The San Jose Sharks jumped out to a two-goal lead at home in the first period Thursday, March 24. Todd McLellan may have now been coaching the team with the worst point percentage on the 2015-16 NHL season, but he had to know the Edmonton Oilers could still win.
McLellan coached the Sharks for the past seven seasons and knows they coast on leads and against lesser competition. The Oilers provided him with both thanks to a combination of poor discipline and officiating, then were led to victory by the photo list of stars.
San Jose’s complacency has reared its head repeatedly at home over the last two seasons, and it is the primary reason it has more losses than wins over that span. The home record dipped back below .500 (16-17-3) on the 2015-16 NHL season.
The biggest problem for the Sharks stands out on the event summary like Brent Burns in his leprechaun suit: 32-26 faceoffs, 36-14 giveaways, 12-8 takeaways, 27-26 hits, 55-50 attempts, 26-22 shots, 20-14 blocks. A team should not commit 36 giveaways over two games that both go through overtime much less against a bad defensive team.
They were sloppy defensively, sloppy on the attack and put forth a sloppy effort after the first period. In the process, they basically abdicated the Pacific Division.
With the Los Angeles Kings losing in regulation and the Anaheim Ducks in overtime, San Jose had a chance to move to within three points of first place and half a game of second place respectively. With just eight games left in the 2015-16 NHL season, there just is not time to win the Pacific Division.
Even winning the one remaining head-to-head game at home Monday, the Sharks would need to earn four more points in the other seven games to overtake the Kings because the tiebreak is almost certain to work toward the two-time Stanley Cup champions. Even catching the Ducks could be hard since the teams do not play again and the three-time defending Pacific Division champions have a game in hand.
Then again, the effort does not lack on the road so home-ice “advantage” is not something San Jose should want. What the players should want is to have their fans go home happy.
Despite all the talk about how the two points were more important than sending a message, Micheal Haley was called up and upon to fight Darnell Nurse early in the first period. Edmonton’s rookie jumped new Shark Roman Polak the last time the teams met.
It looked like Polak had gotten a deeper revenge by scoring the goal right after the fight, but replay showed Tommy Wingels deflected it. The Oilers then seemed to lose their composure, with Zach Kassian taking an ill-advised but also ticky-tack penalty that led to a textbook one-timer for Joe Pavelski set up for him by Joe Thornton from behind the net.
The game changed quickly in the second period. Lauri Korpikoski deflected an Adam Clendening shot home in the first two minutes and Taylor Hall stole the puck from Patrick Marleau before putting a shot past James Reimer to tie it 8:18 in.
Nurse got a secondary assist 45 seconds later when the Oilers took the lead on Clendening’s shot. Patrick Maroon got the primary assist but then was in the box when Patrick Marleau tied it back up by putting home a loose puck; Thornton and Burns got the assists.
Kassian’s reaction to a boarding penalty shortly afterwards got him thrown from the game, but the Sharks also lost Joonas Donskoi (to injury) during the middle frame and could not score on the power play. They fell behind for good a minute after returning to even-strength during a delayed penalty of their own, as Connor McDavid fed Maroon for the easy one-time goal on the odd-man rush.
McDavid then undressed Thornton to get into the San Jose zone and Maroon got another assist on Jordan Eberle’s goal with just over seven minutes left because Edmonton was able to sustain the attack. Hall added an empty-net goal with six seconds left to cap the scoring.
Coupled with a win by the Arizona Coyotes, the Sharks were unable to clinch a Stanley Cup-playoff berth for the second game in a row. The Oilers are still in last place in the Pacific Division after the loss and two points further below than any other team over the 2015-16 NHL season.