Photo credit: @SanJoseSharks
By Mary Walsh
SAN JOSE — The San Jose Sharks fell 5-3 to the Calgary Flames at SAP Center Sunday. The win clinched the Western Conference for Calgary, while the loss cemented San Jose’s playoff position at second in the Pacific Division. They are now certain to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round. Calgary goals came from Sean Monahan, Mark Jankowski, Dalton Prout, Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik. Sharks goals came from Timo Meier, Logan Couture and Kevin Labanc. Flames goalie Mike Smith made 12 saves in the win, while Sharks goalie Aaron Dell made 23 saves in the loss.
The Sharks are still without Joe Pavelski, Erik Karlsson and Radim Simek. Pavelski and Karlsson are expected to return for the playoffs if not before. Asked about what he hopes the team will accomplish before playoffs, Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer said:
I want to get healthy. I think that’s probably the biggest thing. I think it catches up to you. You know, you can go to the well so many times with guys but I think we’re missing some of our key people here. And it shows in a game like that, against a team that is healthy at this time of year that’s one of the top teams in the league and we had a hard time with it.
After the game, Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon was also asked about how the injury list changes the game. He said:
I don’t think defense is one guy or one D-pair or one forward or one goalie, to be honest. I think for us, over the years that’s kind of been our brand of hockey, is defensive style, and you definitely see the result when we get away from that. I think all around we’re trying to be a little more aggressive but I think we’ve got to kind of find that happy medium for it.
Timo Meier gave the Sharks an early lead 12:01 into the first period. Logan Couture and Joonas Donskoi were in the corner competing for the puck against two Flames. They got the puck out of the corner to the face-off circle, where Meier had just arrived. He got control of the puck while reversing direction just enough to use a defenseman as a screen and shoot the puck past Smith on the far side. It was Meier’s 30th of the season, a career high. Donskoi and Couture got the assists.
The Sharks made it through the first 10 minutes of the opening period without giving up a goal but the Flames heated up in the second half. At 14:58, Sean Monahan tied the game with a quick shot off a feed from Johnny Gaudreau. While Marc-Edouard Vlasic harried Gaudreau and Justin Braun guarded the passing lane, no one was really on Monahan as he slid up to the blue paint. Assists went to Gaudreau and Rasmus Andersson.
At 15:29, Mark Jankowski gave Calgary the lead, pulling the puck out of a crowd that was moving across the slot. His quick shot went under Dell to the back of the net. Assists went to James Neal and Austin Czarnik.
Less than a minute later, again, the Flames scored to make it 3-1. Dalton Prout, with his first goal since 2016, snuck by Vlasic and Couture in the neutral zone to chase the 1-on-1 between Tim Heed and Andrew Mangiapane. Mangiapane passed to Prout as they approached the net and Prout’s shot beat Dell. Assists went to Mangiapane and Garnet Hathaway.
During the first period, the Flames had 11 shots to the Sharks’ 6, and Calgary own 67% of the face-offs.
The only goal in the second period went to the Flames when Mikael Backlund made it 4-1 at 7:27. Receiving Noah Hanifin’s pass from the boards, Backlund stopped it with his skate and tried to get control of it but failed. Instead, it pinballed across the goal mouth and the off of Joakim Ryan’s skate and into the net. Assists went to Hanifin and Gaudreau.
The Flames out-shot the Sharks 14-3 and won 56% of the face-offs in the second period. The Sharks took two penalties to Calgary’s one.
The Sharks had a little more than a minute of power play time to start the third period, and got another power play at 2:01 but did not score on either of those.
At 5:23, the Sharks finally got one back. Tomas Hertl made a big zone entry, pushing through and dancing around defenders. He carried the puck down below the face-off dot before passing it across the ice to Timo Meier. Meier sent it back across the ice to Logan Couture, who had just arrived in the slot. His shot went in before Mike Smith could get across. It was Couture’s 27th goal of the season. Meier and Hertl got the assists.
Calgary took that one back about three minutes later. Sharks and Flames converged behind the Sharks net and when the puck came back out, Mark Giordano and Michael Frolik were set up on either side of the ice with a clear view of Dell. Giordano passed it to Frolik for the shot and Dell could not get across in time. Assists went to Giordano and Matthew Tkachuk.
Kevin Labanc got one more for the Sharks at 16:34 of the third. He had just passed the puck to Tim Heed in the slot and Tim Heed tapped it right back to him for the shot from the right side. It was Labanc’s 15th of the season. Assists went to Heed and Joakim Ryan.
The Sharks next play on Tuesday in Vancouver against the Canucks at 7:00 PM PT.