The San Jose Sharks were, by their own admission, drained.
“Five games in eight days here. Against some good teams, some emotional wins,” noted Joe Pavelski.
On top of victories over the Tampa Bay Lightning and Vegas Golden Knights, there was a pre-game ceremony celebrating Brent Burns’s 1,000th game. It was Erik Karlsson’s second game against the Ottawa Senators. They just enjoyed their dads’ trip. Old friends Chris Tierney, Mikkel Boedker and Dylan DeMelo were back in town. They coped with injuries to Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun.
“The boys in here were tired today,” Karlsson acknowledged. “We did what we had to do to get away with the W. It wasn’t a pretty game.”
Melker Karlsson did his part in helping San Jose get away with a 4-1 victory, especially on the penalty kill.
In a tightly-contested affair like this — it was a scoreless or one-goal game for most of the night — special teams can make all the difference in the world. On each of Ottawa’s three power plays — San Jose had just one man-advantage, in comparison — Karlsson (68) did something impactful.
Before we get to those critical plays, let’s talk a little about Karlsson’s role on the penalty kill. His general duties — alternating with Barclay Goodrow — are as the F1 on the opposing team’s breakout and pressuring the puck carrier in his defensive zone.
This job requires a high motor and Karlsson’s certainly got that. In this clip, in a matter of seconds, Karlsson has pressured three Senators into each surrendering the puck.
This is standard stuff, demonstrating Karlsson’s solid foundation as a penalty killer.
Especially when you’re down a man, your awareness has to be heightened. When there’s a breakdown, you have to react quickly.
Off the Christian Jaros (83) pass down low to Boedker (89), Karlsson anticipated Boedker’s intentions, jumping Rudolf Balcers (38) in front. This Karlsson read helped prevent the rookie from breaking a scoreless deadlock.
On the next kill, Karlsson lured Jaros into an ill-advised pass by banging his stick on the ice, as if he were a teammate calling for the pass. This appeared to fool Jaros, who rifled a pass in the direction of the sound. Instead, Karlsson deflected the puck out.
Karlsson’s work on these two kills helped set the stage for Pavelski’s game-opening strike just 1:44 later.
Halfway through the third period, the Sharks were hanging on to a 2-1 lead. Karlsson emerged again during a critical special teams moment.
At the end of their penalty killing shift — Karlsson-Goodrow-Karlsson-Brenden Dillon had been out there for almost 40 seconds — Karlsson read Balcers on the half-wall, intercepting a pass back to the point. This clear allowed at least the penalty killing forwards to change.
In all, Karlsson was on the ice for only one 4-on-5 shot against. In comparison, Dillon was on for four of the five power play shots by Ottawa.
Less than four minutes later, Joe Thornton gave the Sharks an insurance goal. To close the contest, Karlsson himself notched a well-earned empty netter.
“Our PK has been good all year,” offered Pete DeBoer.
“We got some of those identity guys like Melker, Goodrow. Sorensen does a good job for us. Some of the depth guys who really take a lot of pride in that.
“That’s been a staple for us for a while.”