SAN JOSE – The game at SAP Center on Tuesday night became a pretty significant one for the Sharks midway through their competition with the Blues, and the players in the home dressing room were well aware of the reason why.
The Kings lost in regulation in Minnesota just before the first intermission in the Bay Area, their second straight defeat. Earlier in the day, the second place Ducks dropped a game in regulation to the awful Montreal Canadiens. The opportunity was there for the Sharks to considerably increase their chances at winning the Pacific Division.
Not to mention, a victory would have officially clinched a playoff berth, too.
Instead of feasting off of that silver platter, though, the Sharks couldn’t find a way to chow down in a 1-0 loss. Robby Fabbri scored the only goal for St. Louis and Brian Elliott was spectacular in net with 37 saves, keeping the Sharks five points behind Los Angeles and one behind Anaheim. A Coyotes win against lowly Edmonton prevented them from earning that playoff asterisk, too.
“We had our chance to get within three of L.A. We didn’t find a way,” said Logan Couture, who admitted that the team knew about the Kings’ loss to the Wild.
Does DeBoer reference the out-of-town scoreboard between periods to motivate his club?
“Sometimes we do. I think we did tonight,” he said. “The guys gave a good effort. We came out and competed hard for 60 minutes against a real good team, just didn’t find a way to get one.”
The winning/only goal came on a two-on-one rush that, according to Joe Pavelski, developed due to him and defenseman Dylan DeMelo's miscommunication in the offensive zone.
Fabbri raced ahead with Paul Stastny on a two-on-one, and the lone man back, Justin Braun, shadowed Stastny. That forced Fabbri into a shot, which deflected off of a back-checking DeMelo’s stick and popped up and over Martin Jones at 9:55 of the final frame.
“They got a pretty good bounce off of [DeMelo’s] stick and it ended up in the back of the net,” Braun said. “You want to play it different in your head after the fact – I wish I would have gone at [Fabbri] now – but you never know what would have happened.”
The Sharks did not lack for chances against the Blues and Elliott, including several by Tomas Hertl, who was San Jose’s best forward. Hertl even rang one off of the cross bar late in the first period.
They failed to take advantage of two late power plays as the clock expired in the third period, too, that included about a half-minute of six-on-three time with Jones pulled for an extra attacker and two Blues in the box.
Elliott made nine saves with his team shorthanded over the final 2:45 of regulation, but the Sharks thought they could have been a little more aggressive in and around the blue paint.
“We had a couple good looks, no traffic,” Couture said. “He made some easy saves that he saw. … We didn’t do a good enough job of getting in his eyes.”
DeBoer agreed. “I thought he saw too many of our shots, particularly at the end. But, other than that, it was a good hockey game and it was first team to score was probably going to win. That’s what happened.”
The Sharks have nine games left to catch the Kings, including a final head-to-head matchup on Monday at SAP Center. They’ll need to win that one, and get some more help, in order to have any shot at claiming their first division title since 2011.
“Teams aren’t losing much this time of year,” Pavelski said. “We had a chance to at least push it to overtime there. It’s disappointing. It’s a missed opportunity, for sure.”