The Sharks have not faced a losing streak longer than three games since early December. But after a 4-2 loss to the hapless Kings Thursday, one of the league’s elite teams is suddenly in a rut — as the playoffs rapidly approach.
Up 2-1 heading into the third period, San Jose (43-23-8) allowed two goals in a span of three minutes as Los Angeles (26-39-8) seized momentum and the game, adding an empty-netter after the Sharks failed to capitalize on a late power play.
Tomás Hertl, who netted his 32nd goal of the season in the loss, said:
“If we play like that in the playoffs, [it’s] 4-0 and you’re out. We have to be ready and start playing hard hockey.”
Concerns were abound before the third. The Sharks were dominated in the opening period, fortunate to escape with the score even at 1-1. They played a better second, but a one-goal lead seemed tenuous at best.
Head coach Pete DeBoer said:
“Took us about 10 minutes to get up to the speed of the game.”
In the third, it fell apart. Matt Roy tied the game for the Kings midway through the third, scoring his first career goal on a shot from the point. Then, a miscue in the defensive zone with the puck bouncing up high led to Anze Kopitar walking behind all the Sharks for a point-blank, go-ahead marker past Martin Jones.
“We need some guys to find another level this year for us. At this time of year, you need someone to give a first star performance either in net or up front – somewhere to stop the bleeding and we haven’t got that.”
Hertl put the Sharks ahead 2-1 in the second period, where the Sharks bounced back from a lackluster first period. Hertl had found Brent Burns on a zone-entry pass, and Burns, bursting into the zone, dropped it back to Hertl on the wing to deposit past Kings goaltender Jonathon Quick.
The Sharks needed a confidence boost after being swept on a three-game homestand, with questions surrounding their goaltending. Granted, they were without Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Erik Karlsson. But they still lost to the West’s worst team and Jones did not look all too stellar.
And none of the players used the injuries as an excuse. Evander Kane said:
“That hasn’t been an excuse all year. We’ve had tons of guys come in and out of the lineup and we’ve been able to have success. Obviously, we have some of our better players out right now.”
Suddenly, with the Calgary Flames winning earlier on Thursday, the Sharks find themselves five points back of the Pacific Division leaders after a fourth straight defeat. Where the worries lie with the players are with the team’s consistency. The Sharks, even banged up, boast one of the most talented forward groups in the league, but they didn’t play like it on Thursday.
“It’s not a lack of urgency going into the game, but periods of the game we’re a little too relaxed. That was a prime example. Going into the third period, we need to push to get that next goal.”
Instead, they gave up three and lost. Hertl called it a wake-up call:
“We have to be ready because there’s eight games left. We still have Calgary and Vegas playing right now and we have to step it up. You have to be ready because the playoffs are coming soon.”
The Kings more than doubled up the Sharks in shots on goal in the first period, after which San Jose was lucky to escape tied 1-1. Jones let in a soft goal five minutes in when Dustin Brown floated a shot past Jones’ right pad that the goaltender was slow to react to.
The Sharks found an equalizer in the latter stages of the first on Barclay Goodrow’s seventh goal of the season. Goodrow tipped in a shot from the point by Marc-Edouard Vlasic after the fourth line worked the puck in the Kings’ zone.
Unfortunately for the Sharks, there was hardly enough of that effort on Thursday. Sure, injuries hurt, but according to DeBoer:
“They add up, but you’ve got to win this game anyway.”
Couture was scratched just before the game due to flu-like symptoms. … Defenseman Joakim Ryan played in his 100th NHL game. … Burns recorded his 76th point of the season on his assist on Hertl’s goal, tying his own single-season franchise record for most points by a defenseman.
The Sharks will stay in Southern California and take on the Ducks Friday in Anaheim.