Sharks' effort improves, but result the same

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Sharks' effort improves, but result the same

BOX SCORE

DALLAS The effort was improved. The result was painfully similar.

The Sharks played their most complete game in weeks at least offensively but still lost in heartbreaking and frustrating fashion to the Dallas Stars in a shootout on Thursday night at American Airlines Center, 4-3.

Dallas Tomas Vincour scored late in the third and tallied the only goal in the shootout, moving the Stars, 8-0-1 in their last nine games, four points ahead of the Sharks in the Pacific Division. San Jose has two games in hand.

Joe Pavelski had given the Sharks a late lead, when he deposited the rebound of a Dan Boyle shot with just 3:32 to go in regulation.

Dallas didnt fold, though, tying the game with 1:15 to go and the goaltender pulled on a Vincour goal during a scramble in front of Antti Niemi. The puck barely trickled over the line before Niemi grabbed it with his glove, and a brief video review confirmed it was a good goal.

I was aware it was behind me, and I was trying to get my glove on the ice, said the goaltender.

RELATED: Sharks to face supremely confident Stars

Vincours shootout conversion came on Dallas fifth try. Ryane Clowe, Joe Pavelski, Tommy Wingels, Dominic Moore and Logan Couture failed, and the game ended when Lehtonen stopped Coutures attempt.

A visibly agitated Clowe put the loss, San Joses sixth in the last seven games (1-4-2), into perspective.

Good games dont count this time of year. Its putting up the points. I know we got a point, but we had the lead twice in the third and didnt hold onto it, Clowe said. "Its either you learn and you do it, or you dont play after the regular season.

Still, the Sharks can take some positives into their next contest on Saturday, another division battle against a club they are fighting for playoff position against in the Phoenix Coyotes.

For one, San Jose scored three times and applied pressure on Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen for the majority of the night, firing 48 shots on goal. The Sharks had scored just four goals total in their recently complete four-game homestand.

I thought that for a team thats struggled to score lately and struggled to put up any offensive plays, we had a number of really good looks at the net, Todd McLellan said.

Torrey Mitchells dazzling game-tying goal at the end of the second period gave the Sharks the momentum heading into the third. They took advantage of it when Marleau buried his 27th of the season just 25 seconds after the faceoff, from Joe Thornton.

Regarding Mitchells goal, McLellan said: There was a little bit of a relief there, and then to come back and get a quick one going into the third was a nice start, too.

Dallas, which had been outplayed for most of the game up to that point, turned it up a notch after Marleaus goal. Mark Fistric drilled Tommy Wingels hard into the boards, leading to a rush the other way. Jake Dowell rang one off the post, while Niemi smothered Vincours shot from the circle.

Dallas did manage to tie it at 2-2, though. Jamie Benn led a rush up the boards, played give and go with Adam Burish in the offensive zone, and then slid it through Niemi at 6:42 after Dan Boyle got tripped up in the slot by Ryan Garbutt.

After Pavelski and Vincours goals later in the third, the frantic pace carried into overtime.

Dallas had the better of the chances early in the extra session, but Patrick Marleau broke up a potential Mike Ribiero breakaway and Niemi stopped Loui Erikssons shot from the slot with 3:39 left.

The Sharks went to the power play when Michael Ryder was called for holding at 2:37. Marleaus blast hit the outside of the post, though, while Pavelskis backhand try was turned away by Kari Lehtonen.

Make that play, make that shot, and the games over, Pavelski said. We had a couple looks. Patty hit the post. Youve got to capitalize. We had our chances.

Pavelski had a good view of both of Dallas tying goals in the third, though, seemingly tempering his emotions for what was a good game from him on the offensive front.

Im out on the ice on both those, and its frustrating because its been like that a lot, Pavelski said. We need to be on the positive side. We cant be a minus. We have to be on the positive side to win games.

Clowe was upset the Sharks didnt finish off what would have been an incredibly uplifting win for a struggling hockey club.

You have to finish off the games. Youve got a minute left, youve got to close it out, Clowe said. Youve just got to take pride in the d-zone and do it right. Youve got to learn. Youve got to finish them off, but thats why you play 60 minutes.

He continued.

If youre on the ice in the last minute, you better be taking pride in that. I know it for me and Im sure every other guy feels the same way, its like a coach is giving you a little pat on the back if youre out in the last minute. Hes showing trust in you, and youve got to take pride. Weve got to learn. Weve got to take care of that.

Lehtonen kept the Stars in the game with some stellar goaltending through the first 39 minutes and 58 seconds.

Mitchell scored with just two seconds to go in the second, though, when the Sharks winger walked past defenseman Alex Goligosi and flipped in a backhand for his seventh marker, making it 1-1 on a play for the highlight reels.

The Sharks nearly got their first goal with about eight minutes left in the second, but it was Dallas that opened the scoring. Clowes redirection attempt was stopped by the quick right pad of Lehtonen, leading to a rush the other way. Ryder got behind Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Boyle before depositing a lead pass from Jake Dowell at 12:16.

Dallas was fortunate the game was still scoreless at that point, as Lehtonen thwarted countless scoring chances by the Sharks in the first two periods. He denied Marleau on a Sharks power play with about six minutes left in the first, and later gave Pavelski no room to shoot after a nice set up by Brent Burns in the offensive zone.

Despite the loss, the Sharks moved into sole possession of eighth place in the Western Conference, as Los Angeles lost in regulation to Columbus. The Phoenix Coyotes are one point ahead of San Jose, and have played two more games, after a shootout loss to Minnesota.

Odds and ends: San Jose is 2-7-3 in its last 12 games, and 4-10-3 in its last 17. The Sharks are 3-0-1 against Dallas in the season series, with two games remaining. Niemi made 32 saves in making his fifth straight start. The Sharks are 7-11-6 in their last 24 road games. TJ Galiardi, Michal Handzus, Benn Ferriero and Justin Braun were the Sharks scratches. Tommy Wingels head was checked hard into the boards on the hit by Mark Fistric early in the third period, and left the game for about 10 minutes.

Meier 'real close' to making Sharks debut

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Meier 'real close' to making Sharks debut

SAN JOSE – Struggling to score goals lately with two or fewer in eight of their last 11 games, the Sharks may soon turn to their biggest prospect to try and give the offense a boost.

Timo Meier, the ninth overall pick from the 2015 draft, is tearing up the American Hockey League lately with the Barracuda. He scored four goals (and registered 15 shots) in two games in San Antonio over the weekend, has eight points (5g, 3a) in his last four games, and leads the Barracuda with eight goals.

On Thursday, Pete DeBoer was asked what he’s heard about Meier lately and how close he may be.

“Good things, and real close,” DeBoer said. “I think he would have been even a consideration [Wednesday], but he came down I think with the flu. 

“You feel for him because we’re looking to bring some guys in, and he obviously had a great weekend. He’s one of quite a few guys down there that we feel real comfortable can come in here and are going to help us before the year ends, for sure.”

It’s the second time an illness has affected Meier’s status, as he came down with mononucleosis early in training camp and missed a month of action. He did, however, return to Barracuda practice this week.

One month ago, Barracuda coach Roy Sommer told CSN that Meier had to make some adjustments coming out of juniors. 

“He’s just has to simplify his game,” Sommer said on Nov. 9. “I think he’s just trying to do too much. He’s got to be north-south, and [forget] this circling and trying to put pucks through people. … It’s not going to work.”

Apparently, Meier has figured it out. On Tuesday, Sommer told The Gackle Report: “He’s getting better every game. At the start, I was going, oh man, he’s all over the map, circling and not using his teammates. But shoot, now he just keeps producing.”

“We’ve spent a lot of time with him on video and he picks stuff up.”

The 2015 draft has already produced several players that are regular contributors for their respective clubs, led by Connor McDavid (Edmonton), Jack Eichel (Buffalo), Mitch Marner (Toronto) and Zach Werenski (Columbus). 

Meier is the only player among the top 11 picks that year that has yet to play an NHL game, while 17 of 30 of the players overall chosen in the first round have played at least one NHL game.

Sharks still struggling to get consistent offense

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USATSI

Sharks still struggling to get consistent offense

SAN JOSE – There are games where the Sharks’ lack of offensive firepower isn’t an issue. Recent 2-1 wins over two of the best teams in the league, Chicago and Montreal, were impressive in that San Jose kept a pair of the league’s better offenses from getting more than a single score.

In other instances, though, that necessary goal from the team’s depth just hasn’t come. Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to Ottawa was one example. The Sharks got goals from Logan Couture and Brent Burns – no surprise there – while Joe Pavelski was all around the net, generating more scoring chances than any single player on the ice.

Again, though, the depth forwards and defensemen other than Burns never found the scoresheet. 

And it’s becoming a real issue.

In fact, in the Sharks’ last 11 games in which they’ve gotten 25 goals total, 60 percent of them have come from just those three aforementioned players – Couture (7g), Burns (5g) and Pavelski (3g).

Also over that span, in which San Jose has gone 6-4-1, they’ve gotten no goals from Joe Thornton, Joonas Donskoi, Mikkel Boedker, Micheal Haley or Melker Karlsson; one goal apiece from Joel Ward and Tommy Wingels; and just one goal by a defenseman other than Burns (Dylan DeMelo). Of the 12 forwards that dressed against the Senators, eight of them had two or fewer goals.

The Sharks sit at 23rd in the NHL at 2.38 goals-per game. Sure, it’s just fine winning games by 2-1 final scores. But at some point, other guys are going to have to start putting the puck in the net if this team is truly going to contend for the Stanley Cup.

Couture – who himself got off to a slow start offensively – believes it’s going to come soon.

“Everyone wants to score,” Couture said after the Senators game. “It’s not about trying, it’s just the way that things are going right now. Pucks just aren’t going in for some guys, and, hey, I went through the same thing for awhile there where I wasn’t finding the back of the net. 

“That’s the way that goal-scoring works in the NHL, is you go through streaks where you’re hot and when you’re cold. Some guys are going to get hot soon. It’s going to happen.”

For his part, coach Pete DeBoer also believes the offense will pick up shortly. In the Senators game, the coaching staff internally tracked the scoring chances as 22 for the Sharks and just eight for Ottawa.

When that happens, “you should win, and you should score more than two goals,” DeBoer said.

Without getting into specifics, DeBoer pointed to the “analytics of where we are in the league” as a reason not to panic. Perhaps he’s aware that the Sharks are sixth in the league in shot-attempt percentage (52.25), and first in the NHL in shot-attempt percentage in close games (55.67).

Still, those numbers don’t mean anything when the puck isn’t going in. So what’s missing?

“I just think finish. I think we’re doing a lot of things right,” DeBoer said.

“Obviously I’d love to see us score some more goals five-on-five, but we’re getting some chances,” Ward said. “I would think if we weren’t or if we were getting shelled then it would definitely be something to be concerned about. … We’ve had some good looks and some really quality chances. Things just haven’t fallen in five-on-five, but I think that will come around.”