Marcus Sorensen's first goal in over two months was befitting of a long wait. The Swedish-born forward first needed to poke a loose puck past Jets netminder Connor Hellebuyck in the first period, then wait for the results of a coach's challenge and then rely on the scorekeeper crediting him with his sixth goal of the season after briefly giving it to Sharks rookie Alexander True.

Sorensen managed just two assists over his previous 25 games before scoring Friday. He found strong chemistry with new linemates True and Dylan Gambrell early, and the trio pinned Winnipeg in its own end during their limited looks with one another. 

The Sharks entered Friday with the fourth-fewest goals scored this season (145), and Sorensen's struggles after scoring a career-high 17 in 2018-19 have played a role. He won't reach that this season, but Sorensen's play alongside True and Gambrell bodes well for the Swede improving the rest of the way.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in familiar 4-1 loss vs. Canucks

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USATSI

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in familiar 4-1 loss vs. Canucks

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The Sharks closed out a forgetful unofficial first half of their regular season against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on Saturday night. Just like so many of San Jose's games thus far, it ended in a lackluster loss.

While Team Teal ended up suffering a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Canucks, it could have been much worse. The Sharks were unable to sustain any kind of offensive pressure, and goaltender Aaron Dell had to be on top of his game to prevent the score from getting out of hand -- which it eventually did.

The loss completes a winless three-game road trip for San Jose, over which the team was outscored 14-4.

Here are three takeaways from the Sharks' final game before the All-Star break:

Message not received

After San Jose's 4-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday, Sharks interim head coach Bob Boughner didn't mince words when calling out his team, saying, "I think it's time to man up." Boughner then sent another message to his squad when he made Marcus Sorensen a healthy scratch for Saturday's matchup with the Canucks, pleading for more "relentlessness."

Who knows about Sorensen, but as for the rest of the Sharks, it did not appear that they heeded their coach's message. At no point throughout Saturday's game did San Jose impose its will on the opposition. In fact, it usually was the other way around.

The Sharks entered Saturday trailing the Canucks by 10 points in the standings. It's 12 now, and for a team with such little margin for error, San Jose's performance did not reflect the kinds of urgency one would expect.

Shots, shots, shots

The Sharks are averaging nearly one fewer goal per game than they did last season, and while you can point to the absence of certain individuals as perhaps the main reason why, it's really tough to score without getting pucks to the net. San Jose provided even more evidence of that fact Saturday night, accumulating only seven shots on goal through the first two periods, compared to 27 for Vancouver. It wasn't simply a failure to get shots through, either. The Canucks had attempted 54 shots entering the third period, while the Sharks had attempted precisely half that number.

San Jose tested Vancouver goaltender Thatcher Demko more in the third period with 10 shots on goal, and Barclay Goodrow was even able to find the back of the net to prevent Team Teal from being shut out for a second consecutive game. But considering how badly they needed a victory, the Sharks' slow start doomed them in the end.

[RELATED: Report: Wilson won't disrupt Sharks' core at trade deadline]

Not-so-special teams

The Sharks have been able to hang their hat on their No. 1-ranked penalty kill all season long, but it hasn't been nearly as dominant as of late. Vancouver went 1-for-6 on the power play against San Jose, marking the third time in four games that the Sharks have been scored on while shorthanded. And in the only game San Jose didn't allow a power-play goal, the Sharks gave up a short-handed goal to the Avalanche. 

The Canucks' lone power-play goal Saturday proved to be the game-winner. The Sharks haven't had many relative strengths this season, but when the few that they have had start to stumble, San Jose simply doesn't have much recourse.

Surging Sharks star Joe Thornton leads way in win vs. Blue Jackets

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AP

Surging Sharks star Joe Thornton leads way in win vs. Blue Jackets

The NHL's holiday break seems to have done some good for veteran Sharks center Joe Thornton. 

Thornton's game-winning assist on Kevin Labanc's goal in San Jose's 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday afternoon was his fifth point in as many games since Dec. 27, and his fourth assist during that span. The 39-year-old's helper Saturday was the latest example of the vision that propelled Thornton to the top seven on the NHL's all-time assist list. 

"Marcus [Sorensen] just [made] a little fake pass, and Jumbo with that vision that he has and ability to get that pass through, and I just one-timed it in the net," Labanc told Sharks broadcasters Randy Hahn and Bret Hedican after the win. "It was a great overall play, and it was a huge goal for us on the road here."

Labanc, Sorensen and Thornton formed the Sharks' third line for much of last season, and the trio reunited in Thursday's win over the Pittsburgh Penguins after sporadically playing together through the first 41 games of the season. Saturday -- or, game No. 43 -- arguably was the trio's best performance. 

With Labanc, Sorensen and Thornton on the ice together in 10:36 of 5-on-5 play, the Sharks out-attempted the Blue Jackets 14-3, outshot them 9-2 and out-chanced them 7-1 Saturday, according to Natural Stat Trick. Columbus didn't attempt a single high-danger chance when all three players were on the ice. 

"Jumbo was making plays today, and even 'Bancer -- he had some looks at the net and he did some good things defensively," Sharks interim coach Bob Boughner said of his third line. "It was nice to see him get paid off at the end."

Thornton's improved production has come along with improved finishing. The Sharks have controlled a lower share of shot attempts, shots and chances with Thornton on the ice in their last five games than the first 38, but San Jose has scored on 11.76 percent of its 5-on-5 shots with Thornton on the ice since Dec. 27 compared to 7.86 percent prior. 

Better goaltending has helped, too. Goaltender Aaron Dell stopped 21 of 23 shots Saturday, winning his second straight start posting a .900 save percentage in a season-high fourth straight game. Thornton's on-ice save percentage in 5-on-5 situations over the last five games (.931) is far better than the first 38 of the season (.871).

[RELATED: Five Sharks who have exceeded this season]

The Sharks' secondary scoring has dried up this season, and San Jose entered Saturday ranked 26th in the NHL in goals-for. Thornton probably can't keep up a point-per-game pace for the rest of the season, but a scoring bounce for the veteran -- and dominant puck-possession performances like Saturday's -- would really help the desperate-for-depth Sharks. 

The bearded center's resurgence alone won't be enough to push San Jose up the standings, as seven points and four teams stand between the Sharks and the Western Conference's final wild-card spot. But, Thornton's improvement has certainly helped the Sharks win three of their first five games since the holiday break.