CALGARY, Alberta — The good news for the Sharks is that they’re done with March.
The bad news is that barring a drastic turnaround, April might not be much better.
A combination of some tough luck in the offensive zone and a handful of mistakes at the other end Friday sent the Sharks to a 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames, their eighth defeat in nine games.
Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic and forward Melker Karlsson scored for the Sharks, who have been held to two goals or less in all eight of their most recent losses. Goalie Martin Jones was pulled after two periods after he allowed four goals on 22 shots.
Now with just four games left in the regular season, the Sharks are quickly running out of time to get their game in a better spot before the start of the playoffs.
“We know we’re a better team than the record indicates,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said. “It was only two weeks ago we were playing some great hockey, and we did for a long time. It’s fixable. We’ve just got to get back at it.”
It’s tough to recognize how the Sharks are playing right now.
They certainly do not look like the team that beat Washington 4-2 on March 9, or the one that had a nine-point lead in the Pacific Division after convincing wins over Dallas and Buffalo on March 12 and 14.
The effort’s usually been there, as they poured 38 shots toward Flames goalie Brian Elliott, one night after they put 40 on Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot.
But the Sharks — who went 0-for-4 on the power play — aren’t converting their chances and over the last six games, have allowed 27 goals on a manned net.
“I don’t know. We just need to execute better,” said Jones when asked what the biggest issue is with the defense. “Better execution, a little harder to play against in our own end, and we need more big saves.”
Vlasic’s goal at the 8:25 mark of the second period cut the Flames’ lead to 2-1. But goals by Matt Stajan and Alex Chiasson in the latter half of the second was far too much for the Sharks to overcome, as goalie Jones was replaced by Aaron Dell to start the third period.
Elliott stopped 36 of 38 shots for the Flames, who clinched a playoff spot for the second time in three seasons.
“We could have easily had three or four goals here tonight. We created enough chances to do that,” DeBoer said. “I would argue a couple of their goals probably shouldn’t have gone in. It’s that combination – we’re not finishing for our goalies, and we’re not getting a big save at the right time.
“That’s a recipe for disaster, I don’t care what league you’re in.”
Stajan’s goal at the 12:38 mark of the second period seemed especially suspect.
After Michael Stone intercepted Marcus Sorensen’s clearing attempt, he put a shot on net that Jones high on his chest. Justin Braun couldn’t stop the rebound and it came to Stajan, who chopped it past Jones for his sixth of the season.
“It’s been one or two plays, you know, each night it’s been kind of been a different guy,” Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said. “If I have an off night, or someone else has an off night, it catches up with us for whatever reason. It’s been burning us. It’s frustrating, as a group. It’s been frustrating.”
The Sharks remained stuck at 93 points and are now just one point ahead of the Flames.
Regardless of what happened Friday, the Sharks were going to be all too glad to turn the page on the calendar.
The Sharks went 6-10 in March as they and saw what was a nine-point lead in the division on the morning of March 15 dwindle to nothing. They then entered Friday three points back of first place Anaheim, which went 10-2-2 in March to put itself in an ideal spot to win its fifth straight division crown.
Add in a facial injury to Logan Couture that’ll keep him out for an undetermined amount of time and you have a San Jose free-fall that’s coming at the most inopportune time.
The Sharks play in Vancouver against the Canucks on Sunday in their final road game of the regular season, then return to SAP Center to play the Canucks, Edmonton Oilers and Flames in their final homestand.
“It’s not a big margin, winning and losing,” Jones said. “We just need to be a little bit better. We need to execute better, we need to play a little bit harder.”
• Joonas Donskoi and Joel Ward were scratched Friday. Donskoi had not registered a point in 13 games since he returned from an upper body injury on March 6 and Ward had gone without a point in eight games. Kevin Labanc was reinserted into the lineup after he was scratched from Thursday’s game in Edmonton, and Sorensen was back in after he sat for the last two games vs. the Oilers and New York Rangers.