Sharks win in OT 3-2

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Sharks win in OT 3-2

BOX SCORE

UNIONDALE, NY Listening to a subdued Logan Couture after the Sharks defeated the New York Islanders on Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum, and you would have no idea that the Sharks had just closed the book on their fifth straight win.

It was just a tough night for us," said Couture. We werent coming through the neutral zone, they were much quicker than us, they are a fast team and they skated better than us.

That may all be true, but the Sharks, playing their second game in as many nights after the Islanders had off on Friday, found a way to keep their road trip perfect with a 3-2 overtime triumph. Brent Burns perfectly placed wrist shot on the power play at 1:07 of the extra session means that San Jose can go a perfect 6-0 on their journey with a victory over the struggling New York Rangers on Monday night.

Burns took a pass from Joe Pavelski and fired it high over the shoulder of Rick DiPietro for his third goal of the season. With San Jose on Day 11 of a 13-day trek, Burns admitted that fatigue was a factor against the Islanders.

I think we were a little tired maybe more mental than physical, but its a sign of a good team to survive and come out with two points, he said.

San Jose didnt have its skating legs up front, but solid team defense in front of Thomas Greiss was the biggest reason the Sharks were able to hang with and eventually overtake the young and feisty Islanders.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic, in particular, made some huge plays in the third period with the game tied 2-2. He neutralized John Tavares when the Isles leading scorer threatened to go in on a breakaway, and later hurried back in his own zone to snuff an attempt by Michael Grabner.

His biggest play came on a three-on-two shorthanded rush by the Isles, though, when he broke up a cross-ice pass towards Grabner with his stick with less than three minutes left in regulation.

I knew they would do that, especially with him using his speed, said Vlasic. I just made sure to get the stick on the puck. I had a good jump, came back early, and I was able to get the puck off of him.

Vlasic's strong game was especially important as Dan Boyle was under the weather, Todd McLellan later informed the media.

Another tremendous game for him, on a night when one of our key guys played sick on the back end, said the head coach. He logged a lot of minutes and he and Burnsie were probably our best pair. He defended a guy like Grabner who can fly 100 miles an hour with a very good stick there at one point. Just a very reliable, trusty guy for us.

The rest of the team stood tall in front of Thomas Greiss, who was making his first start since October 15 vs. St. Louis. Greiss looked a little shaky through the first 10 minutes or so, but was able to settle down shortly thereafter. He finished with 35 saves, and the Sharks did a good job at keeping the Islanders to the outside and clearing the puck from the goal mouth after Griess made the initial stop.

I had to stop the first and the rest they took care of, so it made my life a little easier, said Greiss. I was a little rusty at the start and let a couple bad rebounds, but overall I was happy. You just try to stay sharp in practice and be ready to go.

Joe Pavelski scored just 17 seconds into the game with Steve Staios in the box on a cross-check. Paveslki found the rebound of a shot off of the post by Burns for the fastest power play goal to start a game in Sharks franchise history.

The Islanders responded with two straight in the second to take their first lead. Greiss stopped a point shot and then rebound attempt at the front of the net by Matt Moulson, but the puck ended up on the stick of Tavares and he easily fired in his seventh goal.

Later, with Pavelski in the box for delay of game, Grabner cut through the slot and whizzed by Burns before converting a centering pass from Kyle Okposo at 11:28 for the Isles second power play goal of the game.

Couture was the recipient of a fortunate bounce when he tied it up less than two minutes later. Burns threw the puck towards the net and it bounced off of defenseman Mark Streit right to the stick of Couture in the slot, and the Sharks forward wristed it past DiPietro.

I just let it go, quick. I dont even know where it went, said Couture.

The Sharks may have been a little lucky in overtime. Travis Hamonic was whistled for a delay of game penalty just 29 seconds in, and vehemently disputed the call, saying the puck tipped off of the glass.

I heard from some others that it went off the glass, said McLellan. Those calls even out throughout the course of the year.

Most of the Sharks will have the day off in New York on Sunday before trying to conclude the road trip with a perfect mark against the Rangers the following day.

Tomorrow is a rest day. Monday is a work day, said McLellan.
Odds and ends: Okposo threw a nasty elbow to Boyle's face in the third period, and was called for a minor. Dont be surprised if the league takes a look at that one. McLellan made some changes to his lineup before the game. Playing alongside Michal Handzus on the third line were Torrey Mitchell and Andrew Murray, while Jamie McGinn was demoted to the fourth line with Andrew Desjardins and Brad Winchester. On defense, Jason Demers played in his first game since last Friday in New Jersey, paired with Colin White. Benn Ferreiro, Jim Vandermeer and Justin Braun were the Sharks scratches. The Islanders honored 10 members of their 1992-93 team before the game. Dont remember that team? It was the year Pierre Turgeon scored the winning goal against Washington and was promptly steamrolled by Dale Hunter. The previous franchise mark for fastest power play goal was Oct. 24, 2008, when Joe Thornton scored 51 seconds after the opening faceoff.

Sharks rue 'key moments' as they are knocked out by Oilers

Sharks rue 'key moments' as they are knocked out by Oilers

SAN JOSE – The clock said there was seven minutes and 48 seconds remaining in the third period. It was frozen there for a bit after Patrick Marleau’s goal brought the Sharks back to within a single score of Edmonton.

Filled to capacity, the Shark Tank came to life, ravenous for the equalizer. The next several minutes offered a reminder of the team’s thrilling 2016 playoff run, when the Sharks finished just two wins away from a championship while taking their fans along for a ride they had never been on in a quarter-century.

But those seven minutes and 48 seconds quickly wound down, leaving the Sharks worlds away from what they did just a year ago. The Oilers held on for a 3-1 win, ending the Sharks’ season in a first round series that lasted six games.

Other than Game 4, a Sharks blowout victory, all the games were competitive.

“There were just a couple key moments in the series,” Joe Pavelski said.

In Game 6, the key moments that won the game for Edmonton came early in the second period. Justin Braun’s point shot was blocked leading to Leon Draisaitl’s goal to open the scoring, and Chris Tierney’s pass to Paul Martin at the point was just off the mark, allowing Anton Slepyshev to glide ahead untouched for another goal. The scores both came within the first two minutes of the middle frame, and were just 56 seconds apart.

That was probably poetic justice in that the Oilers were the much more aggressive and hungry team in the first period, they just weren't rewarded on the scoreboard.

Joe Thornton agreed with a suggestion that the Sharks were “a little bit sloppy” early, “but we got better. I thought we played a great second period and pushed in the third period. Just not enough time left on the clock.”

The Sharks did seem to get their game going just after Slepyshev’s score, but couldn’t solve Cam Talbot more than once. Pavelski nearly tied it with 3:45 to go, but his backhander from down low glanced off of both the crossbar and the post.

Key moments.

“It felt good coming off the stick, it really did,” Pavelski said of his chance. “It was there.”

Connor McDavid’s empty net goal with less than a second on the clock capped the scoring, sending the Oilers and former Sharks coach Todd McLellan on to the second round. 

Other than Game 4, which they dominated 7-0, the Sharks managed just seven goals in the other five games. Brent Burns failed to record a point in five of the six games, while Pavelski had just a single assist outside of Game 4.

The depth scorers also failed to come through, no surprise after the Sharks got little from them for much of the season.

“They defended well, Talbot played well. They were all close games,” Pete DeBoer said. “You’ve got to find a way to win 1-0, 2-1 in the playoffs. It’s not realistic you’re going to get three or four every night. They found a way to win more of the close games than we did.”

Burns said: “Series was pretty tight. I think it’s like Pavs said, it’s just little moments here and there. So much is luck, just puck luck, creating that luck. It’s a tight series, back and forth.”

The Sharks face an uncertain offseason, as there is little reason to believe their current roster, as constructed, will be able to compete with an Oilers team that has not only proven to be better now but is only going to improve. Whether Thornton and Marleau return remains an uncertainty, too.

“This is a big summer. We’ve got some guys that are up, and the expansion draft and whatnot,” Logan Couture said. 

“Every year I’ve been in this league, the team has never been the same the next year. There’s always been changes. Unfortunately, that’s the way that this league works. We’ll see what happens this summer, and come back hungrier next year.”

In the meantime, the Oilers will continue their push for a Stanley Cup while San Jose’s visit to the final round last year will only become more and more of a distant memory.

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.