Doomed by penalties, the Sharks saw their home woes continue on Monday night as they fell 6-3 to the visiting Avalanche, extending their NHL-worst home record to 4-10-0.
The Sharks committed six minor penalties, four of which resulted in goals by the Avalanche. It nullified a decent offensive performance by the Sharks, who peppered Avalanche backup goaltender Calvin Pickard with 38 shots.
Every time the Avalanche extended their lead to two goals, the Sharks responded with a quick tally to claw back within one. After Blake Comeau‘s power play goal on a deflection put Colorado up 4-2 seven minutes into the third, San Jose came right back a minute later courtesy of Tomas Hertl, whose sweeping wrister somehow found its way past Pickard.
But penalties hurt the Sharks again at an inopportune time, as another Avalanche power play resulted in a goal by Nathan MacKinnon, who put the Avalanche back up by two at 5-3 at the midway point of the third.
This time, the Sharks could not come up with an answer, and an empty net goal by MacKinnon for the hat trick sealed the victory for the Avalanche.
Joe Pavelski noted the frustration of having to play from behind:
“Every time they went up by another goal we got that one back right away. It was the penalties that kept beating us in there. We didn’t have an answer for that tonight.”
Despite a flurry of chances by the Sharks early in the second period in an attempt to even the score, the Avalanche extended their lead to two midway through the period. Matt Duchene’s backhand pass in front wound up deflecting off Sharks defenseman Paul Martin and in to give the Avalanche a 3-1 lead.
While the Avalanche had just one more shot on goal than the Sharks in the first, the Avalanche had the benefit of four power plays thanks to a parade to the penalty box by the Sharks.
The plethora of penalties not only wore down the penalty killers, but they also prevented the Sharks from putting their best offensive players on the ice. Said Patrick Marleau:
“We were just putting our sticks in the wrong spots. Refs were calling it. We can’t take that many penalties. At certain times you take players out of the game because you’re penalty killing all the time. It’s a tough way to win.”
Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer talked about penalties taking away from the team’s flow:
“When you’re taking hooking, holding, tripping penalties – to me you’re not moving your feet. I liked our start. The penalties took us out of the game. Our penalty kill arguably has been the best in the league over the last two months and it wasn’t good tonight.”
Minutes after killing an early penalty, the Sharks committed another when Thornton tripped Matt Duchene and the Avalanche made them pay. Nathan MacKinnon took a pinpoint feed on the rush from Carl Soderberg and fired it past an outstretched Martin Jones. That was not a good omen for the Sharks, who are now 0-10 on the season at home when allowing the first goal.
The Sharks responded less than two minutes later. Capitalizing on a turnover in the offensive zone, Joel Ward fed Marleau who kicked the puck to himself and finished with a wrist shot to tie the game at 1-1 at the midway point of the first.
But the Avalanche converted on another power play late in the period on a shot from the point by Francois Beauchemin that was deflected by Soderberg in front of Jones to give Colorado the lead again.
The Sharks’ struggles at home continue to be confounding, as San Jose has a reputation for being a dominant team on home ice.
Tommy Wingels said:
“A lot’s being made of it, as it should because there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be dominant at home. You’re familiar with everything. Your schedule is always the same. There’s no excuses. We’ve tried some things that change it up, but ultimately it’s a mindset of getting it done.”
A terse Marc-Edouard Vlasic had no answer either:
“If we knew what was wrong, we’d fix it. We’re still trying to find that out. Better do it soon before we drop down even lower.”
The Sharks and Avalanche both had 36 points entering the night, but thanks to the very weak Pacific Division, the Sharks came into the game just a point back of a playoff spot, while the Avalanche were eight points back of the third place Wild in the Central Division.
The Sharks were coming off a road trip in which they went 3-1-1, finished off with a comeback win over the Kings in Los Angeles on Dec. 22. Despite their dismal home record, the Sharks are a gaudy 13-6-2 on the road.
San Jose’s five-game home stand continues Wednesday against the Philadelphia Flyers.