Colorado Avalanche right wing Valeri Nichushkin (13) lights the lamp for the game winner in the third period against San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns (88) at SAP Arena in San Jose on Fri Mar 18, 2022 (AP News photo)
By Mary Walsh
SAN JOSE– The San Jose Sharks lost to the Colorado Avalanche 5-3 on Friday. Cale Makar, Nazem Kadri, Valeri Nichushkin, and Darren Helm scored for the Avalanche. Pavel Francouz made 25 saves for the win. Jeffrey Viel, Rudolfs Balcers and Erik Karlsson scored for the Sharks. Zach Sawchenko made 24 saves in the loss.
After the game, Sharks Head Coach Bob Boughner said:
“It was a fairly even game for the first two periods. We just got to capitalize on our chances. Same thing as last night. We didn’t have any goal support. But defensively, we did some right things until we started opening it up a little bit at the end. Obviously we gave a few breaks but all in all, you know, it was a hard-fought game. I thought the guys battled hard, especially after a back-to-back, against the best team in the League.”
Sharks forward Rudolfs Balcers talked about how the veteran leaders helped the team rally in the third period, despite being down 4-1: “They’re our leaders. They’ve been around for a while, you know. That’s the guys you rely on every night, and, you know, when you see them go out there and battle until the end, you know, I think it just motivates the whole bench.”
One of those leaders, Logan Couture, seemed to score the first goal of the game at 6:07 of the first. Unfortunately, the Avalanche challenged the goal for offside. Upon review, the officials saw that Couture did cross the line a hair before the puck.
The first goal, then, went to the Avalanche on a power play at 10:08. Nazem Kadri tipped Mikko Rantanen’s pass from about eight feet above the blue paint. a second assist went to Cale Makar.
Darren Helm made it 2-0 at 14:14, when he picked up a puck that Erik Karlsson lost control of in the Sharks’ zone. Helm slipped by Karlsson and lifted the puck over Sawchenko. An assist went to Andre Burakovsky, who poked the puck off of Karlsson’s stick.
Jacob Middleton fought Kurtis MacDermid after the first goal. J.T. Compher and Marc-Edouard Vlasic had matching roughing minors in the final seconds of the period.
Those matching minors put the teams four-on-four to start the second period. Cale Makar scored 34 seconds in. He took a shot from above the circle, then gathered up his own rebound just above the goal line to score. Assists went to Nathan MacKinnon and Devon Toews.
Valeri Nichushkin made it 4-0 at 15:29. Initially, he redirected pass from Cale Makar, but Sawchenko stopped that. The goalie left a rebound and Nchushkin was still there to lift the puck in. Assists went to Makar and MacKinnon.
Jeffrey Viel got the Sharks on the board at 19:19, tipping a shot from Marc-Edouard Vlasic. A secondary assist went to Nicolas Meloche.
Rudolfs Balcers scored 13:02 into the third period. He knocked the puck loose with a hit along the boards and then took it to the net for a look-away shot, aided by Vlasic who was there to make it a two-on-one and sell the look. Assists went to Alexander Barabanov and Tomas Hertl.
With 3:21 remaining, the Sharks pulled Sawchenko for an extra skater. Erik Karlsson made it 4-3 with a goal at 18:35. Logan Couture knocked down a high clearing attempt and then passed it to Karlsson. Karlsson seemed to fumble the pass a bit, then gathered it for a wrist shot into the far corner.
Valeri Nichushkin scored into the empty net when he and Nathan MacKinnon went two-on-one against Brent Burns.
The Avalanche out-shot the Sharks 29-28, with the shot count close in each period. On the power play, the Sharks had five opportunities and six shots. They also gave up five short-handed shots. The Sharks had one penalty to kill, and gave up one shot, one goal and had one short-handed shot. In the face-off circle, the Sharks won 54% of the draws.
James Reimer was backing up Sawchenko Friday, and Adin Hill is injured.
The Sharks next play on Sunday against the Arizona Coyotes, in San Jose at 4:00 PM PT.