Three takeaways: Sharks' third line woes continue

Three takeaways: Sharks' third line woes continue

ST. PAUL – The losing streak endures, as the Sharks dropped their fourth straight, 3-2 in Minnesota on Tuesday night. A quick start from the home team, and an even quicker response after the Sharks tied it up late in the second keyed the Wild win. Let’s dig a little deeper, though, with our three takeaways…

1 – Wild come out flying

The Sharks’ general lack of panic after their latest loss, as we touched on in the recap, surely had something to do with the circumstances. Minnesota had an extra day of rest while the Sharks were on their second of a back-to-back, with travel. San Jose was also capping off a stretch of seven games in just 11 days (I believe we’ve mentioned here before just how monumentally foolish this year’s NHL schedule is). 

Frankly, the start was predictable. Minnesota was a ticked off team having lost five straight, and even though it had dropped is previous game in Winnipeg, 5-4, it erased a 4-0 deficit in that one only to lose it late. Surely that was a sign that the Wild were ready to break through in the win column.

Pete DeBoer said the Sharks “expected” an early push from Minnesota.

“They’ve been sitting here waiting, they’re desperate, they’re fresh, they’re healthy. We’re coming in on a back-to-back. We knew the first period would be tough. It wasn’t pretty, but we escaped only down 1-0 and I thought from that point on we started to fight back a little bit. Did some good things, just too little too late.”

The Sharks were competitive over the final two periods, finally getting their first goal in more than 138 minutes of game play to make it 1-1 (it was originally credited to David Schlemko, but has since been changed to Patrick Marleau). At that point, though, it was Minnesota’s turn to respond. It did, and that was the game.

2 – Third line woes

We touched on the Sharks’ lack of secondary scorers yesterday, and it was on full display against the Wild again Tuesday night as the third line of Tomas Hertl, Joonas Donskoi and Mikkel Boedker failed to do anything productive. Hertl had one decent chance in the first period from the slot that Devan Dubnyk turned away, but was later too soft and too slow on Minnesota’s third goal, as Zach Parise outhustled and outmuscled him before dishing to Charlie Coyle.

Donskoi finished with two shots, and didn’t even get one off on a second period breakaway. Boedker had no shots, and just one attempt.

Hertl now has no points in his last 10 games, and Donskoi hasn’t found the scoresheet, either, in nine games since returning from an upper body injury.

Prior to Tuesday night’s game, DeBoer indicated it’s taking some time for both players to get up to speed after being out. Hertl, of course, missed two months with his latest right knee injury.

“You come back, there’s a little bit of adrenaline, you’re on a high, and the reality hits that you missed some time and the league is moving at a really fast pace,” DeBoer said. “Just got to play through it and keep battling.”

Hertl said: “I for sure expect [more] of myself. … I try to stay with my game, try and make plays, be strong on the puck, make my linemates better. I need to just keep working all over [in the] D-zone, O-zone, and even power play.”

3 – Dealing without Vlasic

Marc-Edouard Vlasic was the second Sharks player in two nights to be sidelined by a flu bug, so Schlemko was bumped up to replace him paired with Justin Braun, while Dylan DeMelo and Brenden Dillon comprised the third pair.

Schlemko had a nice game, even if he is no longer getting credit for his third goal of the season. He finished with one assist, a plus-one rating, three shot attempts and three blocks.

“You can’t really replace a guy like [Vlasic],” he said. “He’s one of the best defensive D in the league. Just trying to keep it simple. We switched up the partners and spread out the ice time pretty well. Not the start we wanted, but after the first I thought we played pretty well. Played hard.”

DeBoer said: “We've got a little bit of a flu going through. Tierney was out yesterday with it, [Vlasic] got it today. Hopefully, that’s the end of it.”

Sharks not overly concerned with losing streak after latest defeat

Sharks not overly concerned with losing streak after latest defeat

ST. PAUL – Despite losing four in a row in regulation for the first time this season to put what was a commanding division lead just one week ago in jeopardy, the Sharks apparently aren’t ready to hold any closed door meetings or shouting sessions with two-and-a-half weeks to go in the regular season.

There’s a modicum of distress with some aspects of their game, of course, following a 3-2 loss in Minnesota on Tuesday night. But they’re not as concerned as might be expected, if you believe the captain and the coach.

“To be honest, not that concerned,” Joe Pavelski said. “We’ve played games, they’re close games, a lot of these games are one-goal games. It’s such a fine line being on the winning side or losing side. I think we all understand we can be a little bit better.”

Pete DeBoer said: “When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned. We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

The difference in Tuesday’s game, the Sharks' third straight by a single goal, was the start. The Wild, attempting to halt a five-game losing streak itself, had the puck in the Sharks’ defensive zone for the majority of the opening frame and early in the second, too. That was aided in part by the Sharks taking three minor penalties over the first 21 minutes.

Joel Ward’s avoidable neutral zone hooking penalty led to Matt Dumba’s power play goal midway through the first, and Dylan DeMelo and Joe Thornton took subsequent minors themselves. Playing in the second of a back-to-back against a rested opponent that would surely be fired up, the Sharks even discussed staying out of the box before puck drop.

Didn’t happen.

“That was something that we talked about before the game that we can’t do tonight, especially considering the circumstances,” DeBoer said. “We didn’t want to tire ourselves out killing penalties or getting behind. We did that, so didn’t help ourselves.”

David Schlemko said: “We wanted to stay out of the box. Not the start we wanted. I thought overall the kill was pretty good, but they got one there and we’re playing from behind again, which is not ideal.”

Although they managed to tie it on Schlemko’s goal late in the second – ending a scoreless streak of more than 138 minutes – the Wild came right back with a pair of quick scores by Martin Hanzal and Charlie Coyle to claim a 3-1 lead. 

Patrick Marleau’s aggressive forecheck and some miscommunication between Devan Dubnyk and Ryan Suter brought San Jose back to within striking distance before the intermission to cap off what was a furious sequence of four goals in a little more than one minute, two by each team.

DeBoer said: “We had earned that [Schlemko] goal. We played a really good period. We put a lot of pressure on them, I thought we threw a lot of pucks to the net. … It’s unfortunate that the next two shifts, they got two more.”

“We had a lot of good [offensive] zone time [in the second period], so we were feeling good about coming back,” Marleau said.

But the Wild locked it down in the third, surrendering just five shots to San Jose and forcing the Sharks into a number of turnovers as they tried to move through the neutral zone. Dubnyk’s most important save came with a little more than four minutes left, when he froze a Ward attempt as the big winger drove the puck to the net. That was essentially the Sharks’ only good chance of the final frame.

The Sharks will now get two days off now before returning to American Airlines Center for a game in Dallas. There’s a chance they won’t be in sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division anymore by then.

They’re not overly concerned about that, either.

“I’m more worried about how we’re playing,” Logan Couture said. “Try not to look at the standings, and worry about how we’re playing in here.”

Instant Replay: Sharks can't tame the Wild, losing streak now at four

Instant Replay: Sharks can't tame the Wild, losing streak now at four

BOX SCORE

ST. PAUL – The Sharks have picked a bad time to go through their worst stretch of the season.

The Wild never trailed in a 3-2 win over the Sharks, who lost their fourth straight in regulation for the first time. Minnesota, which entered with a five-game regulation losing streak of its own, swept the three-game season series.

San Jose enjoyed a nine-point lead on the division just seven days ago after a win over Buffalo, but could be in a tie in points with Edmonton by the time the puck drops for their game on Friday in Dallas.

Minnesota carried a 1-0 lead late into the second period before an outrageous sequence in which the teams combined for four goals in just a 63-second span.

The Sharks tied it on David Schlemko’s wrist shot that deflected in off of a body in front. Patrick Marleau was battling for position in the slot at the time of the goal at 17:57.

Minnesota struck for the next two. Jason Pominville and Martin Hanzal chopped away at a loose puck at the side of the net and it bounced through at 18:30 with Hanzal getting credit, and just 15 seconds later, Zach Parise pushed Tomas Hertl off of a loose puck and fed Charlie Coyle for a snap shot at 18:45 to increase the Wild’s lead to 3-1.

San Jose got one back at the 19-minute mark, though. Devan Dubnyk and Ryan Suter got mixed up on a puck behind the Minnesota net, and Marleau swooped in and banked it in off of Dubnyk before the goalie could get settled back in the crease.

That was as close as the Sharks would get, though. The fell to 9-4-1 in the second half of back-to-backs. They are just 2-7-2 in their last 11 games in St. Paul.

Minnesota dominated the opening frame, jumping ahead on a Matt Dumba power play goal. Eric Staal dug out a puck along the wall to Parise, who poked it to Dumba for an open wrist shot in the slot at 10:29.

Martin Jones kept the game manageable for the Sharks, making a series of remarkable stops on Mikko Koivu and Nino Niederreiter on a Minnesota power play early in the second.

Minnesota had a 16-4 edge in shots after that power play, before the Sharks finally got some more offensive zone pressure later in the middle frame. Joonas Donskoi lost the handle on a breakaway, though, and Micheal Haley’s turnaround wrist shot from the slot was turned away by Dubnyk before the late flurry of goals prior to the second intermission.

Special teams

The Sharks had just one power play attempt, and did not score. They finished 0-for-5 against the Wild in the three head-to-head games. In their last 12 games overall, the power play is just 4-for-35.

Minnesota was 1-for-3 on the power play, and 3-for-8 against the Sharks in the season series, with one goal in each of the three meetings.

In goal

Jones and Dubnyk each played each of the three games against one another. The Sharks’ starter fell to 2-4-0 in his career against Minnesota, allowing three goals on 27 shots, while Dubnyk ended a personal four-game losing streak with 21 saves.

A Vezina Trophy candidate, Dubnyk evened his record to 8-8-2 career against San Jose.

Lineup

Marc-Edouard Vlasic was a late scratch due to the flu. Chris Tierney returned after he was sick on Monday in Dallas.

The Sharks remain without Jannik Hansen, who missed his second straight game with an upper body injury. Coach Pete DeBoer did not rule out the possibility that Hansen could return before the end of the road trip.

Brent Burns remains with no goals in his last 14 games, and no points in his last seven.

Up next

The Sharks go back to Dallas for a game on Friday at American Airlines Center. They lost to the Stars on Monday, 1-0, but beat them on March 12 at SAP Center, 5-1.

The road trip concludes on Saturday with their only visit of the regular season to Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.