SAN JOSE — The Sharks’ offense continued to sputter Sunday in Game 3 of their first round playoff series against the Edmonton Oilers.
So it wasn’t unreasonable to expect that one costly error would prove to be their undoing.
David Schlemko’s pass from behind his own goal line was intercepted by Zack Kassian, who took a stride and beat Martin Jones with a backhand for the game’s only goal, as the Sharks lost 1-0 to the Oilers at SAP Center.
Kassian’s goal, his second straight game-winner, came at the 10:45 mark of the third period and was enough to give the Oilers a two-games-to-one series lead. Game 4 is Tuesday at SAP Center with Game 5 back in Edmonton on Thursday.
After the goal, Schlemko was sprawled out on the ice, face down, seemingly incredulous that he made such a simple error.
Two days after managing just 16 shots in a 2-0 loss, the Sharks were shut out again by Oilers goalie Cam Talbot, who stopped 22 shots. Sharks goalie Martin Jones had 22 saves in his second straight solid performance.
With Joe Thornton back in the lineup, the Sharks were relentless in the first period when they were credited with an astonishing 32 hits and outshot the Oilers 13-6.
The Oilers, though, regrouped in the second period when they outshot the Sharks 12-4 and slowly gained some momentum. They limited the Sharks to just one shot in the final 11 minutes and killed a boarding penalty to Drake Caggiula with little difficulty.
Jones was once again a steadying presence. Two days after he made 34 saves in the Sharks’ 2-0 loss in Game 2, he had 18 saves in the first two periods.
Two weeks after suffering a left knee injury, Thornton made a dramatic return to the lineup Sunday for the Sharks in their first home playoff game since June 12 of last year when Sidney Crosby and Pittsburgh Penguins were awarded the Stanley Cup.
Thornton’s return came exactly two weeks after he was hurt April 2 against Vancouver in a collision with center Michael Chaput. Thornton missed the last three games of the regular season and the first two games of the playoff series with the Oilers.
Thornton took part in the Sharks’ pregame warmup, something he had not done before games 1 and 2 in Edmonton and began the game on a line with Joe Pavelski and Melker Karlsson.
Thornton said Sunday morning he’d have wait to see if the Sharks’ coaching staff would let him go through the pregame warmup roughly a half-hour before the 7 p.m. start. Clearly, that wasn’t a problem.
With Thornton returning, Mikkel Boedker was a healthy scratch. Logan Couture, who had been centering the Sharks’ top line with Pavelski and Karlsson, centered the second line with Patrick Marleau and Joel Ward.
Thornton was the first player on the ice Sunday morning as the Sharks held an optional skate at their practice facility. He skated briefly and left early, along with defenseman Brent Burns and captain Joe Pavelski, and said his injured left knee felt better Sunday.
While Thornton returned, the Sharks’ ineffective power play also made the trip back to the South Bay.
After going 1 for 12 with the man advantage in the first two games, the Sharks were held without a shot in 3:12 of power play time through two periods.
Thornton returned to play on the top power play unit, but the Sharks’ problems persisted as they wee unable to set up in the Oilers’ zone for any significant amount of time.
The Sharks’ first power play in the period was cut short as Ward, 72 seconds after Benoit Pouliot was called for roughing at the 16:43 mark, was given a tripping penalty.