Sharks drop second straight, fall to Flames 4-3

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Sharks drop second straight, fall to Flames 4-3

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE An egregious turnover by Colin White in the third period led to Olli Jokinen completing a hat trick and was the difference in a 4-3 Flames win over the Sharks at HP Pavilion on Wednesday night.

For the second straight game, the Sharks committed several mistakes and made soft plays with the puck, and it cost them against an opponent thats desperate to stay in the Western Conference playoff picture. Whites turnover was the most obvious mistake, but there were several others to pick and choose from as San Jose surrendered four goals in back-to-back games for just the third time this year.

In fact, Jarome Iginlas goal in the second period to give the Flames a 3-2 lead might have been even bigger than the game-winner, even though the Sharks would later tie it up early in the third with a power play goal.

Iginla's marker came after the Sharks fell behind 2-0 in the second period but came roaring back to tie the it with a pair of goals just one minute and 23 seconds apart.

First, it was Logan Couture. On a delayed penalty call, the Sharks pulled Antti Niemi for an extra attacker and patiently waited to set up their breakout and eventually bring the puck into the offensive zone. Ryane Clowe fed a perfect cross-ice pass to Couture, who rifled in his 23rd goal of the year ay 6:29.

The tying goal came when Joe Thornton found an open Joe Pavelski in the slot from behind the net, and Pavelski deposited his 20th of the season in what was his 400th game in the NHL.

It was all Sharks at that point, and the top line was buzzing in the Flames zone once again minutes later. But, defenseman Brent Burns got a bit too aggressive and was caught too far inside the blue line when Jokinen and Iginla raced the other way on an odd-man rush.

Burns managed to catch up to the play, but was not in position when Iginlas snap shot from Jokinen sailed past Niemi at 11:15, killing the Sharks momentum on what was another preventable mistake.

The formula is pretty simple for our group. Weve given up four or more goals 12 times this year, and won one game, Todd McLellan said. If we think we can screw around with the puck, and be lackadaisical with line changes and not be desperate until the last 10 minutes of the game, well give up four again and we wont win. Its as simple as that.

The Sharks lost to Phoenix on Saturday, 5-3, including an empty-net goal by the Coyotes.

You cant give them four goals. Bad bounces or not, you dont win many games, Pavelski. You see it in Phoenix, and you see it here tonight.

Trailing 3-2 entering the third period, San Jose tied the game with a power play goal less than a minute into the final frame. Michal Handzus won an offensive zone draw and then pushed in the rebound of a blast by Burns off of the back boards just 49 seconds in.

Alex Tanguay intercepted Whites pass from behind the Sharks net shortly after the equalizer, though, and Jokinen quickly released Tanguays pass over a diving White at 3:25 to give Calgary the lead back.

The Flames held on this time, beating the Sharks for the first time in three tries this season.

I tried to just kind of bank it off of the boards for our winger, tried to get him a little time with it instead of just rimming it at his feet, White said. It just took a harder bounce than obviously I wanted it, and kind of went out into the middle. I was desperate then, just trying to get into a shooting lane and he made a pass back door. They capitalized on the mistake there.

We worked to get all the way back into the game, and the winning goal makes no sense to me at all, how we can have full possession and it ends up in our net, McLellan said. Who do you point the finger at? Theres five guys out there that all could manage the puck much better than they did.

The Sharks were without the services of Dan Boyle, a late scratch due to the flu. It was the first game Boyle has missed this season.

Danny is a tremendous player and means a lot to our hockey club, but we should be able to work our way through it, McLellan said.

No excuses. Dans obviously a great player, but the guys that are back there have to pull their load when guys are injured or sick, Thornton said. Well be better next game.

The Sharks host Chicago on Friday before embarking on a nine-game, 15-day road trip.

The Sharks had some great chances to tie it up in the third period after falling behind again. One came midway through the period when Marc-Edouard Vlasic found the net, but referee Kevin Pollock correctly ruled Patrick Marleau interfered with Kiprusoff after bowling into the Flames net untouched. McLellan said it was the right call.

Pavelski, whacking at a loose puck with about three minutes to go, nearly got it past Miikka Kiprusoff but the Flames goalie somehow froze the puck between his pads after it bounced over him.

It was ridiculous, to see his legs come up when youre just watching the puck and hoping it hits the net, Pavelski said.

Kiprusoff, a former Sharks goalie, recorded the 300th win of his career with 34 saves.

The loss was the Sharks second straight in regulation after Phoenix snapped their three-game winning streak on Saturday. San Jose leads the Pacific Division with 64 points, two better than Los Angeles, and has three games in hand on the Kings.

Jokinen, who finished with three goals and an assist, staked Calgary to a 2-0 lead. The Sharks turned it over a couple times in their own zone, including a soft play by Couture along the boards, before Jokinen redirected in a shot from the point by defenseman Chris Butler at 12:30 of the first period. A power play goal at 2:36 of the second period came when Tanguays shot rebounded off of the back boards, White couldnt find it, and Jokinen was there to whack it through Niemi.

They were in their spots, and they go to the net hard, White said.

Couture extended his scoring streak to seven games, with 10 points over that span (5g, 5a). Thornton assisted on the first two Sharks goals and has eight points in his last four games (3g, 5a).

Odds and ends: Miikka Kiprusoff is the 27th goalie in NHL history to reach 300 wins. ... Olli Jokinens hat trick was the seventh of his career. Owen Nolan, who announced his retirement in a press conference at HP Pavilion on Wednesday, took part in a ceremonial faceoff before the game. He got a lengthy standing ovation. Cory Sarich, who found with Andrew Desjardins in the second period, was forced to wear a nameless 65 sweater for the remainder of the game after his normal 6 sweater apparently ripped during the altercation. The Sharks were 39-31 in the faceoff circle, including a 14-3 performance from Joe Pavelski, the leagues leading faceoff man.

Sharks sign defenseman from Czech Republic

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AP

Sharks sign defenseman from Czech Republic

The Sharks have signed Czech defenseman Radim Simek to a one-year contract.

The two-way deal, originally reported by Radio Praha in the Czech Republic, is expected to be announced by the Sharks later this week, according to a source. Simek just finished competing for his country in the 2017 IIHF World Championships, skating in all eight games for the Czech Republic while posting one goal, one assist, 11 shots and a minus-two rating.

Simek, 24, has spent the last five seasons in the Czech League. In 42 games for Liberec in 2016-17, he posted 24 points (11g, 13a) and 30 penalty minutes with a plus-18 rating. A left-handed shot, he is listed at five-foot-11 and 196 pounds on the IIHF website.

The New York Rangers were also interested in Simek, according to the report.

Simek will likely begin next season with the AHL Barracuda.

The Sharks have signed a number of free agents out of Europe in recent seasons, including Joonas Donskoi in 2015 and Marcus Sorensen and Tim Heed last May.

 

Future with Sharks still uncertain for Thornton, Marleau

Future with Sharks still uncertain for Thornton, Marleau

More than four weeks have passed since the Sharks were dispatched by the Edmonton Oilers in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau appear no closer to signing contract extensions than when the season ended. 

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson faces some of the toughest decisions of his 14-year tenure as the head of the hockey department in the coming weeks, beginning with the two best players in franchise history.

And, no, there are no back room handshake deals here between the Sharks and either of Thornton or Marleau, allowing the Sharks to protect extra players in the upcoming expansion draft. The two veterans are still pending unrestricted free agents in the truest sense, and it’s no certainty that either will return to San Jose.

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Re-signing Thornton would seem to be more of a priority than re-signing Marleau, as centermen are more valuable than wingers. Thornton’s line, with Joe Pavelski and whoever the left wing happened to be, was still drawing the opposition’s top defense pair on many nights this season. Marleau was on that line at times, but was shuffled up and down throughout the year, spending about half the season on the third line.

Thornton apparently dodged disaster in terms of his left knee, as multiple sources have told NBC Sports California that the brunt of the damage was to his MCL, not his ACL. As long as he recovers fully, as expected, there’s reason to believe that Thornton could be better next season than he was in 2016-17. Last year’s Stanley Cup Final run, the World Cup, and the condensed schedule seemed to take their toll. Thornton, who typically downplays anything remotely negative, admitted more than once that this season in particular was a grind.

But perhaps just as important to the Sharks is what Thornton brings to the team emotionally. Pavelski may still be the captain – and an effective one, at that – but Thornton is still the heartbeat. Pete DeBoer made that clear after Game 2 of the first round against the Oilers, talking about what Thornton’s absence from the bench in those first two games meant to the team in terms of a bench presence.

“It’s old school accountability with Joe. It’s black and white,” DeBoer said. “He came up in an era and at a time and around people who you weren’t worried about hurting feelings. You said what needed to be said. That’s not always the case now in modern dressing rooms and with modern athletes. He’s a great resource for us, because there’s no greater pressure than peer pressure, especially from a Hall of Fame guy like that.”

So what might it take to retain Thornton and keep him from hitting the open market? 

It has been previously reported that Thornton wanted a three-year deal, and that remains the case. As for money, I would expect Thornton – who has taken hometown discounts in the past to stay in San Jose – to ask for at least $5 million per season, minimum. Our best guess here is that a Thornton-Sharks pre-July 1 agreement would probably look something like three years and somewhere between $15 – 17 million.

Whether the Sharks would be willing to make that kind of commitment to Thornton, who will be 38 in July, is unclear. If they are not, Thornton could listen to offers from other teams beginning on June 24, when the window opens for unrestricted free agents to speak with other teams.

Still, Thornton’s first choice is to remain in San Jose. The Sharks don’t have anyone that could replace him on or off the ice. There should be a deal to be made here, either sooner or later.

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Marleau’s future with the Sharks seems much hazier.

Unlike Thornton – who put up with public ridicule from Wilson and had his captaincy stripped – Marleau’s commitment to the organization hasn’t been quite as steadfast. Recall in 2015, of course, when Marleau’s preference for a brief stretch was to leave the Sharks. We reported here in November, 2015 that he was willing to accept a trade to three teams, while ESPN reported that Marleau’s agent was “quietly exploring the market” as late as January, 2016.

While those feelings seem to have passed over time, Marleau hasn’t been as emphatic as Thornton in his desire to return. When asked on April 24 if he would like to come back to the Sharks, Marleau said: “Yeah, it would be nice. We’ll see if that’s an option. A lot of time here before this decision needs to be made.”

At this point, though, Marleau may be asking for a bit much in his next deal. It’s believed that the franchise’s all-time leading scorer is, like Thornton, seeking a contract of at least three years.

That shouldn’t be overly surprising. When asked then if he wanted a multi-year deal on April 24, Marleau said: “Yeah, I think so. … I still feel like I have at least five good years in me, or maybe more.”

As we wrote here in early February, it may not make much sense for the Sharks to commit to Marleau for more than one year for a number of reasons, including potential long-term (and surely expensive) contract extensions for Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, something Wilson has made his top priority this offseason. 

If Marleau is seeking a lengthy commitment from San Jose, I don’t see how that works from a business perspective for San Jose, which has a number of prospects in the system at wing that could potentially fill the hole Marleau would leave. Timo Meier and Marcus Sorensen, in particular, could be ready to take the next step, and both would be much cheaper options (Meier has two years left on his entry level deal, while Sorensen is a pending restricted free agent that won’t require a huge raise).

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Further complicating matters is that Thornton has never been shy about wanting to win with Marleau by his side. The two famously announced their nearly identical three-year contract extensions on Jan. 24, 2014, and Thornton would still prefer to have Marleau return to San Jose with him.

“Hopefully, I can come back and Patty can come back,” Thornton said after the season ended. “I think this team is a very good team. I think this is a Stanley Cup caliber team. I really believe that."

Considering the salary cap for next season has not yet been revealed, and that Wilson can’t officially extend Jones or Vlasic until July 1, the general manager could be forced to wait a little while before finalizing anything with either Thornton or Marleau. That makes it all the more likely that the Thornton and Marleau camps will at least get an opportunity to hear from other clubs and consider other offers in late June.

In short, anything is still possible. And Wilson, Thornton and Marleau all have some difficult decisions on the horizon in a Sharks offseason that is unlike any other.