MONTREAL – The Sharks can’t take any solace in moral victories this late in the season, as their already slim playoff chances took another sizable blow in a 2-0 loss to the Canadiens on Saturday at Bell Centre.
Had the game been played in October instead of March, it might be viewed a little differently in that San Jose played a tough, smart game despite not getting on the scoreboard. Scoring chances were at a premium, and a late first period goal by the Canadiens’ Tomas Plekanec held up until the closing seconds when Brendan Gallagher’s empty-netter sealed it for the home team.
The Jets and Flames both increased their leads on San Jose, with Winnipeg moving eight points up in the second wild card spot after beating Washington, and Calgary six points ahead with an overtime loss to Columbus. In fact, the only two teams that have fewer points in the Western Conference than San Jose now are Edmonton and Arizona.
At this point, the standings are all that really matters with just 10 games left to play.
“The guys in here did a tremendous job of focusing. We played hard up and down the lineup,” Joe Pavelski said. “Obviously we'll look at the other games now, but it really doesn't matter if they win or lose. We've got to win.”
Todd McLellan said: “Our guys are competing. They’re battling. They are doing the right things to give ourselves a chance to win. It’s all we can ask of them right now. … But, we’re beyond growth right now. It’s all about wins.”
[INSTANT REPLAY: Sharks shut out by Price, fall in Montreal]
Neither team had an abundance of chances, but San Jose did have a few good looks late in regulation to pot the equalizer. Logan Couture and Brent Burns were stopped by Carey Price on a third period power play, though, and in the closing two minutes Burns found the far post on a wrist shot while Couture was denied on Price’s best stop of the night.
There was apparently a little luck involved on that one, as Couture had the NHL’s best goalie beat on a setup by Joe Pavelski, but saw his shot deflect off of the knob of Price’s stick. The result was Price’s ninth shutout of the season, and second straight.
“It's a tough break,” Pavelski said. “When you hit that goalie's knob, you've got him beat. But, he gets lucky, and that's part of the game.”
Couture had six shots on goal to lead the Sharks, but couldn’t get one to fall.
“I personally had a lot of chances, and it’s frustrating when one doesn’t go in,” he said.
Burns finished with 10 shot attempts to pace the team, including five on net, but lamented his glorious chance that caught iron.
“I hit the post. [Expletive]. It was a good chance,” he said.
The Sharks remain with 78 points, and probably need around 95 if they want a chance at qualifying for their 11th straight postseason. That would mean a record of 8-1-1 in their final 10.
McLellan would prefer to keep the calculator app on his smart phone closed, though, as the team will continue its seven-game road trip against the hungry Senators on Monday. They are 1-2 so far.
“I’m not very good at math, so I’m not doing it,” said the coach. “We’re going to play a game in Ottawa. Somebody else that knows how to add and subtract can do that for you. I’m not.”
Couture said: “Where we’re at, you’ve just got to win and worry about yourself. We’ve got a long ways to go. Worry about your own game. We got zero points tonight, we got zero points in Winnipeg. Time to move on to Ottawa now.”