SAN JOSE, Calif. — Low stakes and low motivation cost the San Jose Sharks last night against the Winnipeg Jets. The power play may have been crisp, but the team blew the lead three times in a 5-4 loss at SAP Center.
“Burn the tape,” Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said. “Nothing pretty tonight.”
He would reluctantly relent on that stance a little bit in one aspect: the power play. “In a night where there wasn’t a lot of good things happening, that was one area that was okay,” DeBoer said.
Okay may be an understatement. The Sharks scored two goals on the man-advantage last night, and did it almost ideally. Their puck movement was crisp, players stayed in motion, and shots were generated quickly. This was especially true on their first power play, capped off quickly on a goal scored by Joe Thornton.
Later on in the period, the power play would threaten again when a blast from Brent Burns was tipped by Joe Pavelski, but stopped by Ondrej Pavelec. On the second unit, Paul Martin would score right after from roughly the same spot as Burns to give San Jose a 3-1 lead.
But the team defense couldn’t hold it together after that, giving up goals 62 seconds apart late in the period.
“We got soft defensively,” DeBoer said. “I can’t remember another game this year where we’ve allowed a team to jump back in like that, so I’m going to chalk it up to the circumstances, and we’ll move forward.”
The Sharks are locked into playing either the Kings or Ducks in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and were likely going to have to start on the road–which is now confirmed with the loss. With the stakes as low as they were, it was easy to tell that San Jose had trouble finding the necessary motivation.
“Obviously we want to win these games, but it can be tough at times to get up for the games,” goaltender Martin Jones said.
But that feeling wasn’t shared universally. Forward Tommy Wingels certainly had some fire in him as the playoffs approach:
“Whether you’re first place in this league, or last place, you have a bad feeling in your mouth when you lose,” Wingels said. “Does it mean anything in the standings? Probably not, but I certainly don’t like leaving the rink here being a loser.”
Wingels and Pavelski both focused in on a lack of pressure, especially in the neutral zone, leading to the loss.
“You start playing for the big prize next week, and you just want your game tight, Pavelski said. “When you feed their rush, they’ve got players that can make plays, and we fed them too much.”
With the lack of strong defensive pressure in front of him, it was hard to judge the performance of Jones in goal. Officially, he finished the game stopping only 21 of 26 shots.
“I felt good all night, really,” Jones said. “Just one of those games, they had some stuff around the net – a couple off our guys and in.”
After a long first season of starts as a workhorse, starting goaltender, Jones has struggled a bit in the past few weeks. Meanwhile, the recently acquired James Reimer has been mostly spectacular in teal, going 6-2 with a 1.62 goals against average, a .938 save percentage, and 3 shutouts in his first 8 games.
Jones could be feeling some pressure from a possible goalie controversy, but isn’t going to say anything about it:
“We’re on the same team, so nothing changes for me,” Jones said.
With a playoff starter not yet officially announced, there will be some added intrigue on Saturday when the Sharks season wraps up against the Arizona Coyotes.