SAN JOSE -– When the Stanley Cup playoffs begin next week, none of the Sharks players will be preoccupied with how they blew a pair of leads to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday in a last-second 5-4 home loss.
Still, that doesn’t mean there weren’t some sour faces afterwards in the dressing room -– or just outside of it, where head coach Pete DeBoer was visibly annoyed after witnessing his club surrender advantages of 3-1 in the second period and 4-3 in the third.
"Burn the tape. Nothing pretty tonight,” DeBoer said.
“We let them get inside on us. We got soft defensively. I don't know if relax is the word, but I can't remember another game this year where we've kind of allowed a team to jump back in like that, so I'm going to chalk it up to the circumstances and we'll move forward."
The Sharks didn’t seem prepared to work as hard as Winnipeg, perhaps a result of those circumstances to which DeBoer is referring. Already aware that the division was out of reach before the game began, San Jose lagged the necessary details to its game.
Still, there were positives to be gleaned. Everyone apparently avoided injury. And, they'll now officially start the playoffs on the road, where they've enjoyed tremendous success all season.
Conversely, the Jets won’t make the playoffs, allowing them to play a more carefree and loose game. That’s how it looked, anyway.
“We didn’t play with a playoff-type mentality,” Tommy Wingels said. “You can’t get into the rush game in the playoffs. You can’t turn pucks over in the neutral zone. You can’t turn pucks over coming out of the zone, and that’s what we did numerous times.”
In net, Martin Jones returned after a week off as James Reimer started and won road games in Nashville and Minnesota. He allowed five goals on 26 shots, but two of them were unfortunate bounces off of Sharks players, including Dustin Byfuglien’s game-winner off of Brent Burns with less than 10 seconds to play.
Jones also didn’t have the benefit of playing behind a buttoned up team in front of him, as it was for Reimer in the past two games.
When asked how he thought Jones played, DeBoer said: "I thought everybody was in the same boat tonight."
In other words, Jones wasn’t any better or worse than his teammates.
Asked if he’s feeling any pressure from Reimer, who has stellar numbers in eight starts with San Jose, Jones said: “We’re on the same team, so nothing really changes for me.”
Special teams played a big role Thursday, as the Sharks scored twice on the power play while giving up a pair of goals to the Jets, who entered with the NHL’s lowest-ranked unit.
Joe Thornton and Paul Martin tallied on the man advantage for San Jose less than four minutes apart in the second period to stake the club a 3-1 advantage.
"That was probably the one bright spot,” DeBoer said of the power play. “On a night when there weren't a lot of good things happening, that was one area that was OK."
The penalty kill finished 2-for-4, although the Jets’ first goal was a fortunate bounce from their perspective when Mark Scheifele banked it over the line off of Roman Polak’s skate.
“It was just an odd game,” Martin said. “Some bounces, some calls, back-and-forth. It wasn't very tight, the way that we want to play, especially five-on-five. It was one of those games."
The Sharks have one more tune up against Arizona on Saturday. They could opt to rest some of their veteran players, as the game will be meaningless in the standings. Still, they’ll want to clean a few things up from their performance against Winnipeg and play a cleaner game, no matter who dresses.
“The worst thing about the loss is you try to win each game regardless of what it means, whether it’s in your backyard or out on the ice,” Joe Pavelski said. “We let each other down just a little bit. This group has showed all year long we know how to play right, and we’ll get back to it.”