Sharks' skid continues with 4-3 shootout loss to Avalanche

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Sharks' skid continues with 4-3 shootout loss to Avalanche

BOX SCORE
DENVER -- The road isnt so friendly to the Sharks, after all.San Jose concluded its brief three-game trek with an 0-1-2 mark after losing in a shootout to the Colorado Avalanche, 4-3, on Tuesday night at Pepsi Center. The Sharks salvaged a point with a late goal from Patrick Marleau in the last minute of regulation, but Milan Hejduk and Gabriel Landeskog scored in the shootout to send San Jose to its seventh defeat in the last nine games (2-5-2).The Sharks were feeling pretty good themselves on Dec. 8, when they concluded a homestand with a convincing win over the Dallas Stars and the road trip on the horizon. San Jose had won seven of 10 games away from HP Pavilion at that point, and the players seemed excited about getting away for an extended trip for the first time since late October.

Instead, they lost a 1-0 decision to St. Louis on Saturday in which the offense was non-existent, followed by a 3-2 overtime defeat to Chicago where they surrendered a late lead.In fact, the Sharks blew 2-1 third period leads in the final two games of the trip, including Tuesdays loss.Thats probably the thing that sticks out to me, said Dan Boyle, who had a goal and an assist and was a 2 against Colorado. Were not scoring very many goals right now, we have to keep teams to one or two. Second game in a row we get the lead in the third, and we gave it away.There was that phase in the third period where we sat back on our heels, and you cant win like that, said Todd McLellan.The Sharks and Avalanche meet again at HP Pavilion on Thursday.Trailing 3-2, the Sharks tied the game at 19:38 of the third period. Logan Couture gathered in a loose puck, skated towards the net, and backhanded a perfect pass through the slot to Marleau who wristed it in.After a scoreless overtime, Landeskog and Hejduk scored on Antti Niemi in the shootout for the Avalanche, while the Sharks Joe Pavelski was the only one to get a puck past Semyon Varlamov.While surrendering a lead in the third period isnt ideal, the Sharks were able to prevent the trip from being a complete disaster with Marleaus late goal just his second in the last 10 games. Boyle, also, has not exactly been lighting it up on either end of the ice this season. He scored for the first time since Nov. 7 for just his second of the season.McLellan is hopeful that goals and points from some of his slumping players can help get things moving in the right direction offensively. Marleau and Boyle got the goals, but Joe Thornton, Pavelski and Couture all got on the scoresheet with assists.Lets hope so, because its been a long time coming, said the coach. Its great to see Boyle get on the board five-on-five, and Patty finally getting there. Were still waiting for some others.Colorado scored twice in the third period to take a 3-2 lead.First it was Daniel Winnik. After Niemi stopped Erik Johnsons blast, the Sharks goaltender leaned forward as if to gather in the puck. Winnik got to it first, though, and his wraparound beat Niemi before the goaltender was able to recover at 6:31.The Sharks 28th-ranked NHL penalty killing unit failed in its one and only attempt with Colin White off on a holding call at 10:16. Matt Duchesne was left alone at the point as Couture was caught out of position, and the shifty forward found the top corner at 11:51 to give Colorado a 3-2 lead it would maintain until Marleaus late marker.I thought they upped the ante and increased the speed and the play, said McLellan of Colorado. Not necessarily right away, but five or six shifts into the period. We didnt respond well until they scored, and then we got desperate again and started to play the way we were earlier in the game.We have the talent and the ingredients to play on our toes, so weve got to fix that.Playing on their toes is something the Sharks failed to do late in the first period, as well. With the game still scoreless and the clock winding down, Colorados Stefan Elliott skated end-to-end while flying past Jamie McGinn, Marleau and Marc-Edouard Vlasic before firing a wrist shot past Niemi from the circle.It was inexcusable goal, and a microcosm of the Sharks tendency to fall asleep at times.It was a line change, and we just backed right in. They came in, got a good shot off and it went in, but we definitely didnt get up in the neutral zone in order to force him to make a play, said Marleau. We gave him a lot of room to skate.The Sharks got on the board with just their second power play goal in the last nine games early in the second period. Boyle controlled the puck, skated towards the center of the ice high just inside the blue line, and spotted McGinn cutting towards the net. McGinns perfect redirection of Boyles low tape-to-tape pass evened the score at 3:16.That ended a 1-for-28 stretch for the Sharks with a man advantage, including an ineffective first period power play.San Jose took its first lead of the game at 13:39 of the second. Torrey Mitchell did the grunt work behind the net, finding Pavelski in the circle. Pavelskis attempt deflected off of Paul Stastnys skate to Boyle in the high slot, and the Sharks defenseman buried a wrist shot.It wouldnt last.Odds and ends: McGinn has five goals in his last seven games. Frazer McLaren and Matt Irwin were the Sharks healthy scratches. Colorado ended a three-game losing streak but increased its home winning streak to four. Niemi finished with 30 saves, while Varlamov had 27. The Sharks won 36 of 62 faceoffs (58 percent). Colorado out-hit the Sharks, 30-9.

NHL Gameday: Sharks go for fifth straight win in only visit to Colorado

NHL Gameday: Sharks go for fifth straight win in only visit to Colorado

Programming note – Sharks-Avalanche coverage starts today at 6:00 p.m. on NBCSN

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 29-16-2, 60 points, 2nd Pacific Division
Avalanche: 13-29-2, 28 points, 7th Central Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***Tonight’s game is the second of a home-and-home for the Sharks and Avalanche, after San Jose’s 3-2 win in overtime at SAP Center on Saturday, and the final game of the season series. David Schlemko got the deciding score 1:18 into the extra frame, as the Sharks improved to 6-1-1 in their last eight against Colorado.

The Sharks have won four straight, while Colorado, just 2-14-1 in its last 17, has lost five in a row. The Avs have not won in regulation since Dec. 11 at Toronto.

***Colorado will reportedly give rookie Spencer Martin his second straight start after he made 27 saves in his NHL debut against the Sharks on Saturday. 

Martin Jones is tied for third in the NHL with 24 wins, and is 5-1-0 in his last six starts.

***Four of the Sharks’ last six games have been decided by one goal, including three in a row. San Jose is 16-10-2 in one-goal games – the second most one-goal wins in the league, and the most one-goal losses in regulation.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Kevin Labanc. The Sharks rookie has hit a bit of a wall since bursting onto the scene, going without a goal for the last 10 games. Coach Pete DeBoer said recently that he had a talk with the rookie about maintaining a high level of play, and Labanc has been more noticeable in his last two games, recording an assist in each. The 21-year-old has 14 points (7g, 7a) in 34 games this season.

Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon. No forward was more effective for Colorado on Saturday against the Sharks than MacKinnon, their lone All-Star, who recorded a game-high seven shots and set up the tying goal in the third period. The first pick in the 2013 draft has 10 points (7g, 3a) in 10 career games when opposing San Jose, and is Colorado’s leading scorer with 32 points (11g, 21a).

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Patrick Marleau – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Joonas Donskoi – Logan Couture – Mikkel Boedker
Kevin Labanc – Chris Tierney – Joel Ward
Timo Meier – Tommy Wingels – Melker Karlsson

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko

Martin Jones 
Aaron Dell

Avalanche
Mikko Rantanen – Nathan Mackinnon – Mikhail Grigorenko
Gabriel Landeskog – Matt Duchene – Matt Nieto
Blake Comeau – Carl Soderberg – Jarome Iginla
Andreas Martinsen – John Mitchell – Joe Colborne

Francois Beauchemin – Cody Goloubef
Fedor Tyutin – Nikita Zadorov
Patrick Wiercioch – Eric Gelinas

Spencer Martin (starter)
Calvin Pickard

INJURIES

Sharks: Micheal Haley (lower body), Dylan DeMelo (broken wrist) and Tomas Hertl (right knee sprain) are out.

Avalanche: Tyson Barrie (lower body) and Rene Bourque (lower body) are day-to-day. Semyon Varlamov (groin) and Erik Johnson (broken fibula) are out.

QUOTEABLE

“I felt we did a pretty good job in our end, [but] we probably played there a little too much. We didn’t execute as well as we wanted to coming out of our end or through the neutral zone. There’s going to be games like that and it’s good to find a way to win.” – David Schlemko, after Saturday’s win

Three takeaways: Sharks make life easy on Avs rookie goalie

Three takeaways: Sharks make life easy on Avs rookie goalie

SAN JOSE – It took overtime for the Sharks to surpass the worst team in the NHL, but the points are valuable any way they come in the second half. Here are our three takeaways from the 3-2 victory on Saturday night…

1 – Top guys struggle, but depth comes through

It wasn’t a very good night for the captain’s line, which was particularly sloppy on Colorado’s tying goal in the third period. Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic weren’t much better, as the former was caught out of position a couple times, and the latter was tagged with six giveaways.

But those guys have been playing the bulk of the minutes lately, so they’re allowed to have an off night. At least, that’s how Pete DeBoer saw it.

“We've ridden our big guys pretty hard,” DeBoer said. “They played some tough minutes with some of the opponents we played this week, in L.A. and on and on. Tonight's a night you're looking for your depth guys to step up and give you some energy, and I thought we got that."

The Sharks’ fourth line was probably its best from start to finish, including Melker Karlsson’s goal, from Ryan Carpenter.

“[Tomas] Hertl's missed 30 games, so we needed somebody to come in and help us out in that area, and he's done that,” DeBoer said of Carpenter.

2 – Making it too easy on Martin

Spencer Martin was making his NHL debut in difficult circumstances, playing in front of what has been an incredibly loose team in its own end against one of the best teams in the Western Conference. But, the Sharks made it easy on him most of the night.

Avs forward Nathan MacKinnon, who had a tremendous game, told the Denver Post that he thought Colorado was the better team.

“Tonight, we outplayed them,” he said. “We outplayed the team that went to the (Stanley Cup) Finals last year, and there were some bright spots for us. We have to climb out of this hole and have a good last 30, 40 games here and go into next season feeling pretty good about ourselves.”

They’ll get another chance against the Sharks on Monday at Pepsi Center as the teams conclude their two-game season series. San Jose will try and give the Colorado goalie, whoever it is, a more difficult time.

“When we’re on our game, we’re making it tough with grind time and traffic at the net, some chances,” Joe Pavelski said. “Tonight we didn’t have as many as we could have had. We’ll try to find a little bit more for next game.”

Schlemko said: “We just didn’t have as much grind time in the o-zone as we usually do. If you’re not playing in their end you’re usually playing in your end.”

3 – Ward gets another on the power play

Joel Ward’s resurgence continues, as the forward again found a way to contribute on the scoresheet. His first period power play goal was one of the easier scores he’ll have, on a nice setup by Joe Thornton.

“[Thornton] had it behind the net and came around the side, and sent it to me on the far side, so it went in,” Ward said.

The 36-year-old Ward has nine points (3g, 6a) in his last 13 games. To put that in perspective, the last time he was a healthy scratch on Dec. 20, he had just nine points in 31 games on the season.