Winning Play: “We didn’t have enough guys for the whole game”

DENVER, Co. — After their 4-3 overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche, the San Jose Sharks were still talking about the first period.

“I thought in the first period, we turned some pucks over, fed their rush. Got on our heels, took a couple of penalties,” Peter DeBoer said. “That was the period that they had us on their heels quite a bit.”

The Avalanche rolled, perhaps lifted by the surge from a raucous Pepsi Center crowd, outshooting the Sharks 11-5 in the opening frame.

But San Jose didn’t lose the game in the first period. In fact, because of Martin Jones, they withstood the Colorado assault, and it was scoreless after 20.

“Joner made some big-time saves for us,” Logan Couture lamented. “But we just needed more people involved in the game.”

Instead, it was avoidable mistakes in the second and third periods that buried the Sharks.

Tomas Hertl (48) getting a stick on the Ian Cole (28) stretch pass, a good defensive play, actually helped J.T. Compher (37) to skate into the puck.

But then Brenden Dillon (4) had to fend off a 2-on-1, even though San Jose had enough skaters back.

When Compher received the pass, Erik Karlsson (65) had Colin Wilson (22) at the far lane. In the middle, Dillon watched Tyson Jost (17). Both defenders probably expected the back-checking forward, Evander Kane (9), to cover Compher at the other flank.

Instead, Dillon has to switch over to Compher. This leaves Jost, who was already ahead of both Karlsson and Kane, with an open highway down the slot.

In Kane’s defense, that’s a lot of skating for him. He got pulled over to the far side, perhaps to disrupt a potential stretch pass to Jost. It’s a tall order to get back to Compher.

But it’s also the playoffs, somebody’s got to do that skating.

A hockey axiom is don’t throw it up the middle, especially in the defensive zone, unless you’re 100 percent sure it’s safe.

I assume Kevin Labanc (62) was certain, but upstart Colorado, as they have so many times in this series, had other ideas. This kept the puck in the zone for the seeing-eye Compher shot.

A curt Peter DeBoer declined to answer when asked about Compher’s two-goal performance. But perhaps he should’ve channeled his inner Tommy Lasorda:

How does Compher get so open?

Karlsson did not play Derick Brassard (18) successfully, going for the poke check instead of keeping his feet moving.

But how does Compher get so open?

Did Dillon or Marcus Sorensen (20) recognize Compher too slowly? Should Joe Thornton  (19), instead of Sorensen, been the help down low, considering he was closest to Compher at the blueline?

It might be harsh to condemn San Jose for losing a game where they dominated scoring chances in the last two periods. Per Natural Stat Trick, the Sharks held a 27-15 Scoring Chances and 13-5 High-danger Corsi For advantage to close regulation.

On the other hand, along with Couture, DeBoer and Timo Meier made pointed comments suggesting this was not a contest that the Sharks deserved to win.

“We didn’t have enough guys for the whole game,” Meier noted.

DeBoer, probably excusing Meier’s line, took a shot at the rest of his group up front: “There’s a couple exceptions. This time of year, you need all 12 of them going.”

These are pre-season mistakes. These are regular season mistakes. These shouldn’t be post-season mistakes. That is, unless you’re ready to go home.

Of course, that’s what San Jose is doing, as they host Game 7 on Tuesday. The dice may be weighed in the home team’s favor, but you still have to roll. Probable outcomes that haven’t come up in this series may come up yet:

  1. Nathan MacKinnon blows up
  2. Martin Jones gives it up
  3. Avalanche power play overwhelms
  4. Erik Karlsson takes over
  5. Joe Pavelski returns
  6. Sharks power play bites back

If you’re the Sharks, these aren’t dice you want to roll. Welcome to Game 7.