SAN JOSE – It wasn’t the end result the San Jose Sharks were looking for on Friday.
But at least the Sharks have something to build on as they continue with the rest of their homestand.
“It was good to see that we didn’t give up 400 shots,” Sharks coach David Quinn said. “So that was a step in the right direction.”
The Sharks in fact allowed a season-low 24 shots and received some production from their top line and power play, but also couldn’t hold a two-goal lead and lost 3-2 in a shootout to the Montreal Canadiens before an announced crowd of 16,897 at SAP Center.
Up 2-0 on goals by Mike Hoffman and William Eklund, the Sharks allowed goals to Johnathan Kovacevic near the end of the second period and Cole Caufield early in the third. After a scoreless overtime, Eklund scored in a shootout, but Nick Suzuki and Jesse Ylönen both beat goalie Mackenzie Blackwood, handing the Sharks (3-15-2) their sixth loss in seven games.
The Sharks, who had given up an average of 37.8 shots per game before Friday, now turn their attention to Saturday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks, who they’ve lost to by scores of 10-1 and 3-1 this month.
“We’ve got to keep competing,” Eklund said. “(Vancouver’s) a good team and they have a good (defense) corps. We’ve got to go out there and compete and win the game.”
Takeaways from Friday’s game:
BOUNCING BACK: The Sharks used words like “embarrassing” and “unacceptable” following their 7-1 loss to the Seattle Kraken on Wednesday. San Jose was beaten in every facet, with zero willingness to win a battle or play the type of game they have to play to remain competitive.
Perhaps the Canadiens are not quite the playoff-contending team the Kraken purports to be, but Friday was a step in the right direction for San Jose. After an uneven opening 10-12 minutes, the Sharks did a better job of breaking out of their zone, finishing checks, and taking away time and space from some of Montreal’s skilled forwards.
Another result like Wednesday’s could have started a chain reaction that no one wanted to see take place.
“Much better effort-wise,” Quinn said. “Both physically and mentally, we were much more structured. I thought our compete level was where it needed to be. You’re disappointed because you’re up 2-0 and they find a way to tie it, which is unfortunate. But you’re going to have a bad night from time to time and you want to make sure that it doesn’t turn into two bad nights in a row.”
“It was definitely a bounce-back game,” Hoffman said. “Going into the third period up by a goal, and then we give them an odd man rush and they take advantage of it. So it falls onto us, but it’s a good learning point and it’ll help us out in the future.”
POWER PLAY UPTICK: The Sharks didn’t score on their first power play Friday after Nico Sturm drew a holding penalty on defenseman Mike Matheson. But the two-minute man advantage looked dangerous, generating six shots on Canadiens goalie Cayden Primeau to help change the game’s momentum.
Then in the second period, just four seconds after Montreal defenseman Justin Barron was called for tripping Fabian Zetterlund, Tomas Hertl won a faceoff in the Canadiens’ zone back to Calen Addison, who fed Eklund for a one-timer that beat Primeau high to the blocker side.
The Sharks are now 3-for-11 (27.3 percent) on the power play in their last five games, after going 7-for-46 (15.2 percent) in their first 15 games.
“One hundred percent it was the best it’s been all season,” Quinn said of the power play. “The pace of it, the work ethic. I thought what happened was after our first power play, we became more confident as a group. You can really feed off your power play and I thought that’s what we did at the end of the first period.”
Happy birthday Mike Hoffman! His 5th goal of the year and San Jose strikes first in this one. Per the broadcast, the oldest Shark to score on his birthday. #SJSharks 1, #GoHabsGo 0 pic.twitter.com/hbqdXzh8zI
— TEAL TOWN USA – A San Jose Sharks Podcast (@TEALTOWNUSA) November 24, 2023
HOFFMAN’S SPARK: After going the first 15 games of the season without a goal, Hoffman, who turned 34 on Friday, now has five goals in five games.
On the second-period play, Hertl created a turnover in the Canadiens’ zone and sent a pass to Eklund, who skated behind the Canadiens’ net and fed Hoffman for a one-timer from near the slot that got past Primeau’s glove.
We’ll see what happens from here, but Hoffman, a pending unrestricted free agent, is on pace for his first 20-goal season since 2019-2020 when he had 29. From the Sharks’ standpoint, if Hoffman can keep it up, it could result in a decent return when the team likely tries to trade him before the March 8 deadline.
“Obviously, that helps when you’re contributing to your team. That’s what I’m here to do,” Hoffman said. “Hopefully we can keep it going for as long as possible.”
NOTE: The Sharks placed Jan Rutta on injured reserve Friday morning after he was injured in the first period of Wednesday’s game. Quinn said Rutta was week-to-week with an upper-body injury. With a roster space freed up, the Sharks activated Matt Benning off IR. Benning had missed the last 10 games with a lower-body ailment and had 18:20 of ice time, with two blocked shots and two hits.