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.

Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

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Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

No one asked, but I’m going to begin this week’s mailbag with my prediction for the Stanley Cup Final – Preds in six. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to a few of your questions…

Most likely to be moved this off-season? (Nik @niknisj25)

If the Sharks do make a move – and I’ve argued here that I think it may be time for a shakeup – they’ll surely be looking for someone up front to boost the offense. In that case, they’d likely have to sacrifice a defenseman or two.

The Sharks defense is the strength of the organization at the moment, as they had one of the best one-through-seven groups in the NHL this season. But it’s also an expensive one. The Sharks have nearly $27 million committed to their top seven defensemen next season, while Marc-Edouard Vlasic is due for a hefty raise beginning in 2018-19.

One name that could be intriguing to other teams is Justin Braun. The 30-year-old has been a part of the Sharks’ top shut down pair with Vlasic for several seasons now, and is signed for the next three years at a reasonable $3.8 million cap hit. The Sharks could potentially move him for offensive help, and slot in a guy like David Schlemko alongside Vlasic, while finally giving Dylan DeMelo a chance to play on a nightly basis on the third pair. A Vlasic-Schlemko pair could be more offensive than Vlasic-Braun, too, because as adept as they were at keeping the puck out of their own net, the Sharks didn’t get many goals from their defenders outside of Burns.

Of course, the upcoming expansion draft all but assures that nothing will happen until Las Vegas selects its team on June 21. If the Sharks lose a defenseman to the Golden Knights, they’ll be more reluctant to move another one. Still, with guys like Joakim Ryan, Tim Heed, Julius Bergman, Mirco Mueller and now Radim Simek in the pipeline, the club might be able to handle a couple departures.

How do we fix the power play next season? Bring in a coach that could help us? Change up the lines, or style of play? (adam smith @kickback408)

One thing that won’t be happening is a new coach, as Doug Wilson recently confirmed that Steve Spott would be back alongside Pete DeBoer. Bob Boughner could move on if he gets hired as a head coach elsewhere, but Boughner’s focus is the team’s defense and penalty kill.

Obviously, the future of the power play depends on who is on the roster, beginning with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Both saw their power play production dip this season.

Thornton went from 29 power play points in 2015-16 to 19 this season (he had eight power play goals in 2015-16, and just one this season). Marleau saw a decline from 25 power play points in 2015-16 to 16 last season. Even if both return, it may be time to try other bodies on the top unit.

Do you see Meier, Labanc and/or Sorensen having a breakout season next year? Or anyone else on the Barracuda? (Colin Dunn @ColinDunnACA)

Someone better had, because this team needs to start getting younger, and soon. One of the bigger disappointments of the 2016-17 season is that none of them apparently showed the coaching staff that they were prepared to play on a nightly basis at the NHL level.

Timo Meier and Marcus Sorensen, I would surmise, are at the top of the depth chart as far as forwards go. Their line in the playoffs with center Chris Tierney was the Sharks’ best through the early part of the series with Edmonton. As for Kevin Labanc, I think he’s fallen a bit since he had a brief run of success for the Sharks in December.

While the Sharks did a good job stockpiling some young players through the 2013-15 drafts, they’ve traded away a number of picks in recent years. In last year’s draft they didn’t have a first or third round pick; this year they don’t have any picks in the second, third or fourth rounds; and in 2018 they are already without their second and third round picks. 

It’s great to accumulate young players, but at some point they have to break through. Now is the time.

Sharks, Robinson parting ways after five seasons

Sharks, Robinson parting ways after five seasons

After five seasons with the Sharks, Larry Robinson is leaving the organization.

Robinson, 65, spent the last three seasons as the club's director of player development. He served as an associate coach from 2012-14.

TSN in Montreal and the Montreal Gazette originally reported the news.

The Sharks confirmed that Robinson's contract would be expiring, and general manager Doug Wilson told NBC Sports California that the divorce was amicable, and "because of geography." Robinson lives in Florida.

According to the Montreal Gazette

Robinson’s contract with the Sharks expires on July 1, but agent Donnie Cape said Thursday that San Jose general manager Doug Wilson has given him permission to speak with other teams. Robinson lives in Bradenton, Fla., and the long travel distance to San Jose is one of big the reasons he’s looking for a new team to work for.

Robinson seemed to ponder retirement in 2014, but signed a three-year extension to remain in the Sharks' front office. He worked mostly from his home in Florida the past two seasons, making occasional trips to San Jose, including during training camp.

In the summer of 2015, Robinson underwent surgery for skin cancer.

Recognized as one of the best defensemen in NHL history, Robinson won six Stanley Cup championships with the Montreal Canadiens as a player, and holds the NHL record for playing 20 straight seasons in the playoffs. A 10-time All-Star and two-time Norris Trophy winner, Robinson was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995.

Robinson was the head coach of the Los Angeles Kings from 1995-99, and the New Jersey Devils from 1999-2002 and again in 2005-06. He led the Devils to the Stanley Cup in 2000. Robinson has nine Stanley Cup rings as a player and coach.

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The Sharks did not renew the contract of pro scout Jason Rowe, who had been with the organization for the past nine seasons. Rowe focused on eastern NHL and AHL teams.