The Sharks concluded a four-game road trip with a finale against the Predators in Nashville Saturday.
Here are three takeaways from the Sharks’ recent trip through the Central United States.
1. Sluggish offense
Although backup goalie Aaron Dell made 19 saves in Monday’s game, the Sharks lost 1-0 to the Stars (30-33-11) in a shootout. Dell made a couple of highlight-reel saves such as stopping Cody Eakin on a one-timer and making a glove save on Brett Richie’s shot to thwart a 2-on-1.
However, the Sharks’ forward lines were unable to compliment the stellar defense. Curtis McKenzie scored the lone, game-winning goal for Dallas. With the win, the Stars picked up their second shutout of the year. Stars backup goalie Kari Lehtonen made five saves in relief of former Shark Antti Niemi, who had 16 saves on 18 shots.
Lehtonen kicked away a chance by Logan Couture with his left toe late in the third period. The Sharks had a chance to tie the game to force overtime, but the Stars’ defense managed to counter the offense of the visiting team.
Sharks defenseman Paul Martin told NHL.com: “It’s always going to be a race to the end, and everyone wants to be in that top spot. You want to get home ice. I think we always are watching who we’d be playing or how other teams are faring.”
2. Letting opportunities slip away
Following the first of two games in Dallas, the Sharks made a quick stop in Minnesota to face the Wild (44-24-6) in a nationally televised game Tuesday. It was certainly a wild game as both teams scored four goals in 63 seconds. The fastest four goals since the Blues (2) and Stars (2) combined to score four in 49 seconds over two periods on April 3, 2015.
In general, the fastest four goals scored by two teams in one period was 53 seconds and it was achieved by the Blackhawks and Leafs on October 15, 1983.
With his 24th of the year, Patrick Marleau made it a one-goal game late in the second period. However, neither team scored a goal in the third period, and the Wild held on for a 3-2 win to snap a season-long, five-game losing skid.
Shots were 27-23 in favor of the Wild. The Sharks had lots of quality scoring chances, but were unable to capitalize on them. San Jose went 0-for-1 on the power play.
Sharks captain Joe Pavelski told NHL.com: “I don’t think we’re talking much about puck luck. We can be better. That kind of luck comes when you’re on a team, when you spend lots of time in the [offensive] zone, maybe get a bounce here or there. We’re not creating enough right now.”
3. Lackluster defense
The Sharks returned to Dallas Friday, hoping for a better result, but the Stars’ energy overwhelmed its visitors once again. Dallas blew out San Jose 6-1.
The Sharks were down by one after the first period. There was a chance they could tie the game and start to work from there, but by the time Joe Thornton scored his fourth goal of the year on the power play, the Stars led 4-1 after two periods. Adam Cracknell scored another goal early in the third period, and John Klingberg capped off the scoring 21 seconds later.
The Sharks definitely gave Friday’s game away. It seems like Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer has overworked Dell, who was in net for two games this week. Dell is a pretty good backup goalie, possessing a 10-6 record, but he needs some rest.
Even worse, DeBoer was unable to explain what went wrong.
DeBoer told NHL.com: “You have a handful of those a year where nothing goes right and nobody’s got any kind of legs or energy…It was one of those nights. I don’t have any explanation for it. I felt we prepared the right way the last couple days. I thought we felt pretty good about ourselves. Then the puck dropped and everything went bad.”
The Sharks (42-26-7) were looking to snap their five-game losing skid against the Predators (38-25-11) in Nashville Saturday.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned. Pavelski also played in his 800th NHL game, all with the Sharks, but his personal milestone didn’t benefit his team.
The Sharks were down by two after the first period. Marleau and Justin Braun scored two goals to cut the Preds’ lead in half after two periods. Nashville then scored three unanswered goals in the third period to suppress the Sharks 7-2.
The Sharks went 0-4 on the road trip, losing their sixth straight game. They remain tied with the Ducks (40-23-11) for first place in the Pacific Division.
The Sharks return to San Jose to host the New York Rangers Tuesday. The game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. PST on CSN-CA and MSG.