SAN JOSE — The Sharks’ 1-0 loss to the Edmonton Oilers at SAP Center on Sunday wasn’t decided by special teams, at least not to the extent that Game 2 was back in Edmonton.
But when the Sharks do get power play chances for the rest of the series, however long it lasts, can it at least become a legitimate threat?
Twenty-two of the 23 Sharks’ shots on net in Game 3 came 5 on 5, as they failed to really test Oilers goalie Cam Talbot on two tries with the man advantage. Their first power play chance was cut short after Joel Ward was called for tripping in the second period, and the second came and went with barely a peep.
For the series now, the Sharks are 1 for 14 with the man advantage. It should also be noted that the Oilers are now 1 for 8.
The Sharks, though, need to turn it around soon — especially in an increasingly tight-checking series — or there may not be a Game 6 back in San Jose.
“We’ve got to do more. That’s on us,” Sharks center Logan Couture said. “The 10 power play guys that get out there, you’ve got to create some offense. You’ve got to shoot the puck. You’ve got to score some goals. We know that.
“Obviously that’s been a concern for us all season, our power play hasn’t been where we need it to be. We need to be better. It’s simple to say, it’s easy to say, but we’ve got to be better.”
On the first power play chance, the Sharks had one shot toward the net early on by Brent Burns that was deflected wide. The Sharks got the puck back, but Patrick Marleau, who was in the slot, couldn’t get enough of his stick on a pass from Joe Thornton to redirect it on goal.
Instead, Thornton’s pass got past Marleau and Burns and later wound up outside the zone. The Sharks didn’t threaten again before Ward was assessed a minor penalty.
On the second try six minutes into the second period, after the Sharks controlled a faceoff, Thornton’s pass from behind the net intended for Couture along the boards was intercepted by Andrej Sekera and cleared.
On the ensuing rush after the Sharks gained the zone, Couture, from inside the blue line, fed Burns near the top of the circle. The return pass was nowhere close to Couture, and the puck went to the neutral zone.
Later in the power play, Couture had a shot attempt intercepted, and the Oilers carried it out of the zone. The second power play unit came on and toward the end of the man advantage, Justin Braun put a shot on goal that went wide.
Like they did in Game 2, the Oilers closed down on pucks whenever they saw they had an opportunity to take away time and space. But the Sharks did themselves no favors with errant passing.
At one point, the sold-out crowd at SAP Center begged the Sharks with a loud chant to “shoot the puck.”
“One, I don’t think it was a special teams game.” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said when asked about the power play. “… It would have been nice to get one, they didn’t get one either. Obviously we want to get that fixed.
“They’re doing a good job on the PK. We’re not playing with a lot of confidence there right now. But at the end of the day, we had enough looks 5 on 5 that it shouldn’t have been an area that decided the game, and I don’t think it was.”
DeBoer was asked about Burns, who led the Sharks with 76 points this season but doesn’t have a point so far in the series.
Burns had three shots on net Sunday and he’s clearly working hard to try to create something. But just like it was near the end of the regular season, and for the Oilers’ Connor McDavid in this series, it’s not coming easy. McDavid has one assist, and Kassian’s goal Sunday was just the second for Edmonton at even strength.
“We’re shutting down McDavid. We’re limiting him. They’re doing that to Burns,” DeBoer said. “I think Burnzie had three shots on net tonight. I thought he got some looks. But if they’re going to concentrate on him, somebody else has to get the job done. That’s just like for them.”
While Zack Kassian now has two game winning goals, the Sharks haven’t heads much from three of their four leading scorers this season. Marleau has no points, and Pavelski has one assist — on Melker Karlsson’s overtime goal in Game 1.
“You’ve just got to find a way for those one-goal games,” Pavelski said. “We have a couple of chances, you’ve got to stick them in the net.”
The Sharks felt they were better in a number of areas Sunday. They for sure were much more physical than they were Friday, and that, from DeBoer’s perspective, had nothing to do with the amount of hits they were credited with (58 if anyone cares).
“We wanted to ramp it up physically in our puck battles and our possession and getting inside and I thought we did that,” DeBoer said. “I’m not talking running guys or the hit totals or things like that. That’s not a stat I even look at.
“But I thought we were much more competitive on the puck, getting inside, than we were the game before. We got rewarded with that with some real good looks, especially early in the game.”
Who would have thought that if the Sharks had held McDavid to one point in three games, saw Martin Jones have a .935 save percentage and limit the Oilers to a combined five goals, that they’d be down two games to one?
“They had some good looks, but I thought we limited a lot of their time and space and I’m sure they would probably say the same thing as the game went on,” DeBoer said. “It was a one-goal game, a one shot game and this time of year, you’ve got to find a way to get on the right side of that.
“Obviously we have to score to win. Offensively, that’s the area we’ve to concentrate on. Got to find a way to get a couple of goals here.”