Photo credit: @SanJoseSharks
By Jerry Feitelberg
For a portion of their game Thursday night, the San Jose Sharks looked on their way to losing for a seventh straight time, a lackluster effort yet again highlighted by poor goaltending, scoring droughts and poorly executed hockey. Then, a 3-0 deficit was trimmed and turned into a 4-4 hockey game and suddenly it looked like Team Teal had found the intestinal fortitude required to steer a ship drifting towards a waterfall. Though, the late-game magic of the Sharks’ mid-season magic run has definitely run up.
The Sharks ultimately fell to the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 and trail the Calgary Flames for the Pacific Division lead by six points with just five games remaining. Chicago took a 3-0 lead into the second period, San Jose rallied back, scoring three in the second period to tie the game 4-4 late in the second, but a Chris Kunitz goal late in a five-goal second period wound up the difference maker as San Jose couldn’t find a touch for the net in the third period.
Alex DeBrincat opened the scored 4:10 into the first on a 5-on-3 power play, and after a brief review for goaltender interference, had his 39th goal stand. Connor Murphy’s goal deflected past Sharks goalie Martin Jones just over two minutes later and Jonathan Toews scored his 33rd goal of the year with 11 minutes gone in the first.
Lukas Radil, firmly in the lineup with the glaring absence of captain Joe Pavelski, scored his seventh goal of the season a minute later to give the Sharks some late life in the first, then Gustav Nyquist scored a power play goal 2:33 into the second. Tomas Hertl picked up his second assist of the game after picking up the primary helper on his countryman Radil’s first goal since January.
DeBrincat broke the 40-goal plateau in his sophomore 4:21 into the middle stanza, but Hertl added a goal for a three-point night on another Sharks power play goal 6:29 into the second to cut the lead 4-3. The Sharks’ power play accounted for two goals, but still felt like it missed opportunities on five chances.
Timo Meier picked up his 29th goal of the year with 3:54 left in the second, but Chris Kunitz had the puck bounce of his body and into the net off Patrick Kane’s shot with 1:52 left to play. The Sharks threw just nine shots on a perfect Hawks keeper Corey Crawford in the third to drop the contest. In total, he stopped 26 of 30 Sharks shots.
The going gets tougher for San Jose over the weekend, as they face the Vegas Golden Knights Saturday night, sitting just five points ahead of the 2018 Western Conference Champions. After that, they go back-to-back, facing the Calgary Flames in a must-win game at home on Sunday if they hope to bridge the distance for the Pacific Division lead.