After emotional win vs. Golden Knights, Sharks falter in final home game
SAN JOSE — The good vibes the Sharks had after their improbable win against the Vegas Golden Knights over the weekend didn’t have a lasting effect.
The Sharks, in their final home game of the season, fell behind by three goals early in the second period and never fully recovered in a 5-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday before an announced crowd of 13,378.
Brent Burns and Scott Reedy both scored and goalie Kaapo Kahkonen had 25 saves as San Jose finished the year with a record of 18-18-5 at home. The Sharks end the season with road games against Edmonton and Seattle on Thursday and Friday, respectively.
The Sharks (32-36-12) scored twice in the final five minutes of the second period and trailed the Ducks 3-2 going into the third.
With Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen serving a hooking penalty, Burns’ shot from near the blue line and got through traffic and past goalie Anthony Stolarz to cut Anaheim’s lead to 3-1 with 4:28 left in the second period.
The Sharks trimmed Anaheim’s lead to 3-2 at the 18:36 mark, as Reedy redirected a Jaycob Megna pass past Stolarz for his sixth goal of the season.
That was as close as San Jose would come, as Josh Mahura scored midway through the third and Zach Aston-Reese added an empty-net goal in the final minute.
Kahkonen allowed goals to Trevor Zegras, Max Comtois and Sonny Milano on the Ducks’ first 11 shots. Zegras’ goal came on a Ducks power play, as he tucked a shot under the cross bar and over Kahkonen’s left shoulder at the 4:05 mark of the first period.
Comtois and Milano scored 56 seconds apart in the second period, with Comtois’ goal at the 5:36 mark coming just five seconds after a Vaakanainen hooking penalty had expired.
The Sharks, prior to Tuesday, were 3-2-1 in their last six games, including a dramatic 5-4 shootout win over the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday.
San Jose erased a 4-2 Vegas lead in the final three minutes of regulation time, with Timo Meier scoring with 0.9 seconds left in the third period to send the game into overtime. In the shootout, rookie center Thomas Bordeleau was the only player for either team to score as the Sharks snapped an 11-game losing streak to the Golden Knights.
Kahkonen has split time in the Sharks’ net with James Reimer in recent weeks as Bob Boughner has mostly gone back and forth this month between his two goalies.
It’s an arrangement that’s worked out well for Kahkonen, as he’s had some time to absorb the Sharks’ system and get to know his teammates as he works with goalie coach Evgeni Nabokov.
“For now, it’s been good,” Kahkonen said Tuesday morning. “We play so many games in such a short period of time, so it almost feels like you are the starter even though you play every other night.”
Kahkonen, though, is entering the stage of his pro career where he feels he’s capable of being a No. 1 NHL goalie.
As a fourth-round draft choice by the Minnesota Wild in 2014, Kahkonen spent most of the 2018-19 and 2019-2020 seasons with the team’s AHL affiliate in Iowa. He then backed up Cam Talbot with the big club the past 1 1/2 seasons, going 31-17-4 with a .907 save percentage.
The next step for Kahkonen is to be a No. 1 with the Sharks, or at least a 1A or 1B in conjunction with Reimer or Adin Hill, who are both under contract for next season. Kahkonen is a pending restricted free agent.
Kahkonen entered Tuesday with a 2-4-1 record and a .920 save percentage in nine games with the Sharks.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Kahkonen said about being a No. 1. “That’s the goal and that’s what I want to accomplish here in the near future.”
Kahkonen, 25, has a busy summer ahead of him if he wants to be in position to play 50-to-55 games next season. The most games he’s played in any of the last four years since he came to North America was 39 with Iowa in 2018-19.
“It’s the first full, real NHL season for me,” said Kahkonen, adding that he’ll adjust his offseason training regimen to get ready for a possibly heavier workload.