It was the San Jose Sharks’ most challenging road trip of the year: Washington, Florida, Carolina, and then, Tampa Bay last night to finish off the stretch. The team earned four points out of a possible eight going into the upcoming 12-day break — which isn’t a great record, but also not as bad as it could have been, all things considered.
It could have ended on a less-sour note, as the Sharks were bested by the Tampa Bay Lightning in overtime with a final score of 3-2, this following three games where they beat the Washington Capitals, earned a point in overtime against the Florida Panthers, and narrowly lost in regulation to the Carolina Hurricanes.
The results from the last night were not without some drama. Timo Meier was seemingly hooked between the legs by Lightning defender Ryan McDonagh while the Sharks maintained possession in the 3-on-3 overtime. Meier fell and the whistle was blown, but McDonagh and Meier were both called to the box: McDonagh for tripping, and Meier for embellishment. Tampa’s Victor Hedman put the game away 30 seconds later, scoring on Sharks goaltender James Reimer.
It played out like a spurned opportunity that led to a reversal of fortunes. Sharks head coach Bob Boughner voiced his displeasure at what he believed was one of a few gaffes on the part of the officials working the game. Brent Burns and Logan Couture did not offer much insight on the play, though it seems all three who were available postgame can agree that the team needs to look forward.
They also discussed goaltender James Reimer’s play, what a break means for the team, and what they’ve been doing right in the past few games. Here’s what they had to say:
On second effort against Tampa Bay after losing to them on Jan. 22: We talked about that last game and we weren’t happy with the way we played. The message tonight was getting through the first 20, especially the first five minutes in this building. It’s a tough building. A lot of energy, they feed off it.
I thought we did a real good job at the beginning of the game sort of establishing our pace and just playing smart and being above them and generating a few chances ... we didn’t wait around and see how the game was gonna go.
On the Meier and McDonagh offsetting penalties in OT: I had a hard time understanding ... there was a few things that I really didn’t like tonight. That double-minor called on Timo going to the net getting pushed into the goalie, I’m not crazy about the 5-on-3 call. But we battled through it, we found a way to get a power play and a power play goal.
But at that time of game, you work so hard to get to that position. You get a scoring chance and you get hauled down. I thought that we were going on the power play. I was actually shocked to see it evened up. But that’s how it goes ... we just didn’t find it in overtime.
On team’s position with 36 games left: I guess our fate’s in our own hands. We play a lot of teams around us that are either just ahead of us or just behind us and that’s a good thing. It’s home-heavy, we’ve done a lot of travel. Hopefully we can take advantage of this break — we have a better break than most teams. I think getting rest will be key.
... We give ourselves a chance. We’re in the fight, we’re right here. Whether it’s fighting for a Wild Card spot or fighting for second or third in our division, it’s all in our sights. But we have a lot of work to do. We know we can’t win one, lose one on the way in. We have to go on some stretches here. That’s gonna be a good challenge for us.
On improvements from this time last year: You see 20 guys every night fighting hard for each other. We’ve had a couple bad ones like every team does. But you see how tight they are, you see them sticking up for each other, you see how hard they play. We’re sort of never out of a game. We’re a hard team to play against. Win or lose — I think that teams in the league know that it’s not an easy game. We’re tough to play against and we play the right way.
On the team’s ‘compete’ to earn points on the road trip: We knew it was going to be a tough trip. I think it was five games in a row there against pretty good teams. For the most part all year, we’ve grinded and worked for each other. Just tough. Just close to getting two points a couple games there. It’s gonna be that way. Just grind every night and push for each other and try to play a clean game.
For the most part we’ve been keeping games pretty tight. We need two points though. So it’s always frustrating.
On how he saw Meier’s embellishment call: Yeah, I mean I didn’t really, so [shrugging].
On Mario Ferraro’s play in quick return from injury: He’s obviously extremely tough. Just a character, team guy. He’s in incredible shape too, to be able to do it and step in and play a lot of minutes and play hard minutes. [Tampa’s] a team that has a lot of skill, a lot of speed.
To step back in and battle through it — that’s Mario. He’s been that kind of guy all year. That’s the stuff that’s huge for teams.
On improvements from this time last year: I don’t remember last year too much, to be honest. But it’s like I said: we work, we grind, it’s not always pretty — it probably shouldn’t be if we’re doing what we need to do, and how we need to play.
It’s just working for each other, with each other ... yeah, just a grind. Grind it out.
On Reimer’s play on the road trip: He’s been great for us. He’s been huge. It can’t be said enough how great he’s been and ... huge saves. I like to tell him it’s about time he start working and playing back-to-backs. [Laughing] The rest of us gotta do it, he should have to do it. Gotta work.
On if there are takeaways from road trip going into two-week break: No — it’s a long time. Obviously we gotta try to stay fresh — and what was working for us and what doesn’t work for us — and bring it back right away. We’re in a tough race and a tough spot and we know it. We gotta start stringing together some streaks and getting two points. We know that. Get back to work here shortly.
On Meier’s embellishment call: I couldn’t see it. I was in that corner that was nearest to the bench. I haven’t been able to see the replay yet. I know Timo was upset and the coaches were upset. I think the monitors are behind our bench, so they may have seen it. Tough one.
On takeaways from road trip: This whole road trip was gutsy. From our team, every night, we competed with four really good teams in the Eastern Conference. Four teams that are near the top of the league and we were in every game.
We had that lead in Florida, we were tied late with Carolina. Tonight could have gone either way as well. We’ve been missing some big parts of our team throughout this trip with Erik —and Mario coming back tonight. Just a gutsy effort all around. Reims was excellent this entire trip. Lot of guys stepped up and played big minutes and played hard for us.
On Ferraro’s impact in return game: He didn’t miss a beat. He was great. Blocked shots. What a warrior, man.
I was pretty shocked when I got to the rink today and he was getting that visor put on his helmet — I thought he was nuts. But he wants to play. He wants to play for the guys in the room. Those are leaders, those are guys ... they’ll do anything to help their teammates out in a tough spot.
On the role of leaders in the Sharks locker room: That’s our whole team right now. Guys are willing to do whatever it takes to give ourselves a chance to win hockey games. Whether that’s blocking shots or fighting or whatever it takes. Scoring goals, all year.
We been missing guys throughout the year and other guys have stepped up ... it’s a tight room in there.
On if team’s stock is rising after road trip performance: I really don’t think it does for us in the room. Maybe for the outside world. Maybe some fans or journalists or whatever that thought we were gonna get the doors blown off us on this trip. Coming off that game against Tampa at home, losing 7-1, I’m sure it was easy to think that way ... there’s a lot of belief in that room that we can play with anyone.
It’s almost too bad that there’s a break right now because we’re feeling good about our game.
On upcoming break: In the same sentence, it’s nice to have some time to relax and rest. Guys are pretty banged up right now. It’s a long season so this will be nice to get some rest and get back to work in a little bit here.
For the next couple days, just get away from the game and spend time with our loved ones and families. Guys are going in different directions, so cherish those moments, but still get some work in.
And then we head back to practice. We gotta have some good practices because we’re going to be playing an Edmonton team that I think will be coming off a little bit of a break, but not as long as us. So, we’ll have to get up to speed pretty quickly.
On importance of secondary scoring: We needed it. Rudy’s been great since he’s come back. Crazy year for him with the injury and then COVID after his first game back. It’s a different dimension for us, up front in the top-six with his speed and skill. Right now, he’s all over the puck. When he’s playing good, he’s tenacious on the forecheck with a good stick. He’s not the most physical player, but he’s so intelligent.
[Dahlen] was shooting the puck well all trip and he’s a very smart player, as well. We can’t count on Timo and Tommy to score 50 goals this year. We gotta get offense from other guys, myself included. It’s nice to get one tonight, because it had been awhile from me. It’s nice to get different contributions.
*Lightly edited for clarity.