With only 7 games remaining in the regular season, the San Jose Sharks could ill-afford to give away any games, much less any points, in the race to finish atop the Pacific division. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened Thursday night when the Sharks hosted the Winnipeg Jets.
Just 4 minutes away from picking up a valuable point, the Sharks gave up the game-winning goal to defenseman Tobias Enstrom, which came on the power play with Logan Couture sitting in the penalty box. The penalty itself, a delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass, was just one of a few costly mistakes made by the Sharks, who are now staring at a difficult first round playoff matchup with their Southern California rivals, the Los Angeles Kings.
The first two periods saw 6 goals total, 3 from each team. Dan Boyle got things started by scoring his first goal in 30 games. James Sheppard continued his fine play as of late, and picked up an assist along with Dany Havlat on the goal.
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Just 36 seconds after the goal however, Brad Stuart, in just his third game back after missing 13 games due to an upper body injury, made an ill-advised pinch in the offensive zone, leading to an odd-man rush for the Jets, which resulted in an Andrew Ladd goal to tie things up.
San Jose’s PP responded later in the 1st, where Joe Pavelski made a nice feed to Brent Burns who back-handed the puck into the net for his 21st goal of the season.
Unfortunately, the scoring wasn’t done in the first, as Niemi gave up a soft goal to Blake Wheeler at 1:55. The Jets then took their first lead of the game on their power play at 9:32 in the 2nd period when Dustin Byfuglein scored his 20th goal of the year.
The Sharks scored again on their power play as Logan Couture, who was questionable to even lace up Thursday night, deflected James Sheppard’s shot, tying the game up at 3-3.
After their big win against the Ducks last Thursday, the men in teal have struggled to pick up two points in their games. With the exception of the game against the Oilers, they’ve lost 3 out of their last 4. While 2 of their losses have come in the shootout, the Sharks cannot afford to leave any points on the ice at this point. They are currently 2 points ahead of the Ducks with 1 head-to-head game remaining (in Anaheim), but the Ducks have played 3 less games than the Sharks. In addition, only 3 out of the 10 remaining games for the Ducks are matchups against playoff caliber teams.
While the Sharks have potentially let the Pacific division slip through their fingers, not all is lost. Dan Boyle was finally able to get off the schnide, ending his 29-game goal-less streak. Boyle regaining his offensive mojo is going to be important for the Sharks as they chase their first ever Stanley Cup. In addition, the power play has continued to hum right along. The PP unit has scored 5 goals in the past 2 games, and has increased their success rate to 17.3%.
The Sharks have seven games remaining in the regular season. They have two days off before they head to Colorado to take on the Avalanche, and then another two days before they take on Edmonton back at SAP Center on April 1st.
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