One shift was typical of the breakdowns that led to the San Jose Sharks’ recent 1-6-1 road skid.
One play salvaged another almost-disastrous road trip.
Hanging onto a one-goal lead in the third period, Joe Pavelski (8) won the offensive zone draw:
Along the half-wall, Brent Burns (88) pinched to get the puck in deeper. As Burns stepped up, Evander Kane (9) backed him up. Joonas Donskoi (27) anticipated Brad Richardson’s (15) pass up the middle.
This is all good hockey. But then, Donskoi attempted a behind-the-back drop pass at the blueline to nobody in particular.
”There’s the turnover by Donskoi, trying to do too much,” said color commentator Jamie Baker. “That’s not the play we make here with a 3-2 lead.”
Meanwhile, Richard Panik (14) was at the opposite blueline, awaiting the stretch pass. Between Burns or Kane, somebody needed to stay between Panik and the puck.
”In theory, that should be Kane,” said Baker. Remember that Burns had established his presence down low.
Instead, Kane chased a 50-50 puck, Donskoi’s folly. When Burns noticed Kane up on the play, he hustled back, but it was too late; Richardson had spotted the unmarked Panik. Radim Simek (51) made a valiant effort to force Panik’s shot to the outside, but it dribbled through Aaron Dell’s pads.
Dell probably wanted that one back.
In Dell’s defense, Peter DeBoer noted, “Simek got a stick on it.”
Regardless, this goal was a broken record for these would-be contenders.
There was spotty forward support for pinching defensemen. There was unreliable goaltending — Sharks netminders have combined for the second-worst 5-on-5 save percentage in the league.
About 10 minutes later though, a 28-year-old rookie saved Dell, the road trip, and perhaps more with an unlikely first NHL goal.
From the corner, Lukas Radil (52) tossed the puck back to Braun at the point. Braun went D-to-D to Marc-Eduoard Vlasic (44).
This was the key moment. As Vlasic teed it up, Radil rolled hard to the net. Oliver Ekman-Larsson (23), perhaps surprised, fell, as the rookie gained inside position. Consequently, Arizona’s coverage was scrambled. By the time Radil has circled the net, three Coyotes, including Ekman-Larsson, were covering Barclay Goodrow (23).
If Radil’s game-winning maneuver seemed familiar, it’s because he tried the same thing earlier in the contest.
On one hand, San Jose earned just half of the possible points on this road trip. On the other hand, this was the first road swing in a while where you could say the Sharks outplayed their opponents most of the time.