Timo Meier

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in unimpressive 6-3 loss vs. Coyotes

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AP

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in unimpressive 6-3 loss vs. Coyotes

BOX SCORE

Coming off a brief -- albeit impressive -- homestand, the Sharks looked to carry their momentum into a critical three-game road trip, beginning Tuesday night against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena. Instead, that momentum has been brought to a halt, as San Jose fell 6-3 against its divisional foes.

The Sharks dug themselves a big hole, as Arizona's Phil Kessel provided his team with a 2-0 advantage five minutes into the second period with his second goal of the night. San Jose then battled back in short order, tying the game up within the next five minutes of play, but it would be mostly downhill from there.

Aaron Dell did his best in net to give the Sharks a chance, and the score likely would have been much worse if not for some of his big saves, particularly in the early going.

Here are three takeaways from the battle in the desert/

Unnecessary penalties

The Sharks no longer are the most penalized team in the NHL, but they're still shooting themselves in the foot too often with some of the penalties they are taking.

You don't have to look any further than Stefan Noesen's hooking penalty early in the second period to get the point. On the complete opposite end line from San Jose's own goal, the fourth-liner took a terrible hooking penalty, and it cost the Sharks big time. On the Arizona's resulting power play, San Jose's penalty-kill unit was atypically caught out of position, allowing Kessel to slide an easy goal past Dell to increase the Desert Dogs' lead to 2-0. 

The Sharks have constantly relied on their top-ranked penalty kill  this season, and it has been a tremendous ace in the hole for the team. But if they keep giving the opposition unnecessary advantages, it won't matter how great it is.

Dell is the guy

If it wasn't clear before, it should be by now. Aaron Dell is the Sharks' No. 1 goalie, and he has run away with the job.

Tuesday night was Dell's fourth straight start, and he has started all but one of San Jose's games since the turn of the calendar. He hadn't allowed more than two goals against in any of those starts, and while he allowed four to the Coyotes -- Arizona scored two on an empty net -- it's not as if he had a legitimate chance on any of them. In fact, Dell came up with several big saves in the opening period, without which the game likely would have gotten out of hand long before San Jose had a chance to stage a comeback attempt.

He came up with another huge save shortly after Kessel's second goal, which actually initiated a Sharks' rush up the ice and culminated in Timo Meier's game-tying goal midway through the second period. Without any of those saves, San Jose doesn't have a reason to pull Dell at the end of the game.

And without Dell's recent emergence, the Sharks' goaltending situation would be looking a lot more dire at the moment.

Power play cashes in again

After the Coyotes increased their lead to 4-2 just over eight minutes into the third period, San Jose could have folded and packed it in, knowing a tough game in Denver was next on the schedule. But to the Sharks' credit, they kept battling and gave themselves a chance to get a point or two.

San Jose kept the pressure on, and Meier eventually drew a tripping penalty with just under three minutes remaining in the contest. Less than a minute later, Evander Kane scored off a nice pass from Kevin Labanc to pull the Sharks within 4-3.

They never got any closer, but Kane's power-play marker continued a positive trend for the Sharks. With Kane's goal, the San Jose is now 5-for-13 with the man-advantage over the last five games, with at least one power-play goal in all but one of those contests. Additionally, it was Kane's 10th power-play goal of the season, moving him into a tie with the Washington Capitals' Alexander Ovechkin for the third-most in the NHL.

Timo Meier answers criticism with hat trick in Sharks' win vs. Flyers

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AP

Timo Meier answers criticism with hat trick in Sharks' win vs. Flyers

SAN JOSE -- Sharks interim head coach Bob Boughner didn't want to name names to the media when he said that he wanted certain players to step their game up after a 3-2 overtime loss to the Kings on Friday. But everyone listening had a hunch one of those players was 23-year-old Timo Meier.

Following a big 2018-19 campaign, the Swiss forward has battled to find that same fire consistently. Through the two games bookending the Christmas break, Boughner even sat Meier for stretches late in both contests.

Then, on the tail end of a back-to-back, Meier responded in a big way with his first career hat trick -- one that led San Jose to a 6-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. It became more clear than ever that the how big of a piece the young winger is to this Sharks team.

When Meier is hitting his mark, San Jose has a much better chance of winning.

"When he works, he's a very good player, and when he doesn't he's going to struggle," veteran and Sharks captain Logan Couture said. "The goal for the San Jose Sharks was for those guys to step into big minutes and fill shoes and contribute and it's been a tough season. The big thing is working hard and I think that Timo got back to that tonight."

To be fair, Meier wasn't the only Sharks player who needed a bounce-back performance after Friday's meltdown against Los Angeles. His absence from the ice in the third period and Boughner's post-game comments, however, put a spotlight on his performance. 

After his big rebound performance on Saturday night, No. 28 took stock in his game.

"I know myself, I've got to be better," Meier said in a candid manner. "I thought tonight was better but I still know I have to do more.

"Obviously, yesterday wasn't a great game, but that's how it is. You've got to bounce back. That's how the business is."

Meier thrived on a de facto second line with Evander Kane and Barclay Goodrow on Saturday, contributing nine of San Jose's 31 hits on the evening in addition to connecting for Meier's second and third goals on the evening. Boughner attributed that success to the meetings the team held on Saturday morning.

"We had a good meeting this morning where we sort of called each other on the carpets about the details and why we're struggling," Boughner explained. "I thought that was our most effective line. They played a lot more straight and north. They were stopping pucks and being physical.

"You could see the message that we sent this morning about identity and being a harder team to play against. I thought we were a heck of a lot more physical."

[RELATED: Watch all three of Meier's goals]

Now, of course, it's a matter of San Jose continuing that physical play and stringing a couple of wins together. Even with the success they had on Saturday against the Flyers, they are still down in the Western Conference basement. The Sharks have to keep playing with desperation if they're going to get a winning streak going.

"After last night's loss, we were obviously pissed off," Meier said. "I thought tonight we played like that -- we were the more desperate team. And we've got to play like that. That's how we're going to have success as a team."

Watch Sharks' Timo Meier score first NHL hat trick in rout of Flyers

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USATSI

Watch Sharks' Timo Meier score first NHL hat trick in rout of Flyers

The eighth time was the charm for Timo Meier.

The young Sharks forward had seven two-goal games in his NHL career entering Saturday, but he'd never scored a hat trick. That changed in San Jose's 6-1 rout of the Philadelphia Flyers at SAP Center, as Meier finally grabbed his first career hatty.

Meier gave the Sharks a 3-0 lead with 10:31 remaining in the second period, when he deflected Brent Burns' point shot past Flyers goaltender Carter Hart. 

The 23-year-old doubled his total 96 seconds into the third period. The Swiss winger skated alongside linemate Evander Kane on a 2-on-1, jumping into the rush after the Flyers turned it over in the Sharks' defensive zone. Kane's placed a pass on Meier's platter, and the fourth-year pro did the rest. 

Kane set up Meier for another tap-in with 7:08 remaining in regulation. Meier helped lead the Sharks out of their own zone in transition, sneaking to Hart's back post after Kane retrieved the puck on Barclay Goodrow's dump-in. 

The hats soon followed. 

Meier played an average of just 12:27 in each of the Sharks' last two losses, sitting for most of the third period in both instances. Interim coach Bob Boughner didn't scratch Meier on Saturday, and it's safe to say the decision paid off.

[RELATED: Sharks' Melker Karlsson helped off ice after puck hits head]

Meier matched his season high with six shots on goal -- each of which came at even strength. All six of Meier's shot attempts were on net, and he finished second on the Sharks with five 5-on-5 scoring chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. 

The goals were Meier's first since Dec. 14, and the Sharks will need more if they have any hope of climbing out of the Pacific Divison and Western Conference's cellar into Stanley Cup playoff contention.