Instant Replay: Pacific division still up for grabs after Ducks beat Sharks

Instant Replay: Pacific division still up for grabs after Ducks beat Sharks

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SAN JOSE – Perhaps the Pacific Division race isn’t over quite yet, after all.

Patrick Eaves and Jakob Silfverberg scored goals in a 2-1 Ducks win over the Sharks at SAP Center on Saturday, bringing them to within four points of San Jose for the division lead. The Sharks, who still have one game in hand on Anaheim, had a nine point cushion on the rest of the Pacific after beating Buffalo on Tuesday.

Anaheim has won the Pacific Division in each of the last four seasons. The Sharks are seeking their first title since 2011.

It took Anaheim more than eight minutes to get their first shot on goal in the second period, as momentum swung towards San Jose in a 1-1 game.

But with six-and-a-half minutes left in the middle frame, Silfverberg blocked a Paul Martin shot after the defenseman fumbled with the puck just inside the offensive zone blue line, and raced in for a breakaway score at 13:29. The Ducks took their 2-1 lead to the dressing room.

San Jose’s best chance to tie it in the third came on a Patrick Marleau breakaway with nine minutes to go, but he couldn’t slip through a backhand.

The Sharks pulled Martin Jones with about two-and-a-half minutes left in regulation, but couldn’t find the equalizer.

The Sharks finished their season-long six-game homestand with a 3-3-0 mark. They lost back-to-back games in regulation at home for just the second time this season (Nov. 3-5).

Anaheim, playing its second game in two nights, improved to 5-1-1 in its last seven.

The Ducks had the Sharks on their heels early. They took the lead just 39 seconds into the game when Eaves finished his check on Justin Braun, snuck out to the front of the net, and lifted a Ryan Getzlaf feed over Jones’ glove hand. It was Eaves’ third goal with Anaheim since he was traded from Dallas just before the deadline.

Anaheim kept up the pressure, including a Ryan Kesler breakaway which is rang off the post, but the Sharks would tie it late in the frame.

On a two-man advantage, Joe Thornton found Logan Couture alone in the slot, and Couture – playing in his 500th career NHL game – whipped it through Jonathan Bernier at 19:13.

Couture nearly had his second of the night some remaining power play time early in the second, but his redirection of a Martin saucer caught iron.

Jannik Hansen left the game midway through the third period after colliding with Ducks defenseman Brandon Montour, and did not return.

The Sharks and Ducks concluded their five-game season series. Anaheim was 3-0-2.

Special teams

The Sharks finished 1-for-3 on the power play, scoring their third five-on-three goal of the season.  Couture’s 11 power play goals leads the team.

Anaheim was 0-for-2 on the power play, as the Sharks improved to 12-for-13 on the PK over the last six games.

In goal

Jones has allowed two or fewer goals in his last eight starts, but fell to 4-8-0 in his career against Anaheim with two goals allowed on 27 shots. He played all five games of the season series.

Playing in his fourth game this season against San Jose, Bernier made 33 saves to get his 15th win of the season.

Anaheim remains without goalie John Gibson, who is sidelined with a lower body injury and has missed 10 of the last 11 overall.

Lineup

Andrew Cogliano played in his 776th straight game, tied for the fourth-longest streak in NHL history.

Up next

After Monday’s game against the Stars opens a four-game road trip, the Sharks will visit Minnesota on Tuesday, and go right back to Dallas for another game on Friday. The trip concludes with their only visit of the regular season to Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

The Sharks have issued qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Chris Tierney, Marcus Sorensen and Barclay Goodrow, while cutting ties with three players in the system.

Tierney, 22, posted 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 80 games last season, serving primarily as the fourth line center. He has 64 points (24g, 40a) in 202 career games over three NHL seasons, all with the Sharks.

Sorensen posted one goal and three assists in 19 games with the Sharks last season, his first in the NHL. The 25-year-old played in all six playoff games against Edmonton, scoring one goal and one assist.

Goodrow, 24, skated in three games for the Sharks last season with one assist. He has 16 points (4g, 12a) in 77 games over three seasons with the Sharks, although has played in just 17 NHL games since the start of the 2015-16 season.

Forward Nikita Jevpalovs, defenseman Patrick McNally and goalie Mantas Armalis - also known for his career as a male model - were left unqualified and are now unrestricted free agents.

Earlier in the offseason, the Sharks signed pending restricted free agents Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson. Donskoi received a two-year deal at a salary cap hit of $1.9 million, while Karlsson was signed to a three-year deal at $2 million annually.

Thornton, Marleau now permitted to speak with other teams

Thornton, Marleau now permitted to speak with other teams

Their futures with the Sharks more uncertain than ever, pending unrestricted free agents Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are now free to take calls from other teams to gauge their potential interest.

Nothing can be signed with a new team before July 1, and there is a ban on discussing terms of any potential deal. Teams have already reached out to Marleau, per TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, while Thornton is also reportedly receiving interest around the league.

While they could still return to the Sharks, it’s new territory for both, as neither Thornton nor Marleau has ever tested the unrestricted free agent waters. Most recently, they agreed to three-year contract extensions with the Sharks on the same day – Jan. 24, 2014 – in what was the final year of their current deals.

Whether they return to the Sharks could depend on the length of the deal. If other teams are willing to offer multiple-year deals to Thornton and Marleau, it makes their return to the Sharks less likely – particularly in Marleau’s case. Earlier in the offseason, NBC Sports California confirmed that Thornton was seeking a three-year deal, while Marleau preferred a deal of at least three years.

General manager Doug Wilson’s top priority this offseason is to re-sign goalie Martin Jones and defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to long term extensions. Those contracts would likely cost the team a combined $12-14 million, and would begin in the 2018-19 season.

There is an added risk to any team that signs a player over the age of 35, as it would be on the hook for the entire salary cap hit regardless of whether that player is active (unless that player is on long-term injured reserve). 

Thornton turns 38 on Sunday, while Marleau turns 38 on Sep. 15.