The San Jose Sharks looked much better against the Vancouver Canucks compared to their listless performance versus the Edmonton Oilers. But that wasn’t enough to secure San Jose’s first win since late January.
The Sharks overcame a two-goal deficit and tied the game with a last-second goal by Alexander Barabanov, but the Canucks left SAP Center with a 5-4 overtime victory on Feb. 17. It was a far better effort than San Jose’s 3-0 loss to the Oilers at home three days earlier, and the Sharks showed some spark with their rally.
But ultimately, the contest ended in disappointment, and the Sharks are still searching for ways to return to the win column.
Sharks Need Wins, Not Moral Victories
They made it fun against the Canucks, almost pulling it out and salvaging a point. They certainly played much better than in the stinker against the Oilers, in which they were so anemic they only had two shots in the second period. But the cold, hard fact is that the recent results are not good enough to get them anywhere near the playoffs.
The Sharks are on a five-game winless streak, although they have picked up a point in three of those contests. There was a 12-day break that spread things out, but they haven’t celebrated a victory since Jan. 26, when they beat the Capitals 4-1 in Washington. There have been some solid performances and great moments since that game, but no wins.
So while the fans at the Shark Tank were loud and engaged during the late comeback against Vancouver, the players know they didn’t get what they needed. “All I care about is the team’s points, and we’ve got to get some wins here,” Timo Meier said. “Tonight we got a point, but in the last few games, we didn’t play our best, so we’ve got to start now or else it’s going to be a long, long season. I think we’ve got to fix things, and tonight, I think it’s a step in the right direction.”
The problem has been that each time the Sharks take a step in the right direction, they stumble on the next step. They have made a bad habit of starting many games slowly and falling behind. “I think if we play the way we did the last two periods, we’re going to get our fair share of points down the stretch,” Sharks coach Bob Boughner said. “But we’ve got to start on time.”
We are now firmly in the second half of the season, and the Sharks are stuck in seventh place in the Pacific Division. It’s not time to panic, but some concern would be warranted.
A Big Night for Barabanov
Barabanov, the 27-year-old forward from St. Petersburg, Russia, had the most productive and dramatic game of his young career. And his goal is the reason the Sharks pulled a point out of a game that started so badly.
Barabanov scored with .6 seconds remaining in regulation to stun the Canucks, who had to think they had this thing locked up. And despite the ultimate defeat, there’s no doubt Barabanov’s put a charge into his team. He also earned a career-high three points, with two assists. It was his seventh goal of the season, and the most memorable one.
Time was running out with San Jose trailing 5-4 when Boughner takes a time out. Meier wins the draw and speeds into the offensive zone, sending the puck to Barabanov. The two players exchange quick passes again, with Meier flicking the puck to Barabanov, who slides backward toward the Vancouver net and fires an offering to shelf to beat goaltender Thatcher Demko to tie it up.
J.T. Miller gave the Canucks the win 2:21 into OT. The Sharks had plenty of good individual performances, as the offense woke up in the final two periods. Meier had a great game, with two goals, an assist on Barabanov’s goal, and a game-high eight shots on goal. The man was busy. Tomas Hertl had two assists, Logan Couture had a goal, and Brent Burns had an assist and five shots.
Considering that the Sharks seemed to have all the momentum after Barabanov’s game-saving score, it was puzzling to see the trio Boughner sent out to start OT – Matt Nieto, Noah Gregor and Brent Burns. Those weren’t his strongest options.
Sharks Killing It on the Penalty Kill
The penalty kill has become one of the strengths of San Jose’s game, and it has been very impressive. They went 4-for-4 on the PK against Vancouver. It’s the second game in a row San Jose has been 4-for-4 on its penalty kill.
They improved to 17-for-18 (94.4 percent) in their last six games, which ranks second in the NHL in that span. Overall, they are fourth in the league at 84.55 percent. The Sharks’ power play is ranked 18th at 19.35.
The penalty kill certainly kept them in the game, as they did not allow a shot on goal during the Canucks’ final three power plays. This kept the Sharks close enough for Barabanov to get them into OT and at least get something out of the contest.
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Scott Linesburgh has been a sports writer for 35 years, and has spent more than 15 years as a pro hockey beat writer. He has covered some of the biggest sporting events, including the Super Bowl and Indianapolis 500. A native of Long Island, N.Y. who grew up as an Islander fan, Scott cover the San Jose Sharks for THW, and is always looking for the stories beyond the box scores.