Instant Replay: Pavelski stays hot, Sharks blow past Sabres

Instant Replay: Pavelski stays hot, Sharks blow past Sabres

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE – Another multi-goal effort from the captain helped put an end to the Sharks’ inexplicable troubles with the Sabres.

Joe Pavelski scored twice for the second straight game, as the Sharks ended a five-game home losing to Buffalo on Tuesday at SAP Center, 4-1. It was the Sharks’ first regulation win of any kind over the Sabres since Jan. 23, 2010.

Pavelski’s first goal tied the game at one apiece in the second period, while his second score gave the Sharks a two-goal cushion. He has seven goals in his last five games and now leads the team with 28, one more than Brent Burns.

The game-winner, though, came from an unlikely source.

In the final minute of the second period of a 1-1 game, Micheal Haley got a little piece of Cody Franson’s short pass to Jack Eichel in front of the net, and the Sabres’ forward ended up kicking the puck through Robin Lehner’s five-hole with less than a minute to play in the middle frame. Haley was credited with this second of the season.

Pavelski added third period insurance. Dylan DeMelo’s point shot hit Josh Gorges in front of the net, and Pavelski was there to whip it home at 5:28 to make it 3-1.

Just before the goal, Martin Jones denied Eichel on a breakaway, sealing his five-hole and keeping the Sabres from getting what would have been the equalizer.

Another fluky play pushed the Sharks’ lead to 4-1. Joel Ward slid the puck over to Logan Couture, and as Couture and Lehner both extended their sticks out to poke at the loose puck, it popped up into the air and landed on the other side of the goal line at 14:47.

The Sharks have won four of their last five games, improving to 3-1-0 on their season-long six-game homestand. They are 7-2-0 in their last nine, and have a nine-point lead on the Pacific Division.

Kicking off a four-game road trip, the Sabres lost their fifth straight away from home.

The Sharks poured 20 shots on goal in the first, a season high for most in a period, but trailed after the opening frame. Pavelski gave the puck away to Gorges at the point, and Matt Moulson pushed the rebound of Gorges’ blast over to Eichel for an easy score just 1:10 into the game.

Lehner made a number of stellar saves to keep the Sharks off of the board, coming way out of his crease to turn away a Burns wrister, and later preventing Couture’s open look on a two-on-one from beating him with less than three minutes to go in the first.

The Sharks were also denied what originally looked like a Marcus Sorensen goal, but it was correctly ruled that Burns had pushed Lehner out of the way while taking the puck the net before Sorensen slid the puck across the line.

San Jose continued to press in the second, though, and was finally rewarded on the power play. Pavelski hammered in a one-timer from the slot on a backhanded feed from Couture at 11:47 to knot the score at 1-1.

Special teams

Entering with a 2-for-24 stretch in their previous seven games, with both coming against Washington, the Sharks finished 1-for-3 on the power play. Pavelski has seven power play goals on the season.

The penalty kill was 2-for-2, and is 11-for-11 in the last four games.

In goal

Perhaps benefiting from added rest, Jones secured the win with 21 saves, and has allowed two or fewer goals in seven consecutive starts. He’s 2-1-1 in his career against Buffalo.

Lehner has lost both of his career games against the Sharks, officially allowing four goals on 41 shots.

Lineup

The Sharks made no changes to their lineup, as David Schlemko and Melker Karlsson remained out with lower body injuries.

Joe Thornton’s assist on Pavelski’s first goal was his 40th of the season. It is his 14th season reaching that mark.

Up next

The Sharks will conclude their regular season series with the Blues – a potential first round playoff opponent – on Thursday at SAP Center. St. Louis has won the first two, both in regulation, including a 4-0 shutout of the Sharks in San Jose on Jan. 14.

The homestand concludes with the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday.

In return to San Jose, McLellan emerges victorious, ends Sharks' season

In return to San Jose, McLellan emerges victorious, ends Sharks' season

SAN JOSE – To borrow a phrase from Chuck Woolery, Todd McLellan was back in two and two.

Saturday’s Game 6 between the Sharks and Oilers marked exactly two years and two days since the Sharks-McLellan love connection was broken up, as the coach and his staff were all essentially fired on April 20, 2015. But McLellan and assistants Jim Johnson and Jay Woodcroft quickly resurfaced with the Oilers a few weeks later, and now they’re moving on to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the expense of their former employer.

At what was his home for seven seasons, McLellan took the press conference podium at SAP Center as the victorious visiting coach after Edmonton’s 3-1 win clinched the series in six games. Asked what the moment meant to him, McLellan preferred not to focus on himself or his staff.

“It’s not about Todd, it’s not about Jay or Jimmy. It’s about the Oilers and the group of players there that are growing up in front of us,” McLellan said.

“We’re part of this team now. I obviously have a soft spot for a lot of the players that are here in San Jose. They gave us a hell of a series. They helped us grow up by pushing us, and we’re lucky to get through. That’s an important thing for us.”

Amazingly, the Oilers managed to prevail with just one even strength point from Connor McDavid, who led the league in scoring in the regular season. That point came with less than a second remaining on the clock on Sunday when McDavid converted on an empty net.

The focus from the outside, among many of the Edmonton and San Jose media, was that the Sharks were doing an admirable job of defending the 20-year-old, who had 30 goals and 100 points in the regular season. Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun, in particular, were keeping McDavid frustrated.

While that may be the case, McLellan said after Game 6 that he had no problem with the McDavid vs. Vlasic showdown. In his view, the Oilers could win the series elsewhere.

“There was a lot of talk in this series about us trying to get Connor away from Vlasic and Braun. Obviously we don’t want to talk about it during the series, but we had an eye on [Ryan Nugent-Hopkins] against [Joe Thornton’s] line, especially since they put them together. That was a match we were looking for.

“You can’t get everything. When you’re a coach, the media experts find something and they keep going to it. But coaches have different plans sometimes. Peter [DeBoer] had his plan, we had ours. Ours wasn’t about getting Connor away from Vlasic and Braun, ours was getting [Nugent-Hopkins] on the ice against [Joe] Pavelski and Jumbo and Patty Marleau. For the most part, it worked in our favor.”

It worked, because as the stars on both teams were essentially neutralized, the Oilers’ depth players contributed just a little bit more than the Sharks group did and at more opportune times.

Zack Kassian had a pair of game-winning goals in games two and three; David Desharnais was the Game 5 hero with a game-tying assist and game-winning goal; and Anton Slepyshev posted the game-winner with a breakaway in Game 6. Not exactly big names.

DeBoer was particularly disappointed with Game 3, a 1-0 loss on Kassian’s third period goal; and Game 5, in which the Sharks had a 3-1 lead that they couldn’t protect. That the Sharks only got one power play goal in 18 chances not counting the Game 4 blowout was also one of the reasons for their downfall.

“If you had told me before the series we would have held McDavid in check, we would have won the special teams battle on paper, I probably would have felt pretty good about our chances,” DeBoer said.

Instead, McLellan will take his up-and-coming team to the next round, where it will face off with the Anaheim Ducks.

“For our team, we’re watching them grow up right in front of us, which is a great thing,” he said.

 

Sharks rue 'key moments' as they are knocked out by Oilers

Sharks rue 'key moments' as they are knocked out by Oilers

SAN JOSE – The clock said there was seven minutes and 48 seconds remaining in the third period. It was frozen there for a bit after Patrick Marleau’s goal brought the Sharks back to within a single score of Edmonton.

Filled to capacity, the Shark Tank came to life, ravenous for the equalizer. The next several minutes offered a reminder of the team’s thrilling 2016 playoff run, when the Sharks finished just two wins away from a championship while taking their fans along for a ride they had never been on in a quarter-century.

But those seven minutes and 48 seconds quickly wound down, leaving the Sharks worlds away from what they did just a year ago. The Oilers held on for a 3-1 win, ending the Sharks’ season in a first round series that lasted six games.

Other than Game 4, a Sharks blowout victory, all the games were competitive.

“There were just a couple key moments in the series,” Joe Pavelski said.

In Game 6, the key moments that won the game for Edmonton came early in the second period. Justin Braun’s point shot was blocked leading to Leon Draisaitl’s goal to open the scoring, and Chris Tierney’s pass to Paul Martin at the point was just off the mark, allowing Anton Slepyshev to glide ahead untouched for another goal. The scores both came within the first two minutes of the middle frame, and were just 56 seconds apart.

That was probably poetic justice in that the Oilers were the much more aggressive and hungry team in the first period, they just weren't rewarded on the scoreboard.

Joe Thornton agreed with a suggestion that the Sharks were “a little bit sloppy” early, “but we got better. I thought we played a great second period and pushed in the third period. Just not enough time left on the clock.”

The Sharks did seem to get their game going just after Slepyshev’s score, but couldn’t solve Cam Talbot more than once. Pavelski nearly tied it with 3:45 to go, but his backhander from down low glanced off of both the crossbar and the post.

Key moments.

“It felt good coming off the stick, it really did,” Pavelski said of his chance. “It was there.”

Connor McDavid’s empty net goal with less than a second on the clock capped the scoring, sending the Oilers and former Sharks coach Todd McLellan on to the second round. 

Other than Game 4, which they dominated 7-0, the Sharks managed just seven goals in the other five games. Brent Burns failed to record a point in five of the six games, while Pavelski had just a single assist outside of Game 4.

The depth scorers also failed to come through, no surprise after the Sharks got little from them for much of the season.

“They defended well, Talbot played well. They were all close games,” Pete DeBoer said. “You’ve got to find a way to win 1-0, 2-1 in the playoffs. It’s not realistic you’re going to get three or four every night. They found a way to win more of the close games than we did.”

Burns said: “Series was pretty tight. I think it’s like Pavs said, it’s just little moments here and there. So much is luck, just puck luck, creating that luck. It’s a tight series, back and forth.”

The Sharks face an uncertain offseason, as there is little reason to believe their current roster, as constructed, will be able to compete with an Oilers team that has not only proven to be better now but is only going to improve. Whether Thornton and Marleau return remains an uncertainty, too.

“This is a big summer. We’ve got some guys that are up, and the expansion draft and whatnot,” Logan Couture said. 

“Every year I’ve been in this league, the team has never been the same the next year. There’s always been changes. Unfortunately, that’s the way that this league works. We’ll see what happens this summer, and come back hungrier next year.”

In the meantime, the Oilers will continue their push for a Stanley Cup while San Jose’s visit to the final round last year will only become more and more of a distant memory.