It’s a Avalanche of Colorado players celebrating a win against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center and eliminating the Sharks from playoff contention on Mon May 3, 2021 (@mckinnons photo)
By Matthew Harrington
The San Jose Sharks (20-26-6) couldn’t play spoiler Monday night against the Colorado Avalanche (34-12-4), falling to the visiting Avs 5-4 in overtime to face mathematical elimination from the playoffs for a second straight season and allow Colorado (34-12-4) to move within two points of Vegas for the Division lead.
“A lot of young guys are getting chances,” said Sharks coach Boughner when asked to reflect on a second consecutive year without playoffs in San Jose. “Calling it a ‘reset’. It’s not a surprise. You look around the league. , out of 31 teams, the teams that missed the bubble last year are still out. It just goes to show you don’t flip things around in this league in six months or eight months. It takes time. There’s pain involved in that. There’s some growing to do.”
Evander Kane scored a pair, Tomas Hertl picked up two points and Alexander Barabanov picked up his fifth point in five games with the Team Teal, but San Jose (20-26-6) blew a two goal lead. Philipp Grubauer was denied a fourth shutout of the Sharks this season but picked up the win allowing four goals on 27 shots. Andre Burakovsky scored the winner in overtime for a two-point night and the Mikko Rantanen-Gabriel Landeskog-Nathan MacKinnon lined combined for five points.
Trailing 4-2 with almost halfway through the third period, Colorado showed why they’re clear cut Stanley Cup favorites. Mario Ferraro had an opportunity to clear the puck from the Sharks end on the left boards, but MacKinnon picked it off and fed Landeskog in the slot. The Colorado captain right a wrister that beat Sharks goalie Martin Jones to cut San Jose’s lead to 4-3 with 11:01 left in regulation.
In what felt like an inevitable outcome, the Avs pressured the Sharks down the stretch, using a failed Brent Burns clearing chance to tie the game 4-4. Nazem Kadri beat Martin Jones on a sharp angle shot over the near post shoulder with 3:39 left in regulation.
Burakovsky beat Jones just 41 seconds in to the overtime period that was controlled entirely by the Avalanche from the opening faceoff. Burakovsky hopped on the ice, received a Makar pass and sped right down the middle of the ice. He wired a wrister that squeaked through Jones and into the net for a 5-4 win.
“It’s tough to see the way that game ended,” said Boughner. “I thought we should have been celebrating the two points.”
Kane put the Sharks on the board early after Barabanov picked off an Avs pass at their own blue line. He dropped the puck from below the goal line to the slot where Kane was streaking, but Valeri Nichushkin was waiting to clear the puck. His effort rolled to Kane though, he wired the puck past Grubauer for an unassisted goal and a 1-0 lead 3:20 into play.
The Avs took control of the 1st period, answer back just 2:18 later in play, with Gabriel Landeskog winning a faceoff in the Sharks end clean to Nathan MacKinnon waiting on the halfwall. Mackinnon fired a pick on net that rebounded right to Mikko Rantanen for a backhand strike and his 29th goal of the season, with his linemates picking up the assists.
The tie remained in place, but Colorado peppered Sharks netminder Martin Jones, outshooting San Jose 13-5 over the first 20 minutes of play, including an Avs power play. Jones withstood the tilted ice to keep the Sharks and visitors knotted at 1-1.
“The second period I thought we did a better job of managing the puck,” said Boughner. “Our changes were good tonight. We did a lot of good things structurally, bottled up the d zone and did a good job in the neutral zone. There were some good things in there, just unfortunate how it ended.”
Hertl rewarded his goaltender’s first-period heroics, scoring another period opening goal 1:57 into the second period. Patrick Nemeth’s pass went into Tyson Jost’s back skate, allowing Hertl to pick up the errant pass in front of Grubauer. He then put Nemeth on skates with a deke before going back hand to score his 17th of the year and give the Sharks a 2-1 lead.
Kane added to the Sharks lead after being hit with a breakaway pass by Hertl. Kane managed to get a step on Avs stud defenseman Cale Makar, again going backhand on Grubauer while Makar wiped out the Sharks power forward. The puck went into the net though, and Kane picked up his 22nd goal of the year 7:47 into the period and, more importantly for the penalty-ridden Kane, maturity won out as he didn’t seek retribution on Makar for the takeout.
Nichushkin pulled Colorado within one after some sustained offensive pressure. Andre Burakovsky fired a puck that beat Jones but hit off the post and popped up. The Avs forward was ready and waiting for the rebound, beating Jones on his tenth tally of the season 1:18 into the third.
Timo Meier hit the release valve on the mounting third-period pressure at the time, scoring his tenth of the season just 2:14 later, with the top pair of Brent Burns and Mario Ferraro assisting.
“I thought he was more physical,” said Boughner on Meier. “I thought he held on to more pucks and used his speed a little more, his size. That’s the way he has to play. It paid off with a nice shot on that goal.”
The Sharks wrap up the final homestand of the season with a final game against Colorado Wednesday night. Fresh off the loss Boughner couldn’t confirm any lineup changes, but the expectation is that the Sharks will skew towards youth as the play out the string.