With each passing week, it seems like Tomas Hertl is having to bear more responsibility to produce offense for the San Jose Sharks.
Logan Couture has been out since before training camp began with a lower-body injury. Alexander Barabanov has a broken finger and hasn’t played in three weeks. Now, Anthony Duclair has missed two games with an unspecified illness with no clear indication as to when he’ll return.
That’s three skilled players who would normally be playing alongside Hertl in the top-six forward group. Predictably, without them, the offense continues to sputter.
Hertl picked up his team-high 10th point of the season Sunday, assisting on Luke Kunin’s first-period goal. But that was all the scoring the Sharks could muster in a 4-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center.
The game marked the 11th time San Jose has scored one goal or less in a game. Their four goals in their first seven road games, all losses in regulation time, are tied for the second-fewest in NHL history.
Sharks goalie Mackenzie Blackwood made 40 saves in the loss.
“We have to score more goals,” Hertl said. “We can’t just be waiting for Blackie to save everything and we only score one goal.”
The Sharks were building momentum toward the end of the first period in a 1-1 game before defenseman Nikolai Knyzhov took an interference penalty on Max Jones.
Forward Frank Vatrano then scored the second of his two goals on the ensuing power play, giving the Ducks the lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
The Sharks could not take advantage of two power-play chances of their own and are now 1-for-13 with the man advantage over their last four games.
“Our power play has to be better,” Sharks coach David Quinn said. “The difference in the game in my mind was the two power plays. In the first period, we had some great chances, it was an even game, and for a stretch, we were kind of playing at the tempo and the pace we wanted.
“Then they get the power play goal late in the first, make it 2-1, and then we get our power plays and it just really deflated us. Not a lot of pace and not a lot of urgency to our power play right now. If you’re gonna score, we need to get some momentum off our power play. That’s not happening right now.”
The Ducks then added another power-play goal at the 1:52 mark of the third period by Mason McTavish, and an even-strength goal by Radko Gudas 49 seconds later to take a 4-1 lead. Gudas’ shot from just inside the blue line went off the stick of Mikael Granlund and floated over everyone before it landed in the Sharks’ net behind Blackwood.
The Sharks were on the penalty kill five times against the Ducks, and now have been shorthanded 26 times in their last six games.
“Special teams were not good tonight,” Quinn said. “Cost us the game.”
Blackwood, starting for the fourth time in five games, once again faced a barrage of shots, including 32 in the first two periods. Of the 18 saves he made in the second period, eight came on the penalty kill as the Sharks took three minor penalties.
Sunday marked the fourth straight game that the Sharks have allowed at least 39 shots, and they’ve allowed 38.4 shots per game in 15 games this season.
The Sharks return home to play the Florida Panthers on Tuesday and the St. Louis Blues on Thursday.
Hertl came into Sunday averaging 20:51 in ice time per game, 1:34 more than he averaged in 79 games last season, and nearly a minute more than his career high of 19:56 set two years ago.
That’s a clear by-product of the Sharks not only being without Couture all season but also Granlund for seven games last month.
Sunday, Hertl had 5:45 of ice time in the first period and another 8:18 in the second period. He had a total of four shots as he started the game on a line with Kunin and William Eklund
With his point on Kunin’s goal, Hertl has now scored or assisted on five of the Sharks’ last nine goals dating back to their 10-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Nov. 4.
“I don’t think we played bad,” Hertl said. “We were right there the whole game, a pretty good start. I think the special teams have to be better, especially the power play. We have to change momentum, we have to score some goals.”