Sharks' offense erupts in 5-3 win over Capitals

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Sharks' offense erupts in 5-3 win over Capitals

BOX SCORE

WASHINGTON, DC If there was an unmistakable sign that it was Joe Pavelskis night, look no further than the first goal of the Sharks 5-3 win over the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center on Monday night.

The Sharks forward was the beneficiary of a fortunate bounce when he got his stick on a slap shot from Dan Boyle, who wound up behind center ice. Pavelski tipped the puck at the blue line and it skipped in on goaltender Braden Holtby, who allowed it to squeak by at 12:12 of the first period.

Boyle was trying to fire it on net to give a charging Joe Thornton a chance at the rebound, while Pavelski just wanted to prevent an icing call.

You see it bounce, and you hope when youre that far away that something stupid happens, and it did, Pavelski said.

That gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead, and Pavelski tallied another goal and two assists to tie his career high of four points before the evening was through.

Thornton finished with three assists and Patrick Marleau a pair of goals as the Sharks improved to 1-1 on their season-long nine-game road trip. They opened up a three-point lead on the Los Angeles Kings for first place in the Pacific Division in the process, with three games in hand.

The power play played a huge role for the Sharks, too. They were 0-for-4 with a man advantage on Sunday night's 3-0 loss in St. Louis, ending a stretch where they had been an impressive 10 for their last 22 in the eight games prior. They put that effort against the Blues quickly behind them in Washington, though, finishing 3-for-6.

We wanted to get back to making crisp tape-to-tape passes and getting our shots through, and guys in the right spots, Marleau said. We were able to do that tonight, and it paid off.

A real good sign of leadership, when it can bounce back an respond the way it did, said Todd McLellan of the power play.

After Pavelskis goal was the only marker of the first period, San Jose had a comfortable 3-0 lead in the second period thanks to power play goals from Pavelski and Marleau, and looked like it would head to the locker room with that cushion after 40 minutes. Instead, Dmitry Orlovs slap shot handcuffed Thomas Greiss, and the puck trickled over the line with less than a second to go in the period to keep the Capitals in the game.

To their credit, the Sharks werent rattled to start the third, and quickly gained a 5-1 lead. Brent Burns blast through traffic got past Holtby at 4:36, while Marleau managed to get his stick on a pass from Thornton in front of the net for another power play tally at 7:03.

That Orlov goal was a tough goal to give up, but that fourth goal was huge, Boyle said. It gave us a little more breathing room, and we fought hard tonight.

You never want to give one up at that point, McLellan said. Youve got the crowd thats in it now, youve got a coach that was probably upset going in, and in one second he changes his mind and hes now selling, hey we can do this.

The coach had a clear message for his team at the intermission.

We challenged our guys. Its up to them. They can choose to be on their heels, or they can choose to get on their toes and get after them. Im glad they chose the second.

Roman Hamrliks backhander through traffic midway through the third made it 5-2, while a low slapper by Jeff Schultz beat Greiss to the short side at 14:09, but the Capitals wouldnt come any closer in losing for the eighth time in their last 11 games (3-5-3).

Meanwhile, the Sharks improved to 16-1-0 against Washington since the start of the 1999-2000 season, including a 5-2 win at HP Pavilion on Jan. 7.

After the early gift goal, Pavelski got his second of the game at 3:26 of the second. Couture managed to push the puck towards the net through defenseman Kyle Alzner, and Pavelski skillfully flipped it over the shoulder of Holtby for his 22nd of the season.

Later, Thornton drew a high-sticking penalty on Jeff Halpern and the power play went to work again. This time, Couture deflected a wrister from the point by Pavelski, which hit Holtby in the chest before falling to the ice. Marleau was in front to deposit it at 15:11.

Greiss, making his first start since a Feb. 2 win against Dallas, was outstanding in stopping the first 29 shots fired in his direction before Orlovs stoppable shot cut into the Sharks lead.

The first two periods I played very well, he said, before adding the Orlov goal was a bad play on my part.

Greiss improved to 8-4-1 with 39 saves, and is 4-0-1 in his last five starts.

The first period had a frantic pace to it, in direct contrast to the Sharks loss in St Louis. Early in the game, Tommy Wingels, returning from a nine-game absence with a left shoulder injury, nearly put the Sharks ahead on a pair of chances in front of the net on a delayed penalty call, but Holtby stopped them both with his glove.

San Jose had a couple of defensive breakdowns in the first on which the Caps failed to capitalize. Alex Semins blast was challenged and stopped by Griess, while Orlov had a wide-open look from the circle but fired high.

The Capitals almost took the lead on a shorthanded breakaway by Brooks Laich, but Greiss got just enough of it to keep the game scoreless midway through the first.

Holtby made his first start of the season as Tomas Vokoun is suffering from an illness, and Michal Neuvirth played on Sunday in New York. Holtby played 14 games last season, and made the drive from Washingtons AHL affiliate in Hershey earlier in the day.

San Jose made it a night to forget for him, though, in what was a key win early on their marathon trek up and down the East Coast.

We wanted that first one yesterday and didnt get it, Pavelski said. It was really important for us, you see what happened with Chicago it just keeps snowballing and never gets easier on the road. You take the wins as you get them.

Odds and ends: Tommy Wingels started the game on the second line with Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe in his return, but was later moved to the fourth line. Jim Vandermeer and Benn Ferriero were San Joses healthy scratches. Jason Demers remains out with a lower body injury. Joe Pavelskis previous four-point game came on March 15, 2011 in Dallas.

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic will compete in the upcoming IIHF World Championships for Team Canada, it was announced on Friday.

The tournament runs from May 5-21 in Paris, France and Cologne, Germany. 

Vlasic, 30, a native of Montreal, has played in the tournament twice before in 2009 and 2012. He also represented Canada in the 2014 Olympic Games, helping it to a gold medal, and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, which Canada also captured.

In 75 games with the Sharks this season, Vlasic posted 28 points (6g, 22a) and a +4 rating. He was second on the team in shorthanded time on ice (2:04 per game) and blocked shots (146).

A pending restricted free agent in 2018, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson called getting Vlasic signed to a long-term deal an offseason priority for the club. The two sides can begin negotiations on July 1.

“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” Wilson said. “[He] is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

The Sharks lost in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs to Edmonton, although Vlasic and partner Justin Braun helped to keep Connor McDavid in check at even strength. The league's leading scorer had just one even strength point in the six-game series, an empty net goal with less than one second left in Game 6.

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

SAN JOSE – The Sharks didn’t make any blockbuster moves last summer, content to make another run in 2016-17 with largely the same group that came within two wins of capturing the Stanley Cup.

They still acquired a notable player, though, when Mikkel Boedker was signed on July 1 to add an element that the Sharks knew they needed more of moving forward – speed. Boedker was expected to make the team faster, after the Sharks were exposed for not having enough of that against Pittsburgh in the NHL’s final round, as well as play in a top six role. 

At the time, it was hailed as a slick, under-the-radar move that wasn’t going to change the dynamic of the club but could help push it over the top.

When Boedker was a healthy scratch in games three and four of the first round against Edmonton, the evidence became clear, though, that this was a decision that fell flat on its face. 

Frankly, Boedker – who is signed for three more years with a $4 million salary cap hit – brings back visions of Sharks bust Marty Havlat. You know the skill is there, but the desire to use it on a nightly basis while showing any semblance of a battle level is lacking. 

Should the Sharks give Boedker another chance next season, or should they do everything in their power to try and move him? That’s a question that will likely be debated in the front office over the next several weeks.

On get-away day on Monday, indications were that the Sharks were planning on sticking with the 27-year-old, who finished with 26 points in the regular season (10g, 16a) and added one goal and one assist in four games in the playoffs.

“He has the things we’re looking for: his career scoring average, his speed, [penalty killing] ability,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “Did he meet the expectations that he had for himself [or] that we had for him? No. Can we get that out of him? Pete [DeBoer] believes we can.”

DeBoer has known Boedker since he played for him in 2007-08 in Kitchener (OHL). Despite scratching him in the playoffs, DeBoer said he saw “huge improvement” in Boedker throughout the course of the season after the forward spent nearly all of his NHL career in Arizona.

“There was an adjustment. He’s played 6-7 years a certain way in the NHL,” DeBoer said. “We’ve asked him to play differently here, and there was an adjustment.”

Boedker still believes that he can be a fit in San Jose.

“I think it will be and it can be,” he said. “It’s learning period, but you’ve also got to look in the mirror yourself and see what you can change and what assets you need to bring. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m ready to do that.”

The list of Sharks depth forwads that had frustrating seasons hardly begins and ends with Boedker, though.

Veteran Joel Ward’s production dipped from 43 points last season to 29 in 2016-17, although that probably isn’t too surprising considering he’s 36. Tomas Hertl is proving to be a streaky player, too, although his season was interrupted by another a knee injury.

The bigger disappointment came from players like Chris Tierney and Joonas Donskoi, who both made big impressions in the 2016 playoffs but struggled to produce consistent offense this year. Both were mentioned by name by DeBoer on Monday.

There are some promising youngsters in the pipeline like Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorensen, but it’s still too early to project any of them as can’t-miss scorers at the NHL level.

“I think we’ve got a large group of guys that I like, but need to step up,” DeBoer said. “Is Sorensen [like] Donskoi next year, where he takes a step back, or [does he take a] step forward? We’ve got a lot of guys that there’s a lot of potential there – Chris Tierney. 

“There’s a lot of those guys, but they need to have big summers and take a step, and show that they’re not just one season or one month players.”