Sharks take big step toward playoffs with win in Dallas

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Sharks take big step toward playoffs with win in Dallas

BOX SCORE

DALLAS Logan Couture scored a power play goal late in the second while four other Sharks also found the net in a 5-2 San Jose win over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night at the American Airlines Center.

The Sharks (41-29-10, 92 points) solidified their playoff position by moving three points ahead of Dallas and, at least momentarily, into seventh place in the Western Conference ahead of the Coyotes. Phoenix, one point ahead of the Sharks at the start of the night, is hosting the Columbus Blue Jackets in a game that is yet to be completed.

Dallas (42-33-5, 89 points) remains in ninth place.

Dallas had the territorial advantage for much of the second period, especially early, but found itself trailing 3-2 after 40 minutes.

Alex Goligoski gave the Stars their first lead at 11:10 when his blast from the high slot beat Antti Niemi to make it 2-1. But it didnt last long.

Just 32 seconds later, San Joses fourth line tied it at 2-2. Dominic Moore, from behind the net, found TJ Galiardi to Kari Lehtonens left, and Galiardi skillfully lifted it high over Lehtonens shoulder for his first point as a Shark.

A Michael Ryder tripping penalty put the Sharks on the power play late. They cashed in on Logan Coutures first goal in 11 games, when he nicely redirected a pass from the boards by Marty Havlat past Lehtonen at 17:24.

Coutures 10-game goal-less drought tied his career high. He equaled Joe Pavelski for the team lead with 31 this season.

Joe Thornton gave the Sharks some insurance with a wrist shot from the circle over Lehtonen at 15:10, converting a pass from the corner by Joe Pavelski. The goal came just moments after Antti Niemi stopped the dangerous Jamie Benn on a breakaway.

Ryane Clowe's empty-net goal with just over a minute left capped the scoring.

The Stars had a great chance to take a lead late in the first and early in the second, as penalties to Colin White and Brent Burns gave them nearly a minute of time with a two-man advantage. They failed in the closing seconds of the first, even while Couture had a broken stick, and then Couture, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Dan Boyle kept the Stars at bay for the remainder of the two-man advantage to start the second. San Jose then killed off the remaining time on the Burns hooking call to keep it 1-1 at the time.

Dallas entered the game with the leagues worst power play (14.1 percent).

The Sharks survived an early push from the Stars and took a 1-0 lead at 12:09. Burns shot deflected to Daniel Winnik, who managed to bounce his shot off of a fallen Lehtonen for his eighth of the year.

The lead didnt last. Stars captain Brenden Morrow managed to bank a puck in off of Niemis right skate from underneath the goal line at 17:47 in a bad goal by the Sharks netminder.

Dallas, which entered 1-4-0 against San Jose this season including a 3-0 loss on Thursday at HP Pavilion, registered eight of the first nine shots in front of a rare sold out crowd.
Odds and ends: Douglas Murray missed his third straight game with a lower body injury. There was a stretch of six minutes and 24 seconds in the first period without a whistle. ... The Sharks wasted a four-minute power play earlier in the third with Mark Fistric off on a double-minor for high-sticking Joe Thornton at 3:27.

San Jose Sharks fans may have just witnessed the end of an era

San Jose Sharks fans may have just witnessed the end of an era

Melodrama demands that San Jose’s exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs be portrayed as the very likely end of the Joe Thornton/Patrick Marleau Era.

It probably won’t work that way, and probably shouldn't as will be explained further down your reading, but when you get shoved out of the postseason in your own building, melancholy is the order of the day. Even if the melancholy isn’t for any player in particular, but for an entire era.

Nobody will blame Saturday’s 3-1 loss in Game 6 of the Western Conference quarterfinal on bad luck (although Joe Pavelski going crossbar/post on the final power play of their season was close enough to it), or unjust officiating, or even lousy ice (though that was a fairly clear by-product for those who like their hockey a little less sticky). Edmonton took advantage of two critical Sharks errors 56 seconds apart in the second period, Oiler goaltender Cam Talbot cheated the gods multiple times when the Sharks weren’t vomiting up chances on their own, and young legs joined up with growing know-how to make this a just outcome.

But for Thornton and Marleau, a quick round of 30-on-1 interviews asking them if they thought their days in Finville Heights had finally come to an end were their mutual introduction to yet another unfulfilling offseason.

And a team whose core is among the league’s oldest was just exposed for that very flaw by a team that, in head coach Todd McLellan’s words, “Grew up, learned how to get into the playoffs, how to get a lead, how to play with it, and how to deal with a desperate team at the end of a game. Now we’ll see what they have to learn next.”

That learning will comes against the Anaheim Ducks, who are 15-0-3 in their last 18 games, including four straight against the Calgary Flames.

As for the rest of it, Edmonton earned its advancement without a big series, or even a single big game, from Connor McDavid. Rather, their difference makers were Talbot, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (whose work with Jordan Eberle and Milan Lucic against the Marleau-Thornton-Pavelski line was the defining matchup) Leon Draisaitl (after a rocky start), Oskar Klefbom (their best defenseman), Zack Kassian (who made the most of his 15 minutes of fame), and Drake Caggiula (whose promotion to the McDavid line at the expense of Patrick Maroon helped wake up Draisaitl).

Plus, McLellan finally got to deliver a rebuttal for his firing by the Sharks two years ago. He didn’t, of course, at least not where anyone could hear it, but the exploding fumigant of the 2015 season never sat right with him as the one who paid the full retail price. Now, with this result, he can let the NHL’s Stanley Cup media guide do the talking for him.

That, and having the team of the future, while San Jose is trying to sort out its past. This is a closing window, one which stayed open a very long time and actually pried itself back open a year ago for the run that took them to the Cup final, but it is now clear that they play at a pace the modern game has outrun. Thornton is still hugely important (he remained an impact player despite the leg injury that cost him Games 1 and 2), and there are no clear young replacements for the central group.

This is why all the melodramatic speculations about Thornton and Marleau in particular and perhaps the entire era ignore one central truth – there are not nearly enough replacements for a reboot, or even a course correction. They may be stuck as what they are – a group whose veterans are still their best players, playing a game that younger and faster players are likely to do better. The Pacific Division, being easily the thinnest of the four, may allow one more year of status quo, but while the day of reckoning has not yet arrived, the method is now clear.

And Edmonton, young, impetuous, sprightly and McLellanized Edmonton, has been the instrument of San Jose’s education.

Instant Replay: Sharks eliminated from Stanley Cup playoffs, Oilers take series

Instant Replay: Sharks eliminated from Stanley Cup playoffs, Oilers take series

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE – One year after making their first-ever trip to the Stanley Cup Final, the Sharks’ season has come to an end in the first round of the playoffs.

Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev scored early second period goals, and the Oilers held on for a 3-1 win that included a late Connor McDavid empty net goal to eliminate the Sharks in six games at SAP Center on Saturday.

Edmonton, in its first playoff since 2006, will advance to face Anaheim in the second round.

The Oilers were the aggressors early, controlling much of the opening frame yet not denting the scoreboard.

That changed early in the second, though.

Oscar Klefbom blocked Justin Braun’s point shot in the high slot, resulting in a Draisaitl breakaway. The winger held Braun off on a backcheck and slipped the puck through Martin Jones’ five-hole at the 54-second mark.

Less than a minute later, Chris Tierney and Paul Martin couldn’t connect on a pass in the offensive zone, and the puck trickled out to the neutral zone. That’s where Slepyshev took control, speeding in on a breakaway of his own and converting at 1:50.

The Sharks finally showed some life at that point, and had a pair of great chances to get one back on the next few shifts. Marcus Sorensen couldn’t quite reach a Logan Couture pass on a two-on-one, though, and Cam Talbot kicked aside a Patrick Marleau partial breakaway.

San Jose went on its first power play of the game with 3:13 left in the second, but the Oilers killed it off. Talbot made another pad save on Joonas Donskoi’s turnaround wrist shot from between the circles with 20 seconds before the intermission to preserve the two-goal cushion.

Marleau brought Sharks back to within one in the third period. Logan Couture pushed the puck through the slot to the team’s all-time leading scorer, who tapped in his team-leading third goal of the series.

The Sharks had a chance to tie it on a power play when Edmonton was called for too many men, but Joe Pavekski’s backhand from just outside the blue paint rang off the crossbar and post with 3:45 to go.

McDavid’s empty net goal, his first even strength point in the series, came at 19:59.

The Sharks have now lost 12 of 13 series in which they’ve trailed three games to two. They are just 6-18 all-time in Game 6 of a playoff series, including 2-9 when facing elimination.

Special teams

The Sharks failed on all three of their power plays. They finished 5-for-26 in the series, although four of them game in their Game 4 blowout.

Edmonton had just one power play and did not score, going 2-for-16 in the series.

In goal

Jones played in all six games for the duration, allowing two goals on 20 shots in Game 6. He’s now 16-14 in his playoff career.

Talbot stopped 27 of 28 shots, and in his first season as a number one starter on a playoff team recorded all four wins. The only game in which he didn’t play the entirety was Game 4, when he was pulled after allowing five goals.

Lineup

Donskoi drew back into the lineup after he was a healthy scratch in Game 5. Timo Meier came out for the first time in the series.

Klefbom did not play in the third period, presumably due to injury.

Up next

An offseason a month-and-a-half longer than last year awaits the Sharks, bringing with it more uncertainties than in recent memory. The Sharks have a number of players not yet signed for next season, none bigger than pending unrestricted free agents Joe Thornton and Marleau.