Coming off a 1-2-1 road trip, the Sharks returned to SAP Center Tuesday night with just a two-point lead for the second place in the Pacific Division.
Practically eliminated from the playoffs, the Dallas Stars (41-31-8) came in wanting to play spoiler. A two-goal first period by the Sharks would be trumped by a Jamie Benn hat trick, as the Stars pulled off the comeback to beat San Jose, 4-2.
Head coach Pete DeBoer said about his team’s late-game collapse:
“We got a good lesson at not putting a team away when you get a chance to. … You let a good team hang around like that, with three world-class players like they’ve got that’s what can happen. Tough lesson to learn this time of year, but we still control our own destiny.”
Logan Couture reached his career-high 33rd goal of the season just 9:21 into the opening period. On the man advantage, Brent Burns sent a pass to Couture at the opposite side of the point, and after skating into the high slot, he slung a wrister through the wickets of goaltender Kari Lehtonen.
Couture said about his achievement:
“It’s always nice to score at home. It’s a cool accomplishment. (It) would have been nicer to win.”
San Jose (44-26-10) tacked on to their lead just minutes later, as Timo Meier chased down a loose puck at the far end of the face-off circle, immediately rocketing a wrist shot five-hole on Lehtonen.
The Sharks would outshoot Dallas 18-5 in the first period, and within minutes left Lehtonen would leave the game after a deflected puck struck the goaltender in the neck area.
Mike McKenna would replace Lehtonen in net, and despite not playing in an NHL game since the 2014-2015 season, he would deny the Sharks 16 times through the second period.
Jamie Benn would cut the Sharks’ lead to one with just 30 seconds left in the second period.
Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said he is not worried, despite a four-game losing streak heading into the playoffs:
“It wasn’t there for us in the third (period.) We got a healthy dose of probably what we needed tonight. I liked a lot of our game tonight. … We got to understand where we’re at as a team, and it’s nothing I don’t think this group gets fixed.”
San Jose will host the Colorado Avalanche Thursday as they look to break the tie with the Los Angeles Kings capture the number two seed in the Pacific Division to have home ice in the first round of the playoffs.
The Sharks secured their third consecutive playoff birth Monday after the Los Angeles Kings beat the Avalanche, 3-1. It will be the 13th time in 14 years San Jose has reached the playoffs.