Sharks leap to 3rd spot in West, defeat Colorado 5-1

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Sharks leap to 3rd spot in West, defeat Colorado 5-1

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE The San Jose Sharks took over sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division with convincing 5-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Monday night at HP Pavilion.

Joe Pavelski scored twice while Andrew Desjardins and Torrey Mitchell also added goals as San Jose greatly improved its playoff probability while severely impairing the Avs chances. San Jose and Colorado both got some help in that the Dallas Stars and Los Angeles Kings both lost in regulation to Calgary and Vancouver, respectively.

The game marked the first time San Jose scored four goals in a regulation or overtime game since Feb. 16 in a 6-5 loss in Tampa Bay, a span of 21 games. It was the first time they won a game by at least four goals since Jan. 31 vs. Columbus, 6-0.

San Jose (39-27-10, 88 points) now leads the Stars by a single point. Both teams have played 76 games, and have two more head-to-head meetings in the final six games of the regular season.

The Sharks were the beneficiaries of some fortunate bounces in taking a 3-1 lead in the second period, after a scoreless first.

Pavelski opened the scoring at 3:50 of the second. A slap shot by Justin Braun hit Avalanche defenseman Jan Hejda in the slot and bounced right to Pavelskis stick for an easy goal by the Sharks winger.

Desjardins first goal in 40 games made it 2-0. After a good shift by his line, which included Tommy Wingels and Daniel Winnik, Desjardins deposited his wrist shot from the circle on a backhanded feed from behind the net by Wingels. It was a goal Semyon Varlamov should have stopped at 9:19.

Colorado got back into the game with a goal at 11:47. On an odd-man rush, Shane OBrien easily slammed home a pass from Ryan OReilly after San Jose got caught deep in its own zone.

The Avalanche swarmed the Sharks a bit immediately following the goal, but were unable to get anything else past Niemi. The Sharks' goalie finished with 31 saves in his 15th straight start.

Mitchell managed to pop in a loose puck from the slot after a wraparound attempt by Michal Handzus at 15:44 of the second.

On the ensuing shift, Colorados David Jones rang a shot from the circle squarely off of the post. Thornton hit a post, too, trying to slip a loose puck into a wide open net with two minutes to go in the middle frame.

Pavelski got his second of the night early in the third on a carry-over power play. Colorado allowed Pavelski to walk towards the net from the corner boards and poke one through Varlamov at 35 seconds.

Ryane Clowes empty-net goal at 16:23 capped the scoring, as Avalanche coach Joe Sacco pulled his goalie for an extra attacker with about four minutes left in regulation.

The first period resembled a match between two teams fighting for their playoff lives. It was physical, fast paced and nasty from the outset.

Former Shark Jamie McGinn, playing in his first game back in San Jose since a trade on Feb. 27, crashed the net in the opening minutes and was quickly pushed away by a swarm of Sharks. Later in the period, Colorado rookie Gabriel Landeskog violently shoved Marty Havlat after the Sharks winger was digging for a puck in the crease. The result for Landeskog was a facewash and headlock from behind by Clowe, who immediately came to the aid of his linemate.

The Sharks have six games remaining, including four on the road. They visit the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday and Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday.

Odds and ends: Dan Boyle recorded his 500 and 501st career points with assists on the first two Sharks goals. Desjardins last goal before Monday was on Dec. 21 vs. Tampa Bay. Colorado has allowed the first goal 45 times, the second highest total in the league. Joe Pavelski recorded his 300th career NHL point with his third period power play goal.

Top pick Meier 'real close' to making Sharks debut

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USATSI

Top pick 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.”