SAN JOSE – Through the first week of the NHL’s regular season, Martin Jones was the chief reason the Sharks busted of out of the gates with four consecutive wins and again looked like a Pacific Division contender.
On Tuesday at SAP Center, Jones played a key role in the team dipping below the .500 mark for the first time. The 25-year-old starting goalie was pulled just three-and-a-half minutes into the game after allowing two goals on three shots, including a very stoppable wrister by Mikhail Grabovski that put San Jose in a 2-0 hole that it could not dig out of.
New York went on to a 4-2 win.
“Second one was a bit of a knuckler. Kind of sunk on me a little bit,” Jones said of Grabovski’s goal.
Alex Stalock entered the game, and although he was solid for long stretches in what was perhaps his best game so far, let in the worst goal of the season. Johnny Boychuk’s slap shot from behind the blue line just 45 seconds into the third period – after the Sharks had climbed back to within one and were pressing hard late in the middle frame – skipped on the ice and whizzed past Stalock to put the Isles ahead 3-1.
“I thought it was going to hit my pad, and it’s a bad feeling when you have no sensation of the puck,” Stalock said.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Sharks fall behind early, lose to Islanders]
Pete DeBoer said: “You can give up a bad goal in this league and recover, you can’t give up two bad goals and expect to win. I think that was the case.”
Boychuk's was the key goal of the night. The Sharks were noticeably on their heels over the next several minutes of the third period, and although Brent Burns pulled them to within one again with five minutes to go, the Islanders held on.
Again, a power play goal would have helped. The Sharks finished 0-for-2 with a man advantage, and inexplicably are still looking for their first goal at home in eight games (0-for-21).
San Jose has the league’s worst power play overall (11.4 percent).
“We’ve got to get it fixed,” DeBoer said. “A power play goal in any of these games obviously would be a difference. … Not happy where it’s at.”
The Sharks found themselves in a hole for the sixth time in the last seven games. The first goal, courtesy of John Tavares on a rebound play in which Jones had no chance, actually came after what DeBoer and Joel Ward considered a good first shift.
It was the aftermath of that opening shift that was sloppy.
“I liked our start. Came out, we stuck the puck in their end, had a good first shift,” DeBoer said. “That’s the way things are going now. They kind of came down and threw one at the net and it bounced right on Tavares’ stick. A little bit of a missed assignment, but I thought we were in a good place.”
Ward said: “It was a good first shift. … Just off of a rebound, and we should have been there.”
If there was one positive for the Sharks, it was the play of Melker Karlsson, who made his season debut. The 25-year-old finished with three shots and five hits in nearly 16 minutes of ice time.
“You can see he’s an NHL player. He can help us," DeBoer said.
They need all the help they can get. A difficult six-game road trip, featuring a pair of back-to-back games, begins on Friday in Detroit. Jones and Stalock will have to be better, but so will everyone else if the Sharks are to recreate that early success.
“We’re going to keep fighting,” Joe Pavelski said. “These games, they come right down to the wire. We’re usually down a goal right now. Guys are fighting, we’re working.”
Ward said: “We’ve got a good group in here. It’s just one or two little lapses that’s been hurting.”