LOS ANGELES –- The game didn’t mean anything in the standings, but that didn’t prevent one of the Sharks’ ugly personality traits from rearing its head in a 4-1 loss to the Kings on Saturday afternoon at Staples Center.
Tommy Wingels explained.
“The games that were really easy to get up for, we had no problem getting up for. The games that could have been easier games or didn’t have much meaning are the ones we struggled with,” Wingels said. “We’re professional athletes. You need to find a way to get up for a game like tonight, and we didn’t do a good enough job of it.”
The Sharks’ disappointing season ended with a thud thanks to three third period goals by the Kings, as the defending champs -– whose substandard season also concluded –- played with a bit more fire in front of their home crowd. Los Angeles enjoyed a 36-21 advantage in shots, and controlled play for most of the final two periods.
San Jose managed just a Brent Burns power-play goal, 98 seconds after the opening faceoff.
“We weren't very good,” Logan Couture said. “At times we were kind of going through the motions.”
Perhaps the Sharks can’t be blamed for that, though, as they’ve known since Monday that they would finish on the outside looking in on a playoff spot. It’s unfamiliar territory for much of the roster, as San Jose had qualified for the playoffs for 10 straight seasons.
It’s even more upsetting in that the Sharks’ weren’t able to exorcise their demons from last season’s historic playoff collapse, according to Couture.
“We talked all summer, and we talked at the start of the year that we were going to build off of what happened last year, and you know what happened,” Couture said. “We didn't.”
“There's not many games that are played like that around here the last few [years],” said Joe Pavelski, when asked how strange it is to compete when nothing much is on the line. “It's annoying. … The game's enjoyable. We love to play. But we love to play for something.”
The Sharks were shorthanded. Their injured list on the back end grew by one more in the morning, as Justin Braun (illness) joined Marc-Edouard Vlasic (lower body), Scott Hannan (facial injury) and Mirco Mueller (left hand).
That forced John Scott into blue line duty, and coach Todd McLellan ended up playing Burns for more than 25 minutes. The inexperienced Karl Stollery and Taylor Fedun also remained in the lineup.
“I thought our back end actually held up pretty well for most of the night, but then they started to take over, and ended up winning it,” McLellan said.
The Sharks finished the season in fifth place in the Pacific Division (40-32-9, 89 points), 22 fewer points than they had in 2013-14. They will clean out their lockers at some point next week, as summer vacation starts early.
“We expected to be better than we were this year,” McLellan said. “We’re disappointed that we’re not going to play from this point on.”
Pavelski said: “It's disappointing, especially this year, not even having a chance in the playoffs. As players, that's what you want, to give yourself a chance. And we didn't do that.”