Sharks Win 5th in a Row, Beat Ducks 5-3

Photo credit: @SanJoseSharks

By Mary Walsh

The San Jose Sharks won their fifth in a row Saturday, defeating the Anaheim Ducks 5-3 at the Honda Center. Sharks goals came from the usual suspects: Tomas Hertl (2), Evander Kane, Brent Burns and Logan Couture. Martin Jones made 29 saves for the win. Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg and Max Jones scored for Anaheim, while John Gibson made 30 saves. Tomas Hertl has now scored in five games in a row. Regrettably, he left the game late in the third after a collision.

After the game, Sharks captain Logan Couture talked about Hertl’s contribution to the team: “He’s playing tremendous. You hate to say you get used to it, because he’s playing at such an elite level but the way that he’s been playing these last two years, three years, however long it’s been, he’s been at that level and he’s getting better, so he’s a big piece of this team for sure.”

Asked about the injury, Couture said: “Anything to the knee doesn’t look good but from what I’ve heard, he’s okay.”

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said: “I thought in the third we found another level. You know, our entire team, we talked between the second and the third, that we had an opportunity to win this game if we could get some more guys going.”

To that end, they made some line changes after the second period: “I think we needed some type of spark. I thought Hertl’s line was productive, I thought especially in the second period, I thought some of other lines were kind of vanilla. So we moved some things around, we regrouped between the second and third and I thought we came out with a good push.”

Anaheim struck first, just 1:09 into the first period. Rickard Rakell scored his sixth of the season with his team’s first shot of the game. A failed clear by Radim Simek took a bounce and ended up on Rakell’s stick as he was crossing the blue line. He skated in and took a quick shot from the top of the circle, beating Jones on the far side. An assist went to Jakob Silfverberg.

Tomas Hertl tied the game at 6:44 in a 2-on-1 with Barclay Goodrow. The play started when Marc-Edouard Vlasic broke up a 2-on-1, at the same time getting the puck to Timo Meier, who found Hertl breaking into the neutral zone. The puck wound up crossing the line between Gibson’s skate and Hertl’s stick blade, and the official did not see it. It was not until the next stoppage of play that an official review caught it. Assists went to Goodrow and Timo Meier.

A few moments later, Sharks defenseman Dalton Prout and Nicolas Deslauriers fought after a hit on Brenden Dillon. It was Prout’s first game back after being injured in the Sharks’ first game of the season in Las Vegas.

Tied at the end of the first, the teams were also very close in shots on goal (11-10 Sharks) and face-off wins (9-8 Ducks).

The Sharks got into penalty trouble early in the second period. Kevin Labanc was called for hooking at 4:18, followed by Melker Karlsson being called for a face-off violation as that first penalty ended. The Sharks managed decent short-handed attempts in each of those penalties and got lucky on a couple of plays before killing off almost four minutes short-handed.

The Sharks were back on the penalty kill at 12:30 after a tripping call to Brent Burns. 30 seconds in, Jakob Silfverberg pushed a puck under Martin Jones after a great cross-ice pass by Ryan Getzlaf forced the Sharks penalty kill to switch sides in a hurry. Assists went to Adam Henrique and Rickard Rakell.

The Sharks got a their second power play of the night at 13:56 when Max Jones was called for hooking Barclay Goodrow. They had a couple of good chances at the end of the power play, but could not push the puck through the melee in front of the net. No shots were recorded for the power play.

Tomas Hertl tied it again with a hard wrist shot from the faceoff dot at 18:28. Timo Meier had collected the puck from the below the goal line and found Hertl with a quick pass after a long shift on offense. The second assist went to Brent Burns. It was Hertl’s 10th goal of the season.

At the end of the second, the teams were still close in shots (11-10 Ducks) but now Anaheim had a heftier 9-6 lead in face-off wins.

The Sharks had their third power play of the night at 6:42 of the third. It did not start well, allowing two good short-handed rushes by the Ducks. Momentum shifted when Brent Burns gathered up the puck in the defensive zone. After a giving the power play time to set up, he carried the puck end to end and took his shot from the slot. It went off of a defenseman and past Gibson to give the Sharks their first lead of the game. Assists went to Evander Kane and Erik Karlsson.

Soon after, Dalton Prout was called for hooking. In the second minute of the power play, the Sharks had their own short-handed chance. Logan Couture carried the puck into the zone with Evander Kane on the other side of the ice. Couture waited until Kane was in shooting position to make the pass and caught Kane with a pass just above the blue paint. It was Kane’s 12th goal of the season and Couture’s 15th assist.

Anaheim answered with a goal at 15:50. Max Jones took a harmless-looking shot off the rush but it deflected off of Radim Simek’s body, bounced under Martin Jones and into the net. Assists went to Carter Rowney and Sam Steel.

The Ducks pulled their goaltender with just under two minutes left. Nick Ritchie, the sixth Anaheim skater, had a great chance just after taking the ice, but it went off of the post. In the final minute, Gibson was back in the net for a face-off in the Sharks’ zone.  Just as he was preparing to leave again, Logan Couture stole the puck skated out on a breakaway. With a couple of quick moves, Couture got Gibson moving and then shot the puck underneath him.

At then end of the game, the teams were still very close in shots (35-32 Sharks) and face-off wins (51% Ducks).

The Sharks next play on Saturday in San Jose against the Detroit Red Wings at 7:30 PM PT.

Sharks Lose 5th in a Row, Fall 5-2 to Canucks

photo from sfgate.com: Thatcher Demko (35) goaltender for the Vancouver Canucks goes into the defensive posture against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center in San Jose on Saturday night. Demko stopped 24 San Jose shots for the Sharks second consecutive home stand loss.

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE — The San Jose Sharks lost 5-2 to the Vancouver Canucks Saturday at the SAP Center. This was the first road win for the Canucks in San Jose since March 31, 2016, and it added a fifth to the Sharks’ second four-loss streak of the season. Canucks goals were scored by Brandon Sutter, Elias Pettersson, Jake Virtanen and Adam Gaudette. Vancouver goaltender Thatcher Demko made 24 saves for the win. The Sharks goals were scored by Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Evander Kane. Goaltender Aaron Dell made 23 saves for the Sharks.

After the game, Sharks captain Logan Couture talked about the question of confidence during a losing streak:

For a lot of us, we’ve done some really really good things in this league, we’ve been successful players in this league for a long time. I think we need to get that swagger, that confidence back that we’ve had here for so many years. You know, it’s tough when you’re losing, it is very very difficult to feel confident when you’ve got the puck to make that play when you’ve got the extra second.

Are the Sharks losing patience with each other in the midst of this lousy start? After the game, Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon warned that that was a danger, but then said: “It’s pretty easy to look at the guy next to you instead of looking at yourself. Again, we’ve got a lot of skill on this team, a lot of talent. Guys that have been here for a long time… know what it takes to win. I think everybody, if we can believe back in that and just get into that we’re going to be okay.”

Vancouver’s Brandon Sutter started the scoring at 4:17 of the first period. Josh Leivo took a shot from above the faceoff circle. Dell stopped that, but came out a ways to do so and then kicked out a rebound. Sutter picked up the rebound and got it in the net before Dell could get back in position. It was Sutter’s fourth of the season.

Elias Pettersson doubled up Vancover’s lead with a goal at 12:46. Brock Boeser’s pass came out to center above the hash marks, where Pettersson was ready for it. Dell and Brendand Dillon did not seem ready for it and Pettersson’s shot went right through them. It was Pettersson’s fifth of the season. Assists went to Boeser and Bo Horvat.

The Sharks’ penalty kill held the Canucks to one shot on their first period power play. Vancouver still outshot the Sharks 14-8.

Jake Virtanen added a third goal for the Canucks, just 45 seconds into the second period. His shot went right into Dell and then over his leg. Dell went down and had the puck in his legs, and the on ice official called it no goal. After an official review, the call was overturned. Assists went to Alexader Edler and Tyler Myers.

At 5:11, Adam Gaudette scored Vancouver’s fourth on a broken tic-tack-toe play that drew Aaron Dell and two defenders to the right side of the net, allowing the puck to get by on the left. The goal came during a delayed penalty against the Sharks. The puck seemed to be on its way to Troy Stecher as he closed on the net behind the mass of bodies to one side. Instead, it went off of one of those bodies and into the net.

The Sharks had two power plays in the second period, and got six shots with the man advantage. the teams were tied for shots in the second period at eight apiece.

At the end of the second, Joe Thorton was called for cross-checking Jay Beagle, putting Vancouver on the power play to start the third period. The Canucks did not get a shot during that power play. The Sharks had their own power play chance at 2:38, in which they got two shots, but no goal.

The Sharks finally got on the board with a short-handed goal from Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Barclay Goodrow. They broke away and were able to go in two-on-one and score at 10:51.

The Canucks power play turned into a two-man advantage not long after that, when Joe Thornton was boxed for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Sharks survived that, but after the first penalty expired, they gave up a fifth goal. It was Pettersson’s second of the night, with an assist to JT Miller.

Evander Kane added the Sharks’ second goal with just 22 seconds left in regulation. He skated into the zone with Tomas Hertl and went around the Canucks defense to shoot. His first shot came back as a rebound, but he picked it up and put it away. Assists went to Kevin Labanc and Erik Karlsson.

The Sharks next play on Tuesday against the Chicago Blackhawks at 7:00 PM PT in San Jose.

Lukas Radil was in Saturday, with Jonny Brodzinsky back out of the lineup.

Sharks Fall 4-1 to Maple Leafs

Photo credit: @SanJoseSharks

By Mary Walsh

The San Jose Sharks fell 4-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena Friday. Toronto goals came from Jake Muzzin, Morgan Reilly, Ilya Mikheyev and Auston Matthews. Goaltender Frederik Andersen made 15 saves for the win. The lone Sharks goal was scored by Kevin Labanc, while goaltender Martin Jones made 24 saves in the loss. It was Patrick Marleau’s 1500th game as a Shark.

The Sharks had to kill five penalties in the game, and only had one power play. Captain Logan Couture talked about how the team handled this second game in two nights, and third in four days:

I thought we put ourselves in a position to win a game. Obviously too many penalties, but the kill was great, kept us in it. Joner made big saves when we had breakdowns on it. You’re gonna have nights like tonight when, you know, you’re not feeling it and you’re not getting much offensively. We were close to pulling out a point there. It’s tough we couldn’t get one but I liked our kill and I liked our defensive, I guess, desperation.

The penalty problem was something the Sharks had discussed before the game. Head Coach Peter DeBoer said:

I think we talked coming in, in 3 in 4 and a back-to-back, that we needed to do a few things and one of them was stay out of the penalty box. You know, you can’t, you got a little bit of a tired team, we took, what, five minors? It’s hard and I thought we ran out of gas in the third killing all those penalties. Made it tough on ourselves with the penalties.

Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon was asked about a hit he made on Auston Matthews during the game: “Obviously you want to be physical on the good players but I never want to see a guy get injured like that. I saw him leave, I was happy to see him come back in the third. Kinda said, you know, didn’t mean to catch him like that but at the same time, you know, you gotta be hard on those guys, they’re such good players.”

The Sharks started the scoring midway through the first period. Tomas Hertl made a quick play up the boards to Brent Burns at the blue line and Burns took a shot at the net. Kevin Labanc got a piece of it as it went in the net for his fourth of the season. Burns and Hertl got the assists.

Through the second period, the Sharks successfully killed two penalties but only managed three shots on goal. The score stayed 1-0 until the final minute of the second.

Jake Muzzin scored for Toronto with just 3 seconds left in the period. As Muzzin skated to the net, the puck came to him from the corner off of Jason Spezza’s stick. Assists went to Spezza and Ilya Mikheyev.

Toronto took the lead in the third period with a goal from Morgan Reilly at 14:31. William Nylander, Alexander Kerfoot and Cody Ceci entered the zone at speed, drawing the attention of the Sharks defense. Morgan Reilly trailed and Nylander found him as he came across the line. Reilly had also started the play with the first pass in the defensive zone.

Two more goals came from Ilya Mikheyev and Auston Matthews in the final minute of the third. Mikheyev’s goal was into an empty net, with and assist to Mitch Marner. Marner also got an assist on the Matthews goal.

The Sharks next play on Sunday against the Ottawa Senators at 4:00 PM PT.

Sharks Put Out the Flames to Win 3-1

sfgate.com photo: San Jose Sharks center Dylan Gambrell, top, reaches for the puck behind Calgary Flames left wing Andrew Mangiapane during the third period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019.

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE — The San Jose Sharks defeated the Calgary Flames 3-1 at the SAP Center Sunday. It was San Jose’s first home win of the season. Sharks goals came from Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc, and Tomas Hertl. Martin Jones made 30 saves for the win. Elias Lindholm scored the lone goal for Calgary. Cam Talbot made 17 saves for the Flames.

The final score drew an eerie parallel to Patrick Marleau’s last regulation home game as a Shark in 2017, which was also against Calgary and was also a 3-1 Sharks victory. Though Marleau did not score Sunday, it is hard to ignore the impact his return has had on the team. After the game, Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer said:

I don’t think it’s an accident that we’ve won the last two and he’s been in the lineup. I think that’s a piece for sure. He just plays the right way, he does the right thing when he’s out on the ice, you know, all the time. It’s really helped solidify our lineup a little bit.

That solidification is evident to the players as well. Team captain Logan Couture said:

I thought Dylan Gambrell has played two really really good games now in a row. That’s something that we need. He’s been given an opportunity and I think these last few games he’s shown what he’s capable of. So, when we have that line playing well and the other three rolling over, we’re a tough team to beat.

The Sharks took an early 1-0 lead with a goal from Timo Meier at 3:04. Logan Couture carried the puck in around the Calgary defense and then paused at the red line before finding Meier right in front of the net. Assists went to Couture and Patrick Marleau.

San Jose added to their lead at 10:13 when Kevin Labanc skated through the neutral zone, handed the puck off to Tomas Hertl at the blue line, then got it back as he went flying into the zone. His wrist shot beat Cam Talbot glove side. Assists went to Hertl and Erik Karlsson.

Each team took one penalty and killed one in the first period. Calgary outshot San Jose by 11-6.

Calgary got one back at 6:43 of the second period. Calgary won an offensive zone draw and got the puck right to TJ Brodie at the blue line. He gave the ice a quick look and then took a shot right up the middle. Elias Lindholm tipped it mid-slot and past Jones glove side. Austin Czarnik was screening Jones until the lest second. An assist went to Brodie.

The Sharks reclaimed their two-goal lead at the end of the second period with a short-handed goal from Tomas Hertl. Brent Burns was in the box for tripping Michael Frolik. Logan Couture cut off a Calgary pass in the defensive zone, carried the puck all the way to the Calgary zone, then found Hertl just as he came into the zone. Hertl took a quick shot past Talbot for his first of the season.

Each team took a penalty in the second period, but neither scored on the power play. The teams were tied with 11 shots each in the second.

Calgary pulled their goaltender with almost three minutes to go in the game but could not alter the score. The final shot count was 33-20 Calgary.

The Sharks next play on Wednesday in San Jose against the visiting Carolina Hurricanes at 7:30 PM PT.

2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Blues Take 3-2 Lead in WCF, Beat Sharks 5-0

Photo credit: @PR_NHL

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE — The St. Louis Blues took a 3-2 lead in the NHL Western Conference Final, by defeating the San Jose Sharks 5-0 at SAP Center Sunday.

St. Louis got goals from Oskar Sundqvist, Vladimir Tarasenko and a hat trick from Jaden Schwartz. Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington made 21 saves in the shutout win.

Sharks goaltender Martin Jones made 35 saves in a losing effort. Through the game, San Jose was penalized eight times and lost four players to injury for several minutes or more. Only one of those returned to play in the third period.

After the game, Sharks forward Logan Couture commented on what he saw of the hits that sent Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl out of the game: “I saw the Hertl hit, I just saw the replay. Yeah, that’s a tough one. But, I mean they had one earlier, in Game 3, I believe on Braun. I think it was Game 3. And nothing happened, so they can do it again, right?”

Evander Kane hit a post in the first moments of Sunday’s game. Asked whether a goal there would have changed the momentum significantly, Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer said:

I think a few things could have changed the game. I thought we played well enough to come out of that first maybe up. I thought, arguably, a five-minute major on Tommy Hertl, that if it’s called, you know, that’s a momentum changing play right there. But we come out of the first down one-nothing and then Hertl can’t go, and you know, Karlsson can’t go and so we started taking on some water. I thought they took over in the second period. And then when Pav got hit high we lost our composure there in the third. And, not our finest moment but I understand where that emotion’s coming from with what he’s been through. We’ve just got to regroup, got to go in and win a game.

The Sharks had some excellent chances off the hop, including that Kane shot off the post. Then, at 5:50, the Blues got on the board. Erik Karlsson went down behind his own net to move the puck out, and sent it up the boards for Brenden Dillon. It went between Dillon’s skates and off the boards back into open ice. While the Sharks kept an eye on Alexander Steen and Pat Maroon in their zone, Oskar Sundqvist sped out of the neutral zone and shot the puck. Erik Karlsson had moved into the lane and Sundqvist used him as a screen, so the puck went right by Jones. That was the first of three unassisted goals in a row.

The Sharks out-shot the Blues 11-4 in the first, but the Blues won 56% of the faceoffs. Logan Couture had a notable drop off in face-off performance, against a number of Blues players after five minutes. The Sharks had two shots on their first period power play.

The start of the second was less good for the Sharks. After five minutes, the Blues had another goal and a 10-1 shot lead. The goal came off an ill-conceived attempt to move the puck across the slot by Jones. He was trying to clear the puck away after Brenden Dillon blocked the shot on its way in, but Jaden Schwartz skated to the net and put the puck around Jones without anyone getting in his way.

Moments later, the Blues were awarded a penalty shot after Brent Burns tripped Vladimir Tarasenko. Tarasenko put a shot over Jones’ glove into the top corner to make it 3-0. That was at 6:53. At 10:43, the Blues were on a four-minute power play after Donskoi caught Steen in the mouth with his stick. That did not last long as Tyler Bozak got called for holding Evander Kane. The two minute four-on-four generated little for either team, and the Sharks killed off the rest of the Blues power play.

With five left in the period, the shots were 18-4 Blues. By the end of the period, the Blues outshot the Sharks 20-6. the Blues also improved their faceoff advantage to 57%. Tomas Hertl was the only Shark to take more than five faceoffs and win more than 50% of them. He won 70%. On the Blues’ side, Tyler Bozak and Brayden Schenn won just over 70% of their face-offs.

Erik Karlsson did not skate during the last seven or so minutes of the period.

The Sharks started the second period with a pair of penalties, putting the Blues on a two minute five-on-three power play at 1:55. With Micheal Haley and Barclay Goodrow both in the box, Jaden Schwartz scored with a pin-balling shot that put the Blues up 4-0 at 2:19. Assists went to David Perron and Tarasenko.

The Sharks managed to kill off the remainder of the second penalty.

Before the middle of the third period, Tomas Hertl, Joe Pavelski, Erik Karlsson and Joonas Donskoi were all in the dressing room for repairs or worse. Donskoi skated two shifts at the start of the period before leaving with a bleeding face. Pavelski skated one shift. Hertl and Karlsson did not skate in the third.

Micheal Haley joined them for unsportsmanlike conduct and an additional misconduct. A tripping penalty to Timo Meier put the Sharks on another five-on-three penalty kill.

Donskoi returned to the game after the ten minute mark, with just under eight minutes remaining.

The Sharks got their second power play of the game at 13:12. They did not score. The Blues did, at 16:02. Another defensive collapse from the remaining Sharks allowed Schwartz to get open on that same side again. Another assist went to Tarasenko.

With a little more than two minutes remaining, Evander Kane took some penalty time: two for goaltender interference, two for slashing Edmundson, and a little more for misconduct.

Game 6 will be on Tuesday at the Enterprise Center at 5:00 PM PT.

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs podcast with Joe Lami: Blues look to even series, but Sharks look to move two games up tonight

Photo credit: @NBCSSharks

On the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs podcast with Joe Lami:

#1 Joe explain the overtime goal from San Jose Sharks’ Erik Karlsson that got guided in from teammate Timo Meier with the glove hand to teammate Gustav Nyquist, who stick passed it to Karlsson and shot it past St. Louis Blues goalie Jordan Binnington.

#2 The Sharks got the Wednesday night comeback win from a 4-3 deficit as the Sharks’ Logan Couture scored the tying goal in the third period at 18:59. The Sharks, again, played like their playoff lives depended on it and made a comeback.

#3 Couture also leads NHL playoff leaders in goals with 13 goals and 19 points. He’s having a fine offensive postseason.

#4 The Boston Bruins swept the Carolina Panthers in four games with a 4-0 shutout Thursday night. The Bruins didn’t show any lows at all in the series and have been very consistent throughout the playoffs.

#5 The Bruins now wait for the winner of the St. Louis and San Jose series. Joe tells us who he thinks the Bruins prefer to play in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Joe Lami does the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs podcasts each Friday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Game 2 Blues: Sharks get outworked by the desperate Blues in 4-2 loss on home ice

By Morris Phillips

SAN JOSE — Want to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup? You’re going to need contributions from a variety of sources.

On Monday night, Robert Bortuzzo was the unlikely source that propelled the Blues in their 4-2 Western Conference Finals-tying win at the SAP Center. The veteran defenseman went the first 30 NHL playoff games of his career without scoring a goal, then in Game 2, turned slick skating opportunist in beating Sharks goalie Martin Jones late in the second period with the game winner.

“That was pretty smooth by him, but he’s got that in his arsenal,” Blues goalie Jordan Binnington said of Bortuzzo.

“He’s a big guy with a good set of hands so it’s nice to see him rewarded,” said Alexander Steen.

Bortuzzo jumped into the rush, slipping past an unsuspecting Joe Thornton, where Tyler Bozak’s pass put Bortuzzo in position for a point blank opportunity that he backhanded into the upper left corner. Ironically,  Bortuzzo was a healthy scratch in the final three games of the Stars-Blues series, but against the bigger Sharks, and likely to match up against Thornton, the defenseman was on the ice and his contributions were potentially series altering.

Bortuzzo scored just two regular season goals, and has lit the lamp just 16 times in 366 career regular season and playoff appearances. That paucity of scoring didn’t interfere with his star turn in Game 2.

“It’s not really my game, but (goal scoring is) definitely something that goes in the back of your mind,” said Bortuzzo. “It was just a rush of emotion.”

In the tense, third period Bortuzzo dropped to the ice, blocking Kevin Labanc’s high velocity slapper that could have drawn the Sharks even with 10:04 remaining. Instead, the Sharks failed to even the score as the Blues have held the opposition scoreless in all six third periods of their road, playoff wins.

The Blues, desperate not to return home down 2-0, blocked 20 shots in the game and delivered the majority of the impactful hits along the boards. Bortuzzo also set the tone, sending San Jose’s Marcus Sorenson careening into the boards midway through the first period.

Logan Couture enlivened the SAP Center with a pair of second period goals two minutes apart that wiped out a 2-0 deficit.  Couture’s first goal was shorthanded off a takeaway and seemed to lift the malaise that enveloped the home team. But coach Peter DeBoer drew a different conclusion.

“I thought Logan Couture was pretty good, a couple of other guys … It’s tough to win this time of year if you don’t have everybody going, and I thought they got contributions from everybody, like we did in the first night,” DeBoer explained.

Binnington continued his eye-catching maiden voyage on the roller coaster that is the NHL playoffs. The rookie net minder stopped 26 shots (11 in the third period) and won for the ninth time. Binnington is one win way from becoming just the 10th rookie goaltender to win 10 times in a single playoffs.

The Sharks have dropped Game 2 at home in each of their 2019 playoff series, after winning Game 1. The Sharks have split a pair in Game 3, winning in Denver to take a 2-1 lead on the Avalanche in the conference semis.

The series, tied 1-1, resumes Wednesday in St. Louis with the pivotal Game 3.

Sharks Beat Blues 6-3 in Game 1 of NHL Western Conference Final

Photo credit: @SanJoseSharks

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE — The San Jose Sharks defeated the St. Louis Blues 6-3 Saturday, taking a 1-0 lead in the Western Conference Final series. Timo Meier and Logan Couture created a stir with two goals each, while forwards Joe Pavelski and Kevin Labanc added goals to complete that hefty score. Blues goals came from Joel Edmundson, Ryan O’Reilly and Tyler Bozak. Sharks goaltender Martin Jones made 28 saves for the win, while Jordan Binnington made 19 saves for the Blues.

After the game, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer was asked about how his team shut down the Blues’ formidable Tarasenko line, just as they had shut down Colorado’s top line in the previous series. DeBoer said:

St. Louis is built a little different. Obviously, they have that line, but I think they also have a couple other lines that are very good too. Their third line might have been their most dangerous line in the last series and I thought was good again tonight, got a goal in the third period. So they’re built differently. I think this is going to be more of a team effort to shut down their group and if we can get the match ups we want, great. If we can’t, the guys out there are going to have to get the job done.

Series predictions have some trends to rely on. By the end of the second round, the Sharks seemed to have shed their habit of giving up a goal in the first minute of the game, and they had scored the most goals in the 2019 playoffs. They had also given up the most third period goals. St. Louis was second in scoring third period goals and had given up 10 fewer goals per game than the Sharks. Both teams have had formidable penalty kills, but less reliable power plays.

The Sharks started the scoring early in the first after taking the puck away from the Blues in the neutral zone. Logan Couture and Gus Nyquist broke away from the Blues defense at the blue line and ended up 2-on-1 against Joel Edmundson. Nyquist passed across and Couture put it away for his 10th of the playoffs. The time of the goal was 3:31.

That first goal ignited the Blues, at least in terms of hits. Sundry contact was ignored by the officials, including a curious pair of hits on Tomas Hertl and an elbow to Timo Meier’s head.

The Blues tied the game with an end-to-end play by Jaden Schwartz at 9:13. Schwartz took Logan Couture down behind the Blues net without any reaction from the officials. He then skated the puck all the way down and shot it off of Joel Edmundson. It was Edmundson’s first of the playoffs. Assists went to Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko.

Joe Pavelski got the lead back for the Sharks in a 5-on-3 power play at 11:24. Brent Burns sent the puck to him off to the side of the net. Pavelski stopped the hard pass and shot it. Binnington got his pad in the way and Pavelski had to reach in and give the puck a couple of extra taps to get it over the pad. It was Pavelski’s fourth of the playoffs and his second since returning from injury. Assists went to Burns and Erik Karlsson.

Despite having to kill two penalties, the Blues led the Sharks in shots in the first period, 10-9. The Sharks had the edge in face-offs, winning 59%.

Kevin Labanc added to the Sharks’ tally at 7:41 of the second. He skated in down the left boards then took a hard right at the face-off circle. He took the shot as he exited the circle and the puck went through three skaters. The traffic may have even disguised the fact that Labanc was moving to shoot, so the goaltender had no chance. An assist on Labanc’s fourth of the playoffs went to Joe Thornton.

Ryan O’Reilly scored a tricky goal at 8:58 to make it 3-2. He got control of a sluggish rebound near the blue paint, drew it back until Martin Jones came out for the shot, then went around the goaltender and nudged it over the line. Assists went to David Perron and Sammy Blais. It was O’Reilly’s third of the playoffs.

Timo Meier scored at 10:24 after a beautiful poke check by Logan Couture at the blue line, keeping the puck in. Meier was pursuing the checked skater and was ready to turn and take it back to the net. He avoided the pursuing defensemen and waited until Binnington was down, then, while skating left, reached right to guide the puck around the goalie’s outstretched skate and into the net. Couture got the assist. It was Meier’s fourth of the playoffs.

The Blues got their first power play at 13:23. The Sharks did not let any shots get through but one of the attempts sent Goodrow limping to the bench.

The Sharks added another at 17:34 of the second, this one attributed to Timo Meier. Meier was behind the net and trying to move the puck forward.  Blues defenseman Vince Dunn got in the way. His skate was in the perfect position to redirect the puck in behind his own goaltender. Assists went to Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Gus Nyquist.

The second period shots were again very close, this time 11-9 Sharks. The Sharks won 58% of the second period face-offs.

Their third period scoring success in these playoffs made it all the less surprising when the Blues made it 5-3 at 13:01 of the third.

After several attempts to Jones’ right, the puck got across to the other side where Tyler Bozak was waiting to put it in. It was Bozak’s third of the playoffs. Assists went to Pat Maroon and Vince Dunn.

The Blues pulled their goaltender with 4:39 left in the game. The Sharks had their hands full defending those six skaters, but managed a couple of shots at the empty net. Logan Couture finally got one of them in the net at 17:39. Assists went to Joe Pavelski and Evander Kane.

Fisticuffs followed at the Sharks end. Barclay Goodrow was sent off after intervening in someone else’s dispute, for roughing against Robert Bortuzzo. Goodrow also got a misconduct against Bortuzzo. Bortuzzo was sent off for roughing against Goodrow and received an additional misconduct. They each got five minutes. Brenden Dillon and Oskar Sundqvist got two minutes each for roughing. All of that went down at 17:55.

For a clue to what the Blues will be working on before Game 2, here is what Blues head coach Craig Berube had to say after Game 1:

I thought that third period we got to our game, we were aggressive, we’re on the forecheck, controlled the puck in the offensive zone. We didn’t get there enough tonight. In the first period it was ok, I thought it was a pretty good first period other than the penalties. But second period we just got caught in that three-quarter ice game by them, they did a good job checking, forced some things on us and we got caught in some turnovers and they capitalized on them.

Game 2 will be on Monday in San Jose at the SAP Center at 6:00 PM PT.

Sharks Beat Avs 3-2, Advance to Western Conference Final

Photo credit: @NBCSSharks

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE — For the fifth time in their history, the San Jose Sharks are going to the Western Conference Final after defeating the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 Wednesday. Sharks goals came from Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl, and Joonas Donskoi. Avs goals came from Mikko Rantanen and Tyson Jost. Martin Jones made 27 saves for the win, while Philipp Grubauer made 24 saves in a losing effort.

Sharks captain Joe Pavelski was a game-time decision Wednesday, and the final decision was to play.

After the game, Sharks forward Logan Couture said of Pavelski: “For a guy that missed playoff action for two weeks, to have the injury that he has, to come back, set up a goal, score a goal. I wish I could tell you what he’s gone through, from seeing it first hand, you wouldn’t believe that he’s playing right now, I’ll just say that. He played unbelievable.”

Due to Pavelski’s return, Joonas Donskoi was bumped down to the fourth line and then he scored the game-winning goal. Thus, the game-winners in both Sharks Game 7s were scored by fourth-liners, which was what Logan Couture said the team needed after Game 6. Couture was asked about that after Wednesday’s game. Couture said of Donskoi:

Donny was great, we needed something, I said it last time. We needed some other guys to step up and score goals and I thought they were very very good tonight. I thought Donny played excellent: he was all over the puck, created chances. They had a really good night when maybe my line, we didn’t create much and have too too many chances. So we needed it.

Nathan MacKinnon went down with a shoulder injury in the first two minutes of play. He returned around the 15-minute mark and appeared to be able-bodied again.

The first goal of the game quieted any concerns about Joe Pavelski’s readiness to play. Tomas Hertl retrieved the puck in the corner and sent it back up the boards to Brent Burns. Burns had time to pick his spot and that spot was right on goal, through the Pavelski tip lane. Pavelski caught the puck with the bottom of his stick blade and sent it bouncing at the net, much lower than Grubauer was ready for. It was Pavelski’s third of the post season. Burns and Hertl got the assists.

The Sharks added another at 11:35. After Evander Kane sent the puck around behind the Avs net, Pavelski retrieved it and then brought it back the way it came. As he passed the net, he passed to an unguarded Hertl, right above the blue paint. Hertl knocked it in quick as a cat. Two defenders, intent on Pavelski’s movements, had not noticed Hertl back there. The one who did notice was not close enough to stop him. Assists went to Pavelski and Kane.

Mikko Rantanen scored with just seven seconds left in the first period, cutting the Sharks’ lead in half. Samuel Girard took a shot right down the slot from the blue line and Rantanen tipped it up into the net. A second assist went to Gabriel Landeskog.

Colin Wilson appeared to have tied the game near the eight minute mark of the second, but the goal was challenged by the Sharks for an offside play. Upon review, the goal was disallowed.

Joonas Donskoi came off the schneid with the Sharks’ third goal of the game. Picking up the puck near the corner, he carried it around behind the net, came out front and took a wrist shot at the near top corner. It was his first goal since January. Assists went to Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson.

The Avs scored again 51 seconds into the third period. Alexander Kerfoot’s shot came out as a rebound that Colin Wilson tried to push back in, but Vlasic got to that. Vlasic’s clearing attempt hit Hertl and bounced back toward the net. Tyson Jost was able to reach it before Jones or Vlasic could. Assists went to Wilson and Kerfoot.

The Avs pulled their goaltender with 2:10 left in regulation, but the Sharks and their goaltender held them off.

Game 1 of the Western Conference Final will be on Saturday the 11th at 5:00 PM PT. The Sharks will host the St. Louis Blues at SAP Center.

Sharks Beat Avs 2-1, Retake Series Lead 3-2

Photo credit: @SanJoseSharks

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE — The San Jose Sharks defeated the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 Saturday. With the win, the Sharks took a 3-2 lead in the second round playoff series. Four Sharks (Logan Couture, Evander Kane, Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns) had four shots on goal in the game, but Tomas Hertl had eight. It was hardly surprising that he had both goals for San Jose. Tyson Jost scored for the Avs. Sharks goaltender Martin Jones made 21 saves in the win, while Philipp Grubauer made 37 saves for the Avs.

The Sharks held Nathan MacKinnon to a single shot in the game. After the game, Sharks forward Logan Couture was asked what the team’s game plan was against MacKinnon: “Our game plan against him is try and not to let him play in the offensive zone. It’s pretty difficult to do. He’s such a good player, he’s going to get his looks, he’s going to get the puck in the neutral zone. But I thought for the most part we limited, you know, maybe, his chances to the outside. He still gets looks, he’s such a good player.”

The Sharks put the puck in the net during the first period, a nice shot to the top corner from Kevin Labanc off a Joe Thornton feed. But it was called back because Timo Meier had his stick lifted near Mikko Rantanen’s face. It did not seem to make contact but the officials called it a penalty worthy of a disallowed goal. That was the second time in these playoffs that a Sharks goal was called back for a questionable penalty, but this time, the Sharks killed the penalty. They did not allow a shot in that power play.

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer was asked about the team’s reaction to that non-goal after the game: “I liked how we were playing. I loved how we started, I liked our first period I thought we were putting a lot of pressure on them. I thought, I could tell we were ready to play and committed to what we wanted to do. So it’s not as frustrating when that happens when your team is playing the way it is, because we knew that we were going to get opportunities for some more.”

At the end of the first period, the Sharks had won 59% of the face-offs and led in shots 12-6.

The Sharks were out-shooting the Avalanche consistently, despite suffering back-to-back penalties in the second period. The Avalanche still scored first, late in the second period. JT Compher took a shot off the rush and Jones kicked out a rebound. Brent Burns got to it first but he didn’t get all of it when he tried to clear it to the corner. It went into Tyson Jost’s skates and ended up behind Jones. It was Tyson Jost’s first of the playoffs. Assists went to Compher and Samuel Girard.

With the second period ticking away, the Sharks tied it up with a power play goal. At 19:40, Logan Couture took a shot from the slot off an Erik Karlsson feed. Tomas Hertl, lower down in the slot, deflected the shot past Grubauer to tie the game. The goal was not called back. It was Hertl’s seventh of the playoffs. Assists went to Couture and Karlsson.

In the second period, the Sharks won 63% of the face-offs, and had a shot lead of 29-15. Nine Avs players had shots on goal, while 13 Sharks had at least one shot.

The Sharks got an early power play in the third, courtesy of a high stick from Nikita Zadorov 31 seconds in. The Sharks got just one shot on that power play. After that, the Sharks did an excellent job of kicking Colorado out of their zone, but could not get themselves set up at the other end.

When they finally did get some extended zone time, the Sharks scored. Marc-Edouard Vlasic took a quick shot that hit the goaltender and dropped into the blue paint next to him. Tomas Hertl was battling for space in front of the net. Despite being pushed over the goaltender at the last second, he got a stick on the puck and pushed it over the line at 6:26. Assists went to Vlasiuc and Joonas Donskoi.

The Sharks went back on the power play at 7:31, when Zadorov went back to the box, this time for roughing. The Sharks got four shots on that power play.

The Avalanche pulled their goaltender with over two minutes left in the game, but did not score again. The Sharks tried to score in the empty net a few times but missed.

Game 6 will be on Monday night at the Pepsi Center in Denver at 7:00 PM PT.

Injury notes: Joonas Donskoi was back in the lineup, and Joe Pavelski made an appearance Saturday, waving to the fans from the tunnel. Pavelski is skating again, but there is still no timetable for his return to play.