The San Jose Sharks must have been pulling their hair out over the prospect of another meltdown in Calgary after Mark Jankowski scored just four minutes into the game. This time, however, the game did not tumble out of hand as the evening built. San Jose responded in kind, tallying three goals—the first two of which chased Flames goalie David Rittich—in a span of a minute and a half.
Timo Meier led the Sharks in 5-on-5 individual expected goals in the first period. Justin Braun followed closely behind. San Jose took an 18-12 edge in 5-on-5 shots into the first intermission, led by a gaggle of players including the Joe Thornton line and Braun and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who helped the team to a 7-to-1 shot differential. Though Martin Jones sealed the leak after allowing the game’s first goal, he finished the opening 20 with an even-strength save percentage on unblocked shots 2.3 percent below expected, according to Evolving-Hockey.
Undeterred, Calgary opened the second frame with chance after chance, only to be thwarted by a combination of Martin Jones, unclaimed passes and unfortunate bounces. San Jose’s good fortune continued on a power play nearly half way through the period. Though Calgary issued a barrage of shots, timely blocks and good bounces allowed the Sharks’ so-so penalty kill to escape the dangerous situation.
The proverbial dam appeared to break with just over three minutes left in the second period when the illuminating line of Tomas Hertl, Evander Kane and Joonas Donskoi combined for the team’s fourth goal after a short cycle, a quick pass and a rebound allowed Kane to pot his second of the evening. Calgary did not allow the Sharks to continue building their lead, despite San Jose’s best efforts. A Tim Heed slash moments later gave the Flames a two-minute man advantage. Though the Sharks were not quite so disoriented on this penalty kill, a shot from the left point hit Braun and bounced by Jones into the net.
As the team has seemed to do all season, the Sharks followed up their dazzling first period with a forgettable second. The team controlled just 41 percent of all 5-on-5 shots and just fewer than 43 percent of all 5-on-5 scoring chances in the middle frame. San Jose’s poor penalty kill also continued to malign an otherwise-robust team.
It was only only on the power play where Calgary found themselves crawling back into the contest. The home team overtook San Jose’s expected goals lead thanks to a number of strong chances the Sharks only just managed to turn away.
The third period was even more tense for the visitors, as San Jose not only continued to allow plenty of even-strength chances, but the team also decided to continue wandering to the penalty box and expose their iffy penalty kill.
Despite the Flames’ angry final frame, San Jose rode good luck, solid goaltending and a timely nail-in-the-coffin counter to a revenge victory in Calgary.
Though the Sharks ultimately lost the shot-differential battle 42-46, they were able to mostly keep even with the Flames when it came to 5-on-5 scoring chances, collecting 17 of 35 for 48.6 percent.
The trio of Hertl, Kane and Donskoi continued to be the best forward group for the Sharks, at least as the current lineup goes. They not only combined to score four of the Sharks’ five goals, but they also helped the Sharks take 63 percent of all 5-on-5 score- and venue-adjusted shots on the evening, along with helping generate an entire even-strength expected goal (per Natural Stat Trick).
Sharks’ coach Pete DeBoer benched Tim Heed after his penalty late in the second period, but perhaps the punishment was overbearing. Heed helped the Sharks to a 60 percent shot share at 5-on-5 and more than 56 percent of all scoring chances (per Natural Stat Trick).
Evander Kane generated half of an expected goal at even strength, followed by Tomas Hertl with 0.32 and Timo Meier with 0.24. Meier continues to put up strong individual scoring chance numbers and should go on a goal-scoring run soon (per Evolving-Hockey).
Martin Jones was shaky early, but he cleaned things up as the evening wore on. He finished the evening with a save percentage on unblocked shots nearly three percentage points above expected, good for one-and-a-half goals saved above expected, according to Evolving-Hockey.
San Jose’s shot share has been dipping of late, and this game was no different. Erik Karlsson’s return will help push some of the defenders who might not be built for heavy minutes further down the lineup, impacting the team’s overall results. The team must work on its penalty kill if it wants to stand a chance against good special teams squads, and the goaltending, tonight’s game notwithstanding, will have to improve for a chance at hockey in June.