By Curtis Pashelka
Even the NHL’s best penalty kill units have a breaking point, and the Sharks reached it on their four-game road trip that ended Sunday night in Buffalo.
The Sharks were shorthanded four more times Sunday and allowed two power-play goals — each after delay of game, puck-over-glass infractions — in a 6-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center.
Nick Bonino and Oskar Lindblom both scored their first goals of the season and Kevin Labanc added a power-play goal for his fifth of the year. But the Sabres scored three unanswered goals in the second period, including a power play goal by Jack Quinn at the 13:45 mark, as they took a 4-2 lead.
“Penalties haven’t been a problem for us and all of a sudden it’s creeping into our game,” Sharks coach David Quinn said, “and when we don’t skate, we take penalties.”
Quinn added a second goal at the 11:23 mark of the third period and Alex Tuch scored an empty netter with 3:23 to play as the Sabres improved to 20-3-1 at home against the Sharks all-time.
Goalie Aaron Dell, making his second start in five days, allowed four goals in 28 shots in the first two periods as the Sharks (8-16-4) ended the road trip against Atlantic Division teams with a 1-3-0 record.
The Sharks, now losers of six of their last seven games, next play the Vancouver Canucks at home on Wednesday.
“When you lose games, I feel like you want to win so bad that sometimes you’re trying to do too much out there instead of just keeping it simple and sticking to the system,” Lindblom said. “It’s not easy when you’re losing games and everyone wants to win.”
When the Sharks began their road trip last Tuesday in Montreal, they had the NHL’s top-ranked penalty kill at 90.3 percent, as they erased 56 of 62 penalties through 24 games.
But just on the road trip, the Sharks were shorthanded 18 times and allowed five goals, as they went 2-for-5 on the kill in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators.
Quinn said the delay of game penalties were more mental miscues than anything,
“You can’t be taking delay of game penalties four times in a four-game stretch,” he said. “It’s inexcusable.”
The Sharks took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
Just 4:21 after Tage Thompson’s power-play goal gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead, Bonino took a pass from Luke Kunin in the slot area and beat Sabres goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen at the 13:40 mark of the first period.
After Dylan Cozens was called for boarding Evgeny Svechnikov – a rather generous interpretation of the rule in favor of the visitors – the Sharks took the lead at the 16:19 mark on Labanc’s power-play goal, as he took a pass from Matt Benning and snapped a shot past Luukkonen for his fifth goal of the year and first with the man advantage.
But the Sharks’ game quickly unraveled from there. The Sabres got goals from JJ Peterka and Jeff Skinner to take a 3-2 lead by the 4:21 mark of the second period.
The Sharks were outscored 6-1 in the second period through the last three games of the trip.
“They just outplayed us for the five minutes,” Labanc said of the second period.
“They wanted it more than us,” Lindblom said.
The Sharks’ road trip was their third this season of four games. In October, they closed out the sojourn with a 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers to go 2-2-0 on the trip, and last month closed out a six-day trip with a 5-2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Sharks beat the Canadiens 4-0 on Tuesday but followed that with a 3-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs the next night and a three-goal loss to the Senators on Saturday.
Dell, recalled from the AHL last weekend after James Reimer’s injury was making his second start in five days after he stopped 29 of 31 shots in the Sharks’ 3-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 30.
Dell played in the Sabres organization last season after he signed a one-year deal with the team in July 2021. He had a forgettable 1-8-1 record in 12 games as a Sabre, sporting a .893 save percentage to go with a 4.03 goals-against average. He also played 22 games with Rochester, Buffalo’s AHL affiliate, last season and had a .909 save percentage.
Dell signed as a free agent with the Sharks in July and in seven games with the Barracuda had a .904 save percentage.
Source: Paradise Post