Clowe, Handzus have been key in shootouts


Clowe, Handzus have been key in shootouts

SAN JOSE Like them or not, shootouts are going to play a large role in determining which Western Conference teams end up in the playoffs and which end up on the golf course.

Thats probably why the Sharks ended their practice on Thursday with a shootout drill. Counting the 4-3 win against Phoenix on Saturday, six of the last 11 Sharks games have gone past regulation, and four of them have been decided via the skills competition. San Jose is now 2-2 in the last four, and 8-5 on the season.

After some recent odd choices for the shootout in previous games, coach Todd McLellan decided to go with his bread and butter on Saturday.

Michal Handzus and Ryane Clowe have been the Sharks most reliable shooters, both improving to 5-for-10 this year after finding daylight on Mike Smith in what was the most important extra point of the year. After Handzus was able to beat Smith to the stick side, Clowe was asked if he was trying to find that same spot on purpose before he fired in a goal where Handzus had just converted earlier.

I noticed on Handzus goal that Smith was back in his net a bit. Ive went to that move a few times this year, and Im starting to feel confident with it, said Clowe, who has had success going to his backhand in shootouts in prior seasons. If I have to go to the backhand, hopefully I can still use that, as well. I had it in my mind I was going to go there.

Clowe was pleased with the way the team was able to handle adversity for the second straight game, particularly when it surrendered a goal late in the first and then early in the second to fall behind, 3-2.

The last two games, I like how were just going, he said. If something happens, we just forget about it. Go after them. We did that.

Marleau gets one: Offense has been a struggle for the Sharks in recent weeks (months?), as the team has now gone 20 straight games without scoring more than three goals in regulation.

One big reason for that is Patrick Marleaus failure to light the lamp. The winger and sometimes center had just one goal in his last 14 games before scoring the tying goal in the first period against the Coyotes.

I finally found the back of the net, so thats good, Marleau said after the game. Ill look forward to getting some more chances and some more goals.

Is there a personal sense of relief?

Probably a little bit, but you try and play the same way whether or not youve scored, he said.

Coyotes displeased with start: Phoenix may have scored the first goal of the game, when Daymond Langkow took advantage of a Sharks turnover behind their own net, but coach Dave Tippett didnt like the way his team started the game. The Sharks seemed to have the early energy.

I thought in the first period, we didnt have everybody in, Tippett said.

Still, the Coyotes were able to make a game of it and record a point while missing captain Shane Doan (suspension), leading goal-scorer Radim Vrbata (lower body injury), and big-minute defenseman Adrian Aucoin (lower body injury).

I thought we made a couple of little mental mistakes early. Everybody does that, and it happened, but the good thing is were mature enough to believe we can come back and stay in games and brush those little mistakes off and tighten up, defenseman Derek Morris said.

We got out there and we competed hard and found a way to keep ourselves in the game, Tippett said. Unfortunately we couldnt get the two points. But, we came into a hard building here and with some injury situations like this, I thought our guys competed hard and we found a way to get a valuable point.

The Coyotes host the St. Louis Blues on Sunday night, and are off until hosting the Sharks on Thursday, March 29.

Rewind: Vlasic the unlikely hero in Sharks OT win

Rewind: Vlasic the unlikely hero in Sharks OT win

SAN JOSE – Prior to the season’s start, Marc-Edouard Vlasic mentioned that the Sharks’ blue line group might not get the league-wide respect it deserves due to it only having “one offensive defenseman.” He was, of course, referring to Brent Burns.

Through the first six games, that was the truth. Burns entered Tuesday night’s action with nine points, tied for the league lead in scoring, while the other five Sharks defenseman had just three assists – combined.

For at least one night, though, it wasn’t Burns who was the offensive hero. That honor went to Vlasic, who seized a loose puck in the neutral zone in overtime against Anaheim, raced ahead towards goalie John Gibson on a partial breakaway, and finished off a beautiful goal in giving the Sharks a much-deserved 2-1 win at SAP Center.

“Put my head down, breakaway, cut across and I was able to put it in,” said Vlasic, who had the presence of mind to use his skate to keep a backchecking Corey Perry from knocking the puck away. 

Pete DeBoer said: "He's got some speed when he wants to use it, and he's a big game player. That's what he does. Those guys find another level at key times, and he's one of those guys.”

The goal served as poetic justice in that the Sharks were the much better team throughout three periods. San Jose held a 35-20 advantage on the shot clock but only managed one goal, a power play marker by Joe Pavelski in the first period. Chris Wagner answered that late in the second period, despite San Jose registering 15 of the 20 shots in the middle frame.

DeBoer rearranged all four of his forward lines after the Sharks were shut out in Detroit on Saturday, and the Sharks looked much more dangerous despite just the single lonely marker before overtime.

“There’s a lot of good little things that we did well,” Pavelski said. “We were on the attack, felt like we were on the inside. We just weren’t cashing in or getting that bounce.”

Couture said: “We created some chances. We could have had a couple. Each line played pretty well.”

DeBoer, too, liked what he saw from his new combos.

“If we keep playing like that, it's going to come,” he said. “But, it was a nice response game after the Detroit game.”

Perhaps the most consistent part of the Sharks’ game through seven games has been their penalty kill. San Jose fought off all three Ducks advantages, including a brief five-on-three in the first period shortly after Pavelski had opened the scoring.

Micheal Haley took exception to a high hit by Clayton Stoner on Patrick Marleau, and dropped the gloves with the Anaheim defenseman. He was issued an instigation minor to go along with a fighting major and 10-minute misconduct, and one minute and 24 seconds later, Tomas Hertl was busted for a faceoff violation.

Couture, Burns and Paul Martin worked to nullify the two-man advantage, and the Sharks proceeded to kill the remaining time on the Hertl penalty, too.

“It was an important time of the game with a one-goal lead,” said Martin Jones, who made seven saves on the PK and 19 total.

Penalties like Haley’s, where he was sticking up for a teammate, are also easier to get up for according to the goalie.

“I don't think he was expecting to get an instigator call on that one, but yeah, we'll kill that off, for sure,” Jones said. “Hales is a good team guy to go out and do stuff like that."

San Jose is 18-for-22 on the penalty kill overall, including a third period kill of a Joe Thornton holding-the-stick minor at 4:09.

“We’ve allowed [four] goals against, but they were unfortunate bounces or really nice shots from them that we could do nothing about,” Vlasic said. “Penalty kill has been good. Guys have been bearing down, blocking shots when we need to.”

The Sharks will remain at home where they will host the rebuilding Blue Jackets on Thursday and Predators on Saturday. After an odd training camp with many players missing and a tough five-games-in-eight-days road trip after the home opener, they’ll get a chance now to enjoy a much more normal day-to-day routine, with practice.

Tuesday’s win could serve as a solid foundation on which to build.

“That was definitely one of our better games this year,” Couture said. “It was good from basically start to finish.”

Especially the finish.

Instant Replay: Vlasic's OT goal lifts Sharks past Ducks

Instant Replay: Vlasic's OT goal lifts Sharks past Ducks


SAN JOSE – Last season, the Sharks had the worst home record of any team that made it to the playoffs. They’re off to a good start so far in reversing that in the 2016-17 campaign.

The Sharks won their second game in as many tries at SAP Center on Tuesday, beating the Ducks, 2-1. Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored the winner in overtime, flying up the wing and cutting to the net before flicking it past John Gibson at 1:24.

The Sharks ended a two-game losing streak, improving to 4-3-0 on the season. The Ducks fell to 2-3-2. San Jose has won nine of its last 10 against its Pacific Division rival at SAP Center.

The Sharks broke out of a power play slump with a Joe Pavelski goal at 7:58 of the first period. The captain managed to direct a Patrick Marleau rebound over the goal line just before the net came off of its moorings for his third goal.

The Sharks went just 2-for-17 on the power play on their five game road trip, with one empty net goal and another on a two-man advantage.

San Jose controlled play for much of the second period, outshooting the Ducks 15-5, but couldn’t increase its lead. Gibson stopped Micheal Haley from the circle midway through, and Joel Ward couldn’t quite handle a centering pass in front of the net by Logan Couture a few minutes later.

Anaheim managed to tie it late in the frame. Chris Wagner redirected a Clayton Stoner floater from the point and snuck the rebound through Martin Jones at 17:49.

The third period was scoreless despite three power plays, two that belonged to San Jose. The Sharks' top unit had plenty of zone time, but couldn’t connect on anything, leading to their first overtime game of the season.

Sharks coach Pete DeBoer rearranged all four of his lines after his club was shut out in Detroit on Saturday. Mikkel Boedker joined the top line, while Tomas Hertl centered the third line with Marleau and Melker Karlsson.

Anaheim’s Jonathan Bernier started the game and lasted one period before he was replaced by Gibson to start the second, due to an upper body injury.

Anaheim lost Ryan Getzlaf for the third period. He left the bench for a stretch in the second period with an upper body injury after blocking a Vlasic shot, returned, but did not come out for the final frame.

Special teams

The Sharks were 1-for-5 on the power play, and 3-for-3 on the PK.

San Jose was forced to kill off 38 seconds of a Ducks two-man advantage shortly after it had taken the lead. Haley was issued an instigator and game misconduct for jumping Stoner after the Ducks defenseman hit Marleau up high, while Hertl received a minor for a faceoff violation.

In goal

Jones ended a personal three-game losing streak with 19 saves.

In his second start of the season, Bernier made 10 saves on 11 shots before his departure. Gibson allowed just the overtime goal on 25 shots.


Matt Nieto came out of the lineup as a healthy scratch for the second time in the last four games.

Up next

The Sharks host the Blue Jackets on Thursday. It will be the second and final meeting, after San Jose beat Columbus on Oct. 15, 3-2. Nashville visits on Saturday.