Sharks change strategy on the PK

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Sharks change strategy on the PK

SAN JOSE What do you do when your penalty kill sits at 29th in the NHL, after finishing last season 24th in the league?

Simple. You change it up.

Thats what coach Todd McLellan did during a very technically oriented portion of Wednesdays practice at Sharks Ice. Specifically, the Sharks would like to be more aggressive in the neutral zone, making it tougher for opposing teams to bring the puck up the ice.

Its all new to everybody, said Marc-Edouard Vlasic. We went through it on the ice, and I think everybody got a good sense of what the coaches wanted to change.

The Sharks have allowed at least one power play goal in six of their last seven games, dropping their penalty kill percentage to just 72.3 percent. The one game in which they didnt allow a goal while down a man was against Pittsburgh, was when the Penguins didnt have a single power play opportunity.

Against the Kings on Monday, the Sharks gave up a goal on a two-man disadvantage in the second period, and later allowed Anze Kopitar to get his own rebound on a Los Angeles power play in the third period after the Kings easily moved the puck through the neutral zone.

Kopitar's goal, in particular, is one the Sharks dont want to see again.

Last game there was one on the rush that we didnt really want to give up, said Boyle.

Our up-ice pressure in what weve done coming through the neutral zone, weve made a number of mistakes and its costing us, said McLellan. Weve got to look at ways at filling those holes and starting to support each other for mistakes.

That, in particular, was something McLellan was trying to explain on Wednesday. He slowly walked through every situation on the ice and positioned each player based on where the puck was, or where it was going.

Its all different than what we have been doing on the forecheck. Positioning, trust factor, just basically trusting that in the new system that everybody will be doing their jobs, said Vlasic.

Fortunately for the Sharks, a good power play and excellent five-on-five numbers have been able to mask the penalty killing problem. San Jose is seventh in the NHL on the power play (21.3 percent) and second in the league in five-on-five goal differential (1.39).

Our power play has been fine this year and were scoring five-on-five so thats a real healthy sign, said McLellan.

Boyle agrees with his coach, saying: The power play has been pretty good and five-on-five has been pretty good. The PK has kind of been the one area that needs major improvement. We definitely dont think its a personnel issue. We have the right guys. We just have to clean it up.

Rewind: Sharks show no rust from layoff, fall to Sens anyway

Rewind: Sharks show no rust from layoff, fall to Sens anyway

SAN JOSE – Against Ottawa on Wednesday night, the Sharks showed no ill effects from their recent respite. They controlled play in the offensive end for long stretches, earned six power plays, and outshot and out-chanced the Senators for the majority of the three periods. 

There was no rust to speak of despite no games since Friday and no practices or meetings on Saturday or Sunday. From the opening puck drop, the Sharks were the better team.

It didn’t earn them a win, though, or even a single point in the standings. Justin Braun couldn’t prevent a bouncing puck from getting past him with about one minute left in regulation of a tie game, and Chris Kelly squeezed a shot through Martin Jones while holding off Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The Sens added an empty netter, beating San Jose for the fifth straight time, 4-2.

Braun offered his perspective of the game-winner.

"It was just bouncing in the neutral zone,” he said. “I feel [Kelly] coming on me, and I'm trying to whack it over to [Joe Thornton and] miss. Miss with my feet. … You want to have that one back. Other than that, I think the boys played pretty well."

While Braun could have played that one differently, the Sharks probably deserved better than to be tied at 2-2 at that stage. They outshot Ottawa, 37-17, and out-attempted the Senators a whopping 78-36.

Despite a strong first period, they fell behind 2-0.

On an early power play, Mark Stone was the beneficiary of a deflected puck in front of the net, when Mike Hoffman’s shot hit both Paul Martin and Brent Burns before squirting to Stone. Erik Karlsson increased the lead to 2-0 with a wrist shot through a screen a few minutes later.

“Take a penalty, they get a lucky bounce, they score a goal, [then] they go up two on a shot through traffic,” Logan Couture said. “I thought we had most of the chances in that first.”

No one had better chances throughout the night than Joe Pavelski, who was the best player on the ice. The Sharks captain was robbed in front of the net twice late in the first period, rang a shot off the crossbar in the second on a breakaway, and in the third his desperation attempt on a loose puck just outside of the blue paint was snared by Ottawa goalie Mike Condon.

Pavelski finished with a game-high seven shots, and 10 shot attempts altogether.

“That’s the way it goes,” he said. “We’ve won games 2-1, 3-2. Tonight we didn’t find that extra one, and some of the chances we had, we have to get it.”

The power play got one in the second period, courtesy of Couture, but could have had more on its six opportunities. That 1-for-6 stood out on the scoresheet to coach Pete DeBoer.

“I thought the power play maybe could have won us the game,” he said.

Even with wins in six of their last seven entering Wednesday night, though, the Sharks are still struggling to score. They have two or fewer scores in eight of their last 11 games, although they’ve managed to go a respectable 6-4-1 over that span.

They continue to get goals from the usual suspects like Couture (seven goals in 10 games) and Brent Burns, who had the game-tying goal in the third period (his fifth in eight games), but the depth scoring just hasn’t shown up nearly one-third into the season. It’s clearly becoming an issue as evidenced by DeBoer’s constantly shuffling his lines, which he did again late Wednesday.

The coach downplayed a suggestion that the depth scorers aren’t holding their water, though.

“We've been managing to find ways to win games and get enough goals to win,” DeBoer said. “Just didn't happen tonight, even though the shots and most of the play was in our favor. We just didn't win."

While the shot and scoring chance discrepancy was encouraging, the last minute loss meant it was all for naught.

“You’re never happy when you lose, especially [when] you give up a late goal, you want to at least get a point out of that game,” Couture said. “I thought we were the better team, start to finish. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t find a way to get the third one.”

Instant Replay: Sharks' streak snapped by Sens in final minute

Instant Replay: Sharks' streak snapped by Sens in final minute

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE – Chris Kelly scored with a little more than a minute left in regulation, pushing the Senators to a 4-2 win over the Sharks at SAP Center on Wednesday night.

On the deciding goal, Justin Braun misplayed a puck at the defensive blue line, and Kelly raced ahead on a partial breakaway before chipping it through Martin Jones at 18:54.

San Jose outshot Ottawa 37-17 for the game, and out-attempted the Senators 78-36, but lost for just the second time in their last eight games (6-2-0).

Ottawa won its fifth straight against San Jose, improving to 1-1 on its four game road trip.

Despite a lopsided advantage in shots and shot attempts throughout the night, the Sharks trailed 2-1 to start the third period. Brent Burns got the equalizer in a four-on-four situation, though, ripping a wrist shot from the top of the circle through Mike Condon at 6:30.

The Sharks had the better of the scoring chances in the first period, but it was Ottawa that claimed a 2-0 lead after the opening stanza.

Mark Stone’s power play goal at 3:42 opened the scoring. A shot by Mike Hoffman deflected off of the skates of Paul Martin and then Burns before Stone found it in front of the net.

Three-and-a-half minutes later Erik Karlsson made it 2-0, wiring a wrist shot through Jones after the Sharks were caught running around in their own end. Jones appeared to be screened by Tom Pyatt on the goal at 7:19.

Condon made some clutch saves later in the period, including a pair on Joe Pavelski, who was denied on a Sharks power play with 4:30 to go and then again at even strength with 1:52 remaining before the break. Pavelski was around the net all night, finding the post on a breakaway in the second period and getting robbed by Condon’s glove early in the third.

The Sharks kept pressuring the Senators in the middle frame, finally breaking through on the power play. A laser from Couture at 8:19 cleanly beat the Ottawa goalie for his seventh goal in the last 10 games.

Couture was playing despite minor surgery on Saturday, when he had a screw from a previous operation that had been bothering him removed from his right ankle.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau had an empty net goal to cap the scoring.

Special teams

The Sharks finished 1-for-6 on the power play, and are 6-for-25 over their last eight games. They generated 11 power play shots against the Senators in more than 10 minutes of power play time.

San Jose surrendered a power play goal against for the fifth time in the last six games, going 9-for-14 over that span. They came through late in the third with 3:58 to go in regulation when Patrick Marleau was issued an interference minor.

In goal

Jones was making his first start against Ottawa as a member of the Sharks, as Alex Stalock played both games last season. He took the loss with three goals allowed on just 16 shots.

Condon improved to 4-1-1 on the year with 35 saves.

Lineup

David Schlemko did not play due to injury, and is day-to-day. Dylan DeMelo played in his third game of the season, all coming within the last two weeks.

Ottawa’s Bobby Ryan returned after missing the previous three games with a finger injury. Goalie Craig Anderson was not with the club for personal reasons, as his wife is battling cancer.

Up next

The Sharks will visit Anaheim for the first time this season on Friday. The Sharks are 1-1 against the Ducks this season, both at SAP Center.

San Jose hosts the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday for its second game in as many nights.