SAN JOSE – After three straight solid wins against Los Angeles, Anaheim and Chicago – any of which could come out of the Western Conference – a Monday night home matchup against the second-worst team in the NHL should have been an easy two points in the bank.
If that was your line of thinking going into this one, you haven’t been following the Sharks for very long.
San Jose turned in yet another mentally weak performance against a non-playoff opponent, losing 5-4 in a shootout to the Oilers at SAP Center. The Sharks fought back to turn a 3-1 third period deficit into a 4-3 lead, but got pinned in their own end late in regulation, resulting in a Justin Schultz goal that allowed Edmonton to go on and claim the extra point.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Sharks blow lead, fall to Oilers in long shootout]
The Sharks are 5-7-1 against the six worst teams in the NHL, including a 2-1-1 mark against the Oilers, who won their first Western Conference road game of the season.
It wasn’t a good night for Couture, or his linemates Patrick Marleau and Matt Nieto, each of whom finished with a -2 rating. In fact, only Joe Thornton’s line with Joe Pavelski and Melker Karlsson had a decent evening, according to coach Todd McLellan. Thornton (3a) and Pavelski (2g, 1a) each had three points in the loss.
“We had one line tonight that played well. One line,” McLellan said. “We had too many passengers. It’s what you get when you don’t come and play as a full team.”
Edmonton had 40 shots on goal, reaching that mark for the first time since registering 52 against equally bad Buffalo on Nov. 7.
Couture said: “We gave up too many shots, too many chances. We played in our end too much. It was good for us to fight back and get the lead. Obviously, the late goal hurt us.”
The Sharks had a number of chances to get the puck out of the zone before Schultz tied it, when his attempt hit Couture’s stick blade before sneaking past Antti Niemi.
“Unlucky, but we shouldn’t have been in our end. We were in our end for a long time on that shift,” said Couture, who was on the ice with Nieto, Tyler Kennedy, Matt Tennyson and Brenden Dillon. “We had a couple of chances to get out earlier so that goal shouldn’t have happened.”
The malaise carried over into the 13-round shootout, the longest in Sharks franchise history. Only Brent Burns was able to get his attempt through Viktor Fasth, as San Jose tried in vain to capture its fourth straight win.
Rob Klinkhammer eventually won it for the Oilers, who converted two of their 13 attempts on Niemi.
“I didn’t think we were remotely dangerous in the shootout. Not even close,” McLellan said.
Still, before the end result, the skills competition was amusing from the bench, according to Pavelski.
“It’s entertaining. It really is,” Pavelski said. “Bottom line is we wanted to win that game and we didn’t, but once you [shoot], you slowly turn into a fan as it goes longer and longer. … Obviously, we didn’t get the result we wanted.”
As a whole, the Sharks’ homestand was still a fairly successful one, with 10 out of a possible 14 points (4-1-2). They remain in the thick of the playoff race, and have a two-point lead on Calgary for second place in the Pacific Division headed into their showdown with the Flames at the Saddledome on Wednesday.
They recorded wins against some solid aforementioned teams, but as they are wont to do, lost games to lesser opponents like the Oilers and New Jersey Devils.
“The way we played in some of the games we have to be really happy with the performances,” McLellan said. “At the other end of the spectrum, we’re really disappointed. Our team has to find that medium where we don’t get too high and we don’t get too low.”
Couture categorized the homestand as: “Just OK. Could have been better. Should have been better.”