There’s been a common theme throughout the 2018-19 San Jose Sharks season: the team always looks destined to find that next elite level, only to have it snuffed out. And coming off a magical overtime victory over the Vegas Golden Knights last night, it seemed like they’d finally found that turning point.
But reality set in once again tonight, as the Calgary Flames took down the Sharks 5-3 to clinch the Pacific Division title and the number one seed in the West, highlighted by a minute and a half during the first period where the Flames turned a 1-0 San Jose lead into a 3-1 advantage. The Sharks are forced to settle for the second place division spot, where they’ll face the Golden Knights in the first round of the playoffs.
In a game where solid goaltending was supposed to be the most crucial factor, it was the Sharks’ blueline that really struggled tonight. Aaron Dell had his tougher moments, such as the final Calgary goal from Michael Frolik where he’d misplayed the puck behind the net, but his defenders hung him out to dry on far too many others.
With the final week of the season in front of them, the Sharks will have three more chances to prove that the best has yet to come. Even on a team missing their captain in Joe Pavelski and one of their superstar defensemen in Erik Karlsson, there were still flashes of brilliance tonight. Logan Couture’s late third period goal was the result of some incredible passing from Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl, and there was a point in the first period when two Sharks lines completely took over in the offensive end for nearly two whole minutes, grinding down the Flames defense and getting some great scoring chances. If San Jose can turn the tide (and their confidence) with some solid performances against the Canucks, Oilers and Avalanche, their chances at capturing Lord Stanley’s Cup could be greater than ever.
Hellooooo San Jose! I’m Lach in the Crease, and I’ll be your guide for tonight’s battle for the Pacific Division title between the Sharks and the Flames. Let’s watch these titans put on a show!
20:00: Aaron Dell in the net to our left, Mike Smith to our right with the fate of the Pacific on the line. Let’s do that hockey!
18:53: Logan Couture gets whistled for a questionable interference call, and the Sharks get an early chance to showcase their penalty kill.
16:53: Yikes, Sean Monahan rings one off the post. Sharks escape the penalty kill unscathed.
14:01: Vlasic throws a low shot at the net, but Mike Smith bobbles it like a grenade and nearly puts it in his own net. It’s gonna be one of those nights people, buckle up.
11:50: Amazing pressure by the Hertl, Kane and Nyquist line and the Jumbo, Labanc and Sorensen combo. It doesn’t result in a goal, but play like that is how you wear down playoff opponents over the course of a series.
7:59: GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLL!!! IT’S TIMO TIME, BABY! A perfect shot with T.J. Brodie screening in front of Mike Smith and Timo has his 30th of the year. 1-0, Sharks!
5:02: Flames score. Johnny Gaudreau uses his wizard powers to throw a seeing eye pass to Sean Monahan, who buries the puck past Dell. Tie game.
4:31: Flames take the lead. Mark Jankowski pounces on some defensive confusion for the Sharks, and catches Dell off guard with a snapshot. 2-1, Calgary.
3:47: Another one for the Flames. Dalton Prout sneaked behind the San Jose blueliners, picked up a centering pass from Andrew Mangiapane and tucks the puck past Dell’s right pad. All of a sudden it’s 3-1, Flames. Oof.
1:18: Soooo close to a one goal game. Labanc tips a Brent Burns shot, and it hits Mike Smith in the face before bouncing off the crossbar and the post.
END FIRST: Sharks 1, Flames 3
And that’s the first. The Sharks get off to a promising start, before Calgary spoils it with three late goals. Might be time to get your liquor of choice out, we could be in for long night.
20:00: Second period, time to get this game back on track. Away we go!
17:00: T.J. Brodie nearly gets a grade-A scoring chance, but Brenden Dillon makes a smart stick check and forces the shot wide.
13:57: Today’s featured a very East-West type of game so far for both teams. Less passes in between zones and more stretch passes for odd-man rushes and showcasing the speed of the game. Very early ‘90s feel to the action tonight and I love it.
12:33: 4-1, Flames, and let me just say: woof. Mikael Backlund tips a Matthew Tkachuk pass wide of the net, but it hits the blade of Joakim Ryan’s stick and trickles in. This is getting ugly fast for the Sharks.
10:45: Dylan Gambrell gets caught putting the hook on Gaudreau and the Sharks head back to the penalty kill. Potential make or break moment here.
8:45: Hertl gets a great shorthanded chance, but Mike Smith slides across for some highway robbery. So close to a momentum shifting goal. Either way, another successful kill.
7:24: Oh man, Sharks get caught with too many men on the ice. Not even the line changes are clicking right now.
3:00: Dell comes up with a sliding save on a Calgary odd man rush to keep the deficit at three. It definitely hasn’t been his season, but tonight Dell’s defenders haven’t been giving him enough help.
0:50: In a shocking turn of events, Michael Haley’s work in the offensive zone draws a penalty out of Mark Giordano. It’s power play time!
END SECOND: Sharks 1, Flames 4
Forty minutes are in the books. The Sharks will start the third on the man advantage, but the Flames take a 4-1 lead into the final frame.
20:00: Two periods down, one to go. Twenty minutes for the Sharks to keep their division title chances alive. Game on!
17:59: Sean Monahan holds up Teenage Mutant Ninja Hertl, and the Sharks get another power play opportunity. Make it count, boys.
14:37: SCOORRRRRESSS!!! Logan Couture finishes off some nifty passing from Hertl and Timo and cuts the lead to 4-2! We’ve got ourselves a game again!
11:35: Flames score. Aaron Dell loses the puck behind the net and gets caught scrambling. Michael Frolik has a yawning cage and makes no mistake. 5-2 Calgary.
10:41: Justin Braun takes out Jankowski’s skates and the Flames get their fourth man advantage. Maybe stop taking penalties, guys? Just a suggestion.
8:41: Penalty kill complete, now it’s crunch time. Attaaaaack!
6:55: Things are getting a little heated here after Joakim Ryan rams Tkachuk hard into the glass. Ryan gets the gate for boarding and the Sharks will play a man short for the fifth time tonight.
3:55: SHARRRRRKS GOAAAAAL! Kevin Labanc snaps a quick shot past Smith thanks to a sneaky pass from Tim Heed on the rush. 5-3, Calgary with four minutes to go.
2:23: Another Sharks penalty. Timo Meier heads to the sin bin for cross-checking, and that might be a fate sealing one too.
1:00: Final minute of play. Give it everything you got.
FINAL: Sharks 3, Flames 5
And that’s the horn. Calgary wins the game 5-3, taking both the Pacific Division title and the Western Conference’s top seed in the process. Thank you so much for following along tonight, I’ve been Lach in the Crease, and we’ll see you in Vancouver on Tuesday.
Sometimes the game you least expect to win is the one that finally bumps a slump.
The San Jose Sharks’ 4-3 win over the Vegas Golden Knights last night meant far more than just their first win in eight games. It represented a major confidence boosting victory over the team they’re all but guaranteed to meet in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
But thanks to that win, there’s still a slim chance the Sharks can change their opening round fate, and the only team standing in their way is tonight’s opponent, the Pacific-leading Calgary Flames. The Flames can clinch the division title with a victory tonight, while also cementing a San Jose/Vegas playoff matchup.
For the Sharks to come out on top, they’ll need to shutdown one of the NHL’s most powerful offenses that features Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Matthew Tkachuk. But the real X-factor comes in the nets; Calgary’s Mike Smith has had a troubling season and lost his starting job to David Rittich early on, while Aaron Dell has struggled to make an impact in his limited role behind Martin Jones. If the bluelines can’t hold back the offense, this game could end up being a high-scoring barnburner.
Expected Scratches: Lukas Radil, Jacob Middleton (healthy)
Injured: Joe Pavelski (undisclosed), Erik Karlsson (lower body), Melker Karlsson (lower body)
Johnny Gaudreau — Sean Monahan — Elias Lindholm
Matthew Tkachuk — Mikael Backlund — Michael Frolik
James Neal — Mark Jankowski — Austin Czarnik
Andrew Mangiapane — Derek Ryan — Garnet Hathaway
Mark Giordano — Rasmus Andersson
Noah Hanifin — Travis Hamonic
T.J. Brodie — Dalton Prout
Expected Scratches: Alan Quine, Oscar Fantenburg, Oliver Kylington
Injured: Sam Bennett (upper body)
Where to Watch
It’s another early start at SAP Center, with puck drop slated for 5 p.m. Pacific/8 p.m. Eastern. The Sharks and Flames will also be taking tonight to celebrate Hockey Is For Everyone night. You can catch the game on NBC Sports California in the Bay Area, Sportsnet in Canada and streaming on NHL.tv and ESPN+. You can also listen to the radio call on 98.5 KFOX or through the Sharks app.