SAN JOSE — The Sharks would still love to have home ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs. Now in all likelihood, they’ll need to find a way to beat the Edmonton Oilers at least one time on the road.
The Sharks had the effort they wanted Thursday but didn’t get the result, as Milan Lucic’s third period natural hat trick gave the Oilers a 4-2 win and likely at least second place in the Pacific Division.
Special teams was the biggest difference, as the Sharks went 0-for-4 on the power play and saw Lucic score twice with the man advantage, including an insurance goal with 3:29 to go.
With the Sharks leading 2-1, forward Marcus Sorensen was awarded a penalty shot at the 2:19 mark of the third period after he was hooked from behind by Oilers defenseman Matt Benning. Sorensen was stopped by Oilers goalie Cam Talbot on the attempt, and Lucic scored the first of his three goals at the 4:26 mark to tie the game.
“Had the game on our stick I think on the penalty shot and we don’t score there, they get a big save and momentum shifts,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said. “I think it was a game (where) that was going to be the difference, a play like that.”
With the loss, the Sharks now need to beat Calgary on Saturday in their regular season finale, then hope Edmonton loses twice in regulation time to Vancouver — which has lost six straight — to close its season.
In all likelihood, the Sharks will now be opening the playoffs next week in Edmonton, which has now won three straight in the burgeoning rivalry and captured the season series three-games-to-two.
“There’s no magic formula to it,” Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said of beating the Oilers. “It’s just everyone elevating their game a little bit and doing the job. … It’s a team that we can play with.”
Lucic’s first goal came just eight seconds after the Sharks were called for too many men, as he tipped a point shot from defenseman Oscar Klefbom past Martin Jones.
Edmonton then took the lead at the 7:57 mark of the third.
After Jones came out to challenge Klefbom on the right side of the net, and stopped the initial shot, Klefbom got the rebound and passed in front to Lucic, who had inside position on David Schlemko and tapped it in for his second goal of the game and his 22nd of the season.
“I didn’t see the puck squeezing through the short side there,” Schlemko said. “I’ve got to get inside and get under (Lucic’s) stick.”
Brent Burns scored his 29th of the season with 7:30 left in the second period to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead.
Burns’ shot from inside the blue line somehow got through a maze of players and past Talbot for his 75th point this season, matching the total he had last year when he set the team record for points in a season by a defenseman.
Joel Ward also scored for the Sharks, who still have 97 points and are two back of Edmonton. The Sharks can’t catch Anaheim after the Ducks improved to 103 points with their win over Chicago.
The Sharks still have not beaten another Western Conference playoff team since they topped Chicago 3-1 on Jan. 31. Since then, there’s been two losses to Minnesota, Nashville and now Edmonton, and one loss to Calgary, St. Louis and Anaheim.
The Sharks had a season-low 15 shots on goal. Jones finished with 28 saves. The Oilers also blocked 28 shots.
“I thought we came out, we worked hard,” DeBoer said. “I don’t think the shot clock or the score reflected the game. They blocked a ton of shots, but we had some looks and it could have gone either way in the third.
Joe Thornton and Logan Couture both skated again Thursday morning. Although Thornton proclaimed Wednesday that he’d be back for the start of the postseason next week, there remains no clear indication when they’ll both be ready to go.
Both the shorthanded Sharks and the Oilers were looking to set a certain tone ahead of a potential playoff series.
The Sharks won the first two meetings with the Oilers this season but went on to lose the next two, including a 3-2 defeat in Edmonton on March 30.
Patrick Maroon scored twice in that game, including the winner, Connor McDavid had a goal and an assist and Talbot had 38 saves.The Sharks felt that if they were able to eliminate the mistakes that led to two of those Oilers goals, including the shorthanded tally by McDavid, they’d give themselves a decent chance Thursday.
Jones was making his seventh straight start Thursday, and his fifth straight start against the Oilers this season, as the Sharks are hoping he can settle into a rhythm before the playoff.
In his four previous games against the Oilers this season, Jones had a .885 save percentage and a 2.74 goals against average.