The San Jose Sharks continued their Jekyll-and-Hyde 2015-16 NHL season in more ways than one in beating the Nashville Predators Saturday, April 2. Down 2-0 a couple minutes into the third, the comeback underscored the difference in the team from the first two periods to the last as well as home and away.
San Jose’s best players played their best at the most crucial time in hostile territory. In fact, former Shark Carter Hutton is the only pictured star for the home team because he is the main reason Nashville even came away with a point.
The victory allows the team to tie a franchise record for road wins. The 2007-08 Sharks were 27-10-4 on the road. so this team could break that with a win at the Minnesota Wild Tuesday.
San Jose is now 27-10-3 away from home over the 2015-16 NHL season. One point in Minnesota not only ties the franchise record for point percentage, but ensures at least a tie for the best road record in the league—as does any loss for the nothing-to-play-for Washington Capitals at the St. Louis Blues April 9.
As good as the Sharks are on the road, they are bad at home. Even by sweeping the last two home games (when they will likely have nothing to play for, against non-playoff teams they frequently show complacency against), the best they can do at SAP Center is .500 (19-19-3). Only seven other teams are under .500 at home this season.
It will be the second consecutive failure to reach 20 wins in San Jose after going 19-17-5 during the 2014-15 NHL season. The road team has won 46 of the last 82 games at SAP Center dating back to the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Fortunately, poor efforts at home have likely ensured the Sharks will start the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs in Southern California and only have home-ice disadvantage three times per series. Unfortunately, teams that cannot win at home do not survive April much less May.
The same holds for teams that play one or two periods. While the scoreboard might have indicated San Jose was again guilty of that, the reality is much different.
The Sharks actually registered nine of the first 14 shot attempts even though both teams had two on goal. The Predators then strung together a couple good shifts that yielded the only three attempts, two shots and one goal over almost two minutes. Roman Josi advanced the puck to Mike Ribeiro, who entered the zone and pulled up along the boards before dropping a pass Shea Weber blasted past James Reimer.
San Jose looked like it was in real trouble when a mad scramble on a penalty kill resulted in a puck getting beyond Reimer at the end of the first, but replays were apparently conclusive enough that the clock had expired before the puck crossed the line. The margin was certainly less than a tenth of a second.
It seemed Nashville was going to seize the momentum from the power play that continued past intermission when Calle Jarnkrok scored about a minute after the penalty expired. Guarded by Brenden Dillon, he still managed to get his stick on a soft pass from James Neal to redirect past Reimer and give him a goal in all three head-to-head games this season.
Hutton kept everything out until the third. The Sharks found another gear from there, getting 16 of the last 21 shots and 29 of the last 38 attempts.
The first goal came just 2:18 into the third, and Joe Thornton now has a point in 31 straight San Jose wins after pulling up along the boards and feeding it deep to Joe Pavelski. The captain’s shot was blocked, but Tomas Hertl was right where he needed to be to wrist the caromed puck to the far corner.
Just over eight minutes later, Thornton got the puck to Brent Burns who found Hertl banging his stick in the slot for a shot-pass deflection, game-tying goal. Despite an overtime power play, the Sharks could not win it until Logan Couture—with the simplest approach of the six shooters—led off the shootout with its only goal.
Still, the event summary shows the game was pretty even before the second intermission. After the blitzkrieg, San Jose had edges in many categories to prevent a fifth loss in seven games: 39-16 faceoffs, 12-1 giveaways and 5-6 takeaways for 11 extra possessions, making the 21-29 hit deficit seem small—particularly with advantages of 81-44 in attempts and 40-30 in shots.
Nashville’s biggest advantage was 24-8 in blocks, which is impressive even considering the extra time defending: 29.6 vs. 18.1 percent of attempts blocked and 1.67 vs. 3.75 shots allowed per block. That and Hutton earned them a point, but it is the only one earned in the last four games.