Sharks back in eighth with 3-0 win over Stars

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Sharks back in eighth with 3-0 win over Stars

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE Joe Pavelski scored twice and the Sharks moved back into playoff position with a 3-0 win over the Dallas Stars at HP Pavilion on Saturday night.

San Jose (40-29-10, 90 points) sits in eighth place in the Western Conference, one ahead of ninth place Dallas (42-32-5, 89 points). The teams meet again at American Airlines Arena on Tuesday.

The Sharks trail the Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes by one point, after both clubs won earlier Saturday night. All four Pacific Division teams vying for the three final playoff spots have three games remaining.

RELATED: Conference standings

It didnt take long for the Sharks to jump on the road-weary Stars, who entered the game 1-10-2 in the second of back-to-back games and arrived in San Jose late after a 5-2 loss in Vancouver on Friday.

Joe Thornton set up Pavelski in the high slot, and Pavelskis one-timer cleanly beat Kari Lehtonen at the 58-second mark to make it 1-0. Pavelski reached the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career.

It didnt take long for him to get it to 31, when he deflected a shot by Marc-Edouard Vlasic midway through the second period to give the Sharks a 3-0 lead. The goal moved Pavelski into the team lead, surpassing Logan Couture.

Pavelski has seven goals in his last nine games.

A power play goal put San Jose ahead by two at the first intermission. Marty Havlat made it happen, controlling the puck along the boards and patiently waiting for something to develop. He eventually found Jason Demers on the other side of the ice, sending a saucer pass to the defenseman for a redirection at 18:38.

That goal came with Stars agitator Steve Ott in the box for interfering with Justin Braun at 16:50, much to the approval of the sellout crowd.

The Sharks nearly scored earlier on that same power play, but Patrick Marleau rang one off of the crossbar with about 2:20 left in the period.

The Sharks much-maligned penalty-kill unit came up big with San Jose ahead 2-0. Torrey Mitchell was whistled for hooking at 6:11, but a nice play in the defensive zone by Dominic Moore led to a clear. Daniel Winnik chased after the puck and held it along the boards behind the Stars zone, and the crowd grew to a crescendo as the Sharks easily killed off the penalty.

San Jose had three power plays in the first period alone, after getting just one each in losses to Anaheim and Phoenix. The Sharks were shorthanded just once total in those two games, not taking a single penalty in the 3-1 loss to the Ducks on Wednesday.

The nastiness thats typically prevalent during Sharks-Stars games was also in full effect, despite the Stars looking downright sloppy and tired for long stretches. Andrew Desjardins and Jake Dowell fought at 12:42 of the second, while Mitchell and Ryan Garbutt dropped the gloves midway through the third.

Ott was handed a 10-minute misconduct at 9:55 of the third period for arguing with the officials over a slashing penalty to Adam Burish that gave the Sharks more than a minute of five-on-three time they were unable to cash in on.

The Sharks finished 1-for-6 on the power play and killed off all three Stars advantages.

Antti Niemi finished with 22 saves to record his sixth shutout.

Odds and ends: Joe Pavelski became the ninth Sharks player all-time to reach 30 goals in a season. Of Pavelskis 31 goals this season, 13 are in the first period, including five in the first two minutes. Jason Demers marker was the first on the power play by a Sharks defenseman in 18 games, since Brent Burns scored at Minnesota on Feb. 26. Joe Thornton is now tied for third in the NHL in assists with 58.

Top pick Meier 'real close' to making Sharks debut

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USATSI

Top pick Meier 'real close' to making Sharks debut

SAN JOSE – Struggling to score goals lately with two or fewer in eight of their last 11 games, the Sharks may soon turn to their biggest prospect to try and give the offense a boost.

Timo Meier, the ninth overall pick from the 2015 draft, is tearing up the American Hockey League lately with the Barracuda. He scored four goals (and registered 15 shots) in two games in San Antonio over the weekend, has eight points (5g, 3a) in his last four games, and leads the Barracuda with eight goals.

On Thursday, Pete DeBoer was asked what he’s heard about Meier lately and how close he may be.

“Good things, and real close,” DeBoer said. “I think he would have been even a consideration [Wednesday], but he came down I think with the flu. 

“You feel for him because we’re looking to bring some guys in, and he obviously had a great weekend. He’s one of quite a few guys down there that we feel real comfortable can come in here and are going to help us before the year ends, for sure.”

It’s the second time an illness has affected Meier’s status, as he came down with mononucleosis early in training camp and missed a month of action. He did, however, return to Barracuda practice this week.

One month ago, Barracuda coach Roy Sommer told CSN that Meier had to make some adjustments coming out of juniors. 

“He’s just has to simplify his game,” Sommer said on Nov. 9. “I think he’s just trying to do too much. He’s got to be north-south, and [forget] this circling and trying to put pucks through people. … It’s not going to work.”

Apparently, Meier has figured it out. On Tuesday, Sommer told The Gackle Report: “He’s getting better every game. At the start, I was going, oh man, he’s all over the map, circling and not using his teammates. But shoot, now he just keeps producing.”

“We’ve spent a lot of time with him on video and he picks stuff up.”

The 2015 draft has already produced several players that are regular contributors for their respective clubs, led by Connor McDavid (Edmonton), Jack Eichel (Buffalo), Mitch Marner (Toronto) and Zach Werenski (Columbus). 

Meier is the only player among the top 11 picks that year that has yet to play an NHL game, while 17 of 30 of the players overall chosen in the first round have played at least one NHL game.

Sharks still struggling to get consistent offense

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USATSI

Sharks still struggling to get consistent offense

SAN JOSE – There are games where the Sharks’ lack of offensive firepower isn’t an issue. Recent 2-1 wins over two of the best teams in the league, Chicago and Montreal, were impressive in that San Jose kept a pair of the league’s better offenses from getting more than a single score.

In other instances, though, that necessary goal from the team’s depth just hasn’t come. Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to Ottawa was one example. The Sharks got goals from Logan Couture and Brent Burns – no surprise there – while Joe Pavelski was all around the net, generating more scoring chances than any single player on the ice.

Again, though, the depth forwards and defensemen other than Burns never found the scoresheet. 

And it’s becoming a real issue.

In fact, in the Sharks’ last 11 games in which they’ve gotten 25 goals total, 60 percent of them have come from just those three aforementioned players – Couture (7g), Burns (5g) and Pavelski (3g).

Also over that span, in which San Jose has gone 6-4-1, they’ve gotten no goals from Joe Thornton, Joonas Donskoi, Mikkel Boedker, Micheal Haley or Melker Karlsson; one goal apiece from Joel Ward and Tommy Wingels; and just one goal by a defenseman other than Burns (Dylan DeMelo). Of the 12 forwards that dressed against the Senators, eight of them had two or fewer goals.

The Sharks sit at 23rd in the NHL at 2.38 goals-per game. Sure, it’s just fine winning games by 2-1 final scores. But at some point, other guys are going to have to start putting the puck in the net if this team is truly going to contend for the Stanley Cup.

Couture – who himself got off to a slow start offensively – believes it’s going to come soon.

“Everyone wants to score,” Couture said after the Senators game. “It’s not about trying, it’s just the way that things are going right now. Pucks just aren’t going in for some guys, and, hey, I went through the same thing for awhile there where I wasn’t finding the back of the net. 

“That’s the way that goal-scoring works in the NHL, is you go through streaks where you’re hot and when you’re cold. Some guys are going to get hot soon. It’s going to happen.”

For his part, coach Pete DeBoer also believes the offense will pick up shortly. In the Senators game, the coaching staff internally tracked the scoring chances as 22 for the Sharks and just eight for Ottawa.

When that happens, “you should win, and you should score more than two goals,” DeBoer said.

Without getting into specifics, DeBoer pointed to the “analytics of where we are in the league” as a reason not to panic. Perhaps he’s aware that the Sharks are sixth in the league in shot-attempt percentage (52.25), and first in the NHL in shot-attempt percentage in close games (55.67).

Still, those numbers don’t mean anything when the puck isn’t going in. So what’s missing?

“I just think finish. I think we’re doing a lot of things right,” DeBoer said.

“Obviously I’d love to see us score some more goals five-on-five, but we’re getting some chances,” Ward said. “I would think if we weren’t or if we were getting shelled then it would definitely be something to be concerned about. … We’ve had some good looks and some really quality chances. Things just haven’t fallen in five-on-five, but I think that will come around.”