Giving up one shorthanded goal in a playoff game is unfortunate. Giving up two is inexcusable.
The Sharks made no excuse Friday night.
“We got what we probably deserved,” said captain Joe Pavelski. “And I was leading the way.”
Actually, the parade was pretty thick and didn’t need much leading.
But there was no “probably” about what the Sharks deserved..
And yes, Pavelski is correct in one respect. He did make the most visible mistake of his team’s Game 2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. On an evening when the Sharks had a man advantage on six occasions, they wound up being outshot by the Oilers 6-5 during those power plays and scored zero goals–while the Oilers scored two. Which is how the beloved Los Tiburones wound up losing one of the weirder disappointing playoff games in franchise history, 2-0.
The Oilers’ first goal occurred early in the second period, when the game was still scoreless and Pavelski was stickhandling the puck not far from the blue line . . .until suddenly, the handle fell off. Pavelski’s attempted pass to defenseman Brent Burns drifted into no-man’s land. When Pavelski tried to fix things by chipping the puck backward into a safer spot, he made it worse. The puck found the stick of Edmonton penalty killer Zack Kassian, who was off to the races on a breakaway and gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead.
That was still just one shorthanded goal. Edmonton turned it into two halfway through the third peeriod when young gun Connor McDavid tipped a puck past the Joel Ward in the Sharks’ offensive zone and took off streaking down the left side of the ice. Shark defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic rushed over and tried to get his stick in front of McDavid’s before he fired the puck and couldn’t quite do so. McDavid scored.
The Sharks were not going to recover from that. And they didn’t. The team’s five-on-five play was not awesome, with minimal offense being generated while goalie Martin Jones was saving bacon at the opposite end of the ice with his 34 saves.
But seriously . . . how does an experienced playoff team such as the Sharks wind up allowing two shorthanded goals in a postseason game where concentration and detail are paramount?
“It just can’t happen,” Burns said. “But it’s hockey. So it does. We know we’ve got better games to come.”
An optimist would take that view. The Sharks did manage to take a split of the first two games here in Edmonton–after winning Wednesday in overtime–and return to San Jose with the opportunity to win the series by simply winning the three potential home games left in the best-of-seven. But the Oilers did what was necessary Friday to make it clear they are not going to play the role of young-team-just-happy-to-be-there.
Rather, you might now cast the Oilers as the young-team-not-afraid-to-come-back-punching. For that’s what they did Friday. Clearly out to make a physical statement, Edmonton outhit the Sharks’ 41-21 on the statistic sheet and created several highlight plays of wicked contact. The most replayed one will be the second-period full-body check by Kassian on the Sharks’ Logan Couture, who is still recovering from a painful mouth injury.
Kassian appeared to throw his shoulder and chest area into Couture’s head and he went down in a heap. Couture popped up quickly, though, and kept going without seeming effect and even did an interview between the second and third periods for the Canadian network broadcasting the game. Burns said it’s all part of the postseason package.
“It’s big-boy hockey,” Burns said. “Butr our guys are hanging in, sacrificing. That’s what playoff hockey is about.”
Kassian did not receive a penalty for his Couture hit. But the Oilers had plenty of other trips to the penalty box, which led to more and more frustration when the Sharks could not capitalize.
“We have to make them pay for taking liberties,” said Sharks coach Pete DeBoer. “We didn’t tonight.”
The problem is only compounded when a team doesn’t. If you don’t score on power play after power play–after your opponent is whistled for penalty after penalty–then the opponent in question will keep taking risks with physical hits because of the feeling that there will be no consequences for yet another whistle.
Still, DeBoer said, he likes the Sharks’ chances of winning across seven games. He credited Edmonton’s higher desperation level, with the Oilers having the better hand.
“You can’t create the desperation of trying to avoid being down 2-0 at home in a series,” DeBoer said. “They were the better team tonight,” DeBoer said. “We were the better team the other night. It’s settling in. This isn’t going to be a short series.”
Not short is okay. Not shorthanded-goal-dominated would be even more advisable.