OAKLAND Tigers manager Jim Leyland has been around baseball long enough that nothing really rattles the 67-year-old skipper.Think Wednesday nights blown lead in the ninth inning against the As kept him up tossing and turning in his hotel bed? Not quite.I slept great last night, Leyland said a couple of hours before the decisive Game 5 at Oakland Coliseum.According to Leyland, the 4-3 loss in which his club held a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth was a little easier to take in that his ballclub really didnt do anything wrong.I know this sounds crazy because we were all a little heartbroken, I wasnt really as upset as everybody else was last night, and Ill tell you why: We didnt walk them. We didnt hit a batter. We didnt make an error. We didnt throw the ball away or make a bad fundamental play. They beat us. They earned it. They hit the ball, and stroked the ball good off of Jose Valverde last night. Were we all a little heartbroken? Sure, but, you know what? They earned it.What may have also aided Leylands nocturnal success was the fact that hell be sending his ace, Justin Verlander, to the mound on full rest as his team tries to book a ticket to the American League Championship Series with a win against the As.Verlander pitched seven strong innings in the Tigers Game 1 victory, surrendering just one run while walking four and striking out 11.Leylands biggest concern when it comes to Verlander is that hed like to keep the star right-hander's pitch count down. Verlander threw 121 pitches in Game 1.Thats the one thing you worry about Verlander, its not so much that the A's are working the count, its that they foul pitches off, which gets his pitch count up sometimes, Leyland said. Thats what youve got to watch for tonight. I think the first inning will be a big inning for him to settle in with everything thats going on. I think hell be good no matter what, but I think the first inning will be a big inning.Leyland said he has access to his full pitching staff, including starter Doug Fister, if necessary. But his team will be in trouble if he has to go that route.This game will probably be decided with Verlander in the game. I dont have anybody better than him. If they get to him that much, well probably be in trouble.Hes confident that the Tigers will be able to put Wednesdays stunning loss behind them.You learn over the years, and I always use the expression, you cant chew yesterdays breakfast. Its over and they beat us, they earned it, they had a great celebration on the field. Game 5 is tonight, its going to be exciting, loud, and this is what we do for a living.
SAN JOSE – Playing their fifth game in eight days thanks to the condensed (some would say foolish) NHL schedule this season, perhaps it’s not all that surprising that the Sharks looked like they hit a wall on Saturday night at home against Colorado.
Still, this was the Avalanche, who have been far and away the NHL’s worst team for the past six weeks. Even a subpar effort should be enough.
And, it was. The Sharks got a power play goal by Joel Ward and another from their fourth line, while David Schlemko pounced on a rebound in overtime to push the Sharks to a 3-2 win.
It was an uninspiring victory, but a victory nonetheless.
“Two points is what was the important thing,” Ward said. “It wasn't our best, but we found a way."
Joe Pavelski said: “We had some moments where we were good. Some that we could have been better. It’s a game right now that you’ve got to really stick to your foundation, because there’s a lot of games in a lot of nights here.”
Coach Pete DeBoer, who has skillfully managed his veteran team’s rest since taking over at the start of last season, wasn’t all that critical of the Sharks’ effort, either, even though they made life far too easy on rookie goalie Spencer Martin making his NHL debut.
To DeBoer, the Sharks may be in the midst of their toughest stretch of games on the calendar. By the time they host the Oilers on Thursday in the final game before the All-Star break, San Jose will have played seven games in just an 11-day span.
“I feel the fatigue, and I haven't played a game. I'm just coaching,” he said. “We found a way to win. It was ugly, but we found a way."
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect from the Sharks’ perspective is that their fourth line continues to make an impact, scoring a goal for the third straight game. Ryan Carpenter got on the scoresheet for the second straight, floating a puck towards the net that was redirected by Melker Karlsson. It gave the Sharks a 2-1 lead with five minutes to go in the second period.
“I think we fit pretty good together,” Karlsson said of playing with Carpenter. “Good centerman, good guy. It’s fun.”
Pavelski said: “You can see [the fourth line is] playing with confidence. They’re playing hard. They’re in on a lot of pucks, and giving us energy that way, and they’re getting rewarded.”
The game-winner was a simple one from Schlemko’s perspective. He hopped over the boards, slithered towards the crease, and stickhandled in a Logan Couture rebound for his second goal of the season.
“The rebound came right to me and I just had to tap in,” Schlemko said. “I’ll take those any day.”
While the Sharks were fighting through some physical and mental sluggishness, Colorado looked better than a team that hasn’t won a regulation game in a month and a half. Playing in front of a goalie making his first NHL start likely had something to do with that, as they tried to give Martin an honest effort.
Nathan MacKinnon was particularly effective, generating a game-high seven shots and setting up Colorado’s first score. Just before that goal that was finished off by Mikhail Grigorenko, MacKinnon breezed through the neutral zone untouched, and Pavelski mentioned that area of the game as a troublesome one for his club.
“Whether they were good in the neutral zone or we weren’t as sharp – that wasn’t a very strong point of our game, I don’t think. Turned over a few too many pucks,” he said.
The Sharks will have a better idea of what to expect headed into Monday’s rematch in Denver. Whether they have their legs back by then is uncertain.
“It was hard from an energy point of view for us today,” DeBoer said.
SAN JOSE – David Schlemko’s overtime goal gave the Sharks a 3-2 win over Colorado on Saturday at SAP Center.
Trailing 2-1 after two, the Avalanche tied it midway through the third period. Some sloppy play by the Sharks’ top line led to Francois Beauchemin powering in a slap shot through Martin Jones at 10:24.
San Jose got the extra point in the standings, though, when Schlemko found a Logan Couture rebound at 1:18 of overtime. It was his second of the season.
The Sharks’ won their fourth straight, and sixth out of their last eight (6-2-0). Colorado lost its fifth in a row, and is just 2-15-0 in its last 17. The Avalanche have not won in regulation since Dec. 11 at Toronto.
The teams conclude their home-and-home in Denver on Monday. The Avalanche are the only Central Division team that the Sharks play just twice this season.
The Sharks opened the scoring on the power play in the first period. Vlasic swung the puck down low to Joe Thornton, who found Joel Ward in front at 5:36.
Colorado tied it in the second, courtesy of Mikhail Grigorenko. After Nathan MacKinnon sped through the neutral zone past Brent Burns, he cut to the net and pushed it towards the goal crease, where deflected to Grigorenko’s stick for an easy tap in at 10:30.
Another goal by the fourth line put the Sharks back on top. Ryan Carpenter, playing in his third straight game since getting recalled earlier in the week, had time and space in the faceoff circle to direct a shot towards the net. Linemate Melker Karlsson got his stick blade on it, redirecting it through Spencer Martin at 15:01.
It marked the third straight game that a Sharks fourth liner has scored, including Carpenter’s goal against Tampa Bay on Thursday and Tommy Wingels’ score in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
San Jose improved to 19-3-0 in its last 22 home games against Colorado, and 6-1-1 in the last eight meetings overall.
Colorado fell to 5-1 in overtime. The Sharks are 5-2.
San Jose scored a power play goal for the third time in the last four games, finishing 1-for-3. It was Ward’s first goal with a man advantage this season.
The Sharks were not shorthanded for the duration of a game for the first time this season.
Jones had struggled in the first game back after taking the previous one off, going just 1-5-0 with a 2.85 goals-against average and .890 save percentage. He made 31 saves
Martin was making his NHL debut, and allowed three goals on 30 shots. The former third round pick in 2013 was recalled due to starter Semyon Varlamov’s groin injury. In 27 games for AHL San Antonio, he is 15-9-2 with a 2.62 GAA and .915 SP.
Matt Nieto was playing his first game as a visitor. He was claimed by the Avalanche on Jan. 5 after getting waived by San Jose, and finished with two shots on goal.
Timo Meier missed his second straight game, and is day-to-day with an upper body injury.
The Sharks have just three games left before the All-Star break next weekend. After Monday’s game in Colorado, their only visit to Pepsi Center this season, they visit the Jets on Tuesday and host the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday.