After coming back from a three-goal deficit earlier in the season, the San Jose Sharks almost topped themselves by nearly erasing a four-goal deficit tonight. Down 4-0 in the second period, the Sharks rallied to score three straight goals, but ultimately came up short, falling to the Colorado Avalanche by a score of 5-3.
After a back-and-forth start to the contest, Nathan MacKinnon led a rush into the Sharks’ zone and found himself one-on-one with Marc-Édouard Vlasic. On what seemed like a harmless play, MacKinnon moved the puck around an attempted poke check and fired one through the legs of both Vlasic and Martin Jones to make the score 1-0. It was certainly one that Jones would like to have back, and one that Vlasic will feel like he should have snuffed out as well.
Just a few seconds later, Logan Couture took a tripping penalty in the offensive zone that gave Colorado their first power play of the night. Less than a minute after his first goal of the evening, MacKinnon fired a one-timer past Jones (who may have been screened by Justin Braun) to pick up his second goal of the game and his 22nd of the 2017-18 campaign.
After giving up two very quick goals, one could only wonder how short the leash was on Martin Jones early in the game, who has struggled in opening frames this season.
The Avalanche cashed in again with just under two minutes left in the first period, when former Shark Matt Nieto made a beautiful backhand saucer pass from behind the net to an unmarked Carl Soderberg, who beat Jones short side for his tenth goal of the year. This goal was definitely not the goaltender’s fault, so Pete DeBoer stuck it out with Jones, despite the fact that Jones had given up three goals on just seven shots. The Sharks finished the period up 18-16 in shot attempts, but headed into the dressing room looking for answers on the defensive side of the puck.
After killing off a Sharks power play to start the second period, Colorado made it 4-0, again fueled by the line of MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen. A point shot from Mark Barberio found its way through traffic and deflected in off the pants of Rantanen, who was screening Jones. Though down 4-0, the Sharks (a team that has come back from a couple deficits of their own this year) continued to fight.
Halfway through the second period, the Sharks finally found their way onto the scoresheet as the final seconds of their third power play dwindled away. Kevin Labanc fired a shot from the top of the right circle and Timo Meier was able to put the rebound between the legs of Jonathan Bernier to make the score 4-1.
Both goaltenders finished strong in the second, with Jones stopping two breakaways and Bernier denying Meier on a close chance that eventually resulted in a San Jose power play. The Sharks finished the second period up 27-16 in the shot count, but were unable to convert on four power play opportunities.
Coming out for the third period, the Sharks got exactly what they needed: a goal on the first shift. Labanc once again put a shot on net from the right circle that resulted in a bouncing puck in front of Bernier. Marc-Édouard Vlasic was rewarded for crashing the net and beat a scrambling Bernier to the stick side for his sixth of the year (right before doing his best Bobby Orr impression).
After a great penalty kill moments later, Joe Pavelski made a nice cross-ice pass to Brent Burns exiting the defensive zone, who found himself on an odd-man rush with Joe Thornton to his left. Burns was able to slide the puck past the D-man Nikita Zadorov to find Thornton, who left no doubt. Thornton put his twelfth goal of the season top shelf past Bernier to make the score 4-3 with just over 15 minutes remaining in the game. The goal was Thornton’s fourth in his last four games, and he finds himself on pace for his best goal-scoring season since 2010-11, when he netted 21 goals.
The Sharks returned to the power play just minutes later with an opportunity to complete an improbable comeback. However, Jonathan Bernier had other ideas. As the Sharks kept the pressure on, Bernier turned away chance after chance to keep the score 4-3.
Bernier does his best impression of a brick wall. pic.twitter.com/Op29zoHY4b— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) January 19, 2018
Though the Avalanche were able to kill off two straight minor penalties, the onslaught from the Sharks continued, outshooting the Avalanche 15-3 in the first 15 minutes of the third period.
Unfortunately, the Sharks’ bid for an incredible comeback was put to rest by a familiar face: Long Beach Native Matt Nieto. A bad turnover in the neutral zone by Chris Tierney led to a fast break for Colorado, led by Blake Comeau. Comeau sent a shot from the left wing half boards to the net, where a waiting Nieto tipped the puck past Jones to seal the game for Colorado.
- The Sharks outshot the Avalanche 48-22, and led in shot attempts by a total of 76-44. The Sharks also went 0 for 7 on the power play, though their first tally came as time expired in their third power play opportunity.
- Kevin Labanc continues to showcase his playmaking abilities, notching his 17th and 18th assists of the year.
- The Sharks (24-14-6, 54 points) remain in second place in the Pacific Division, and face the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins at SAP Center on Saturday.