Looking a little weary from a demanding travel schedule, the Sharks fell to Carolina, 5-2, at PNC Arena in Raleigh on Friday night.
Playing its third game in four nights in the Eastern time zone, San Jose (31-21-5, 67 points) squandered an opportunity to move closer to the first place Kings and leapfrog the Ducks in the Pacific Division. The Sharks remain three points behind Los Angeles and one behind Anaheim, and all three teams have played 57 games.
San Jose fell to 4-1-1 in its last six games, and 2-1 on a five-game road trip.
A dominant second period resulted in Carolina scoring the only goal of the frame to take a 2-1 lead into the dressing room that it would not relinquish.
Joakim Nordstrom was given a little too much room as he brought the puck into the offensive zone, and wound up and powered it past Brent Burns and through Martin Jones at 12:25.
The Hurricanes, also playing their third game in four nights, had 19 shots on goal in the middle frame to only four by San Jose.
The lead increased to 3-1 early in the third on a Carolina power play. Eric Staal drove hard to the net with the puck, and Jeff Skinner poked the loose disc through on a play that was originally waived off due to goalie interference. It was permitted to stand after coach Bill Peters challenged the ruling at the 39-second mark.
The Hurricanes took advantage of a couple penalties to Mike Brown, when he was issued minors for roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct at 19:40 of the second period for jumping Jordan Staal (who got just a roughing minor).
The Sharks didn’t go quietly, though, getting back to within 3-2 on Tomas Hertl’s 12th goal. Patrick Marleau managed to strip the puck from goalie Cam Ward behind the net, and quickly finessed it in front where Hertl easily smacked it into an open net at 10:38.
Skinner’s second goal at 15:32, though, gave the Hurricanes their two-goal cushion back. A shot by Jaccob Slavin rattled around before finding Skinner’s blade as he stared at an open net. Jordan Staal’s empty-netter with 2:25 left capped the scoring.
Carolina, which hasn’t lost back-to-back games in regulation since Nov. 30 – Dec. 3, has beaten the Sharks in eight of their last 11 meetings overall and six of eight in Raleigh.
Carolina’s Chris Terry opened the scoring seven minutes into the game on a strange deflection when he bumped the puck over Jones’ shoulder from the slot at 7:03. Burns tied it at 1-1 about seven minutes later, though, when he skillfully pulled the puck around Viktor Rask before unleashing a laser into the top part of the net at 14:07.
The Sharks beat the Hurricanes in the first and only other matchup on Oct. 24 at home, 5-2.
Carolina improved to 11-4-3 in its last 18 games.
The Sharks didn’t have a single power play opportunity for the second time this season (Dec. 15). They are 0-for-7 over their last three games.
Carolina was 1-for-2.
Jones was starting back-to-back games for the fourth time this season. He allowed four goals on 36 shots.
Jones also saw a nine-game winning streak on the road against Eastern Conference opponents come to an end.
Ward improved to 5-1-0 in his career against San Jose with 21 saves.
Burns’ goal ended a 16-game goal-scoring drought with his first since Jan. 11 at Calgary. Joe Thornton saw his seven-game point streak come to an end.
Tommy Wingels (upper body) missed his first game after he left in the first period of Thursday’s game. Brenden Dillon (upper body) missed his five straight.
Brown was playing for the first time since Jan. 24.
The Hurricanes were without top defenseman Justin Faulk (leg).
The Sharks make their second visit of the month to St. Louis on Monday, where they beat the Blues on Feb. 4, 3-1. The road trip concludes at Colorado on Wednesday.