Sharks fall to Stars, 3-2.

Sharks miss a chance to move up in the Pa­cific Divi­sion

The Mercury News - - Front Page - By Paul Gackle [email protected]­yare­anews­group.com

DAL­LAS >> Just when things seemed to be turn­ing around, the same prob­lems that have plagued the Sharks all sea­son reared their heads.

The Sharks earned a pair of wins ear­lier this week af­ter a coach­ing shuf­fle and a closed­door meet­ing with gen­eral man­ager Doug Wil­son gave the team the “kick in the butt” it needed. But af­ter play­ing 30-plus min­utes of near-flaw­less hockey Fri­day, they failed to trans­late the mo­men­tum into two points in the stand­ings.

The game looked like a mi­cro­cosm of all the Sharks losses this sea­son with sev­eral grade-A scor­ing chances left on the ta­ble, crit­i­cal goals sur­ren­dered on odd-man rushes and Martin Jones’ fail­ure to make the timely save.

Here’s what we learned in the Sharks’ 3-2 loss to the Dal­las Stars (16-10-3) Fri­day night:

1. IT’S GET­TING TOO LATE FOR

MORAL VIC­TO­RIES (OR IS IT?) >> The Sharks dress­ing room is di­vided right now; not in the an­i­mos­ity and in­ter­nal strife kind of way, but in how the group sees the team’s un­der­per­for­mance through 30 games.

THE SCORE

STARS 3, SHARKS 2

Up next: Sharks at Coy­otes, to­day, 5p.m., NBCCA

On one hand, the Sharks (14-11-5) can take a lot of pos­i­tives out of Fri­day’s game. They jumped out to a ter­rific start, hold­ing the Stars to just five shots in the first. Af­ter the Stars scored goals just 1:48 apart in the third to take a 3-1 lead, the Sharks re­sponded right away, scor­ing a goal and press­ing through­out the re­main­der of the game.

But the end re­sult is still a loss and it came in all­too-fa­mil­iar fash­ion. The Sharks gave up the ty­ing goal on a break­away that came off a bad line change at 14:05 of the sec­ond. Af­ter the Stars scored a see­ing-eye goal at 4:38 of the third, the Sharks al­lowed the sit­u­a­tion to snow­ball by giv­ing up an­other goal less than two min­utes later off yet an­other odd-man rush.

As a re­sult, the Sharks fum­bled a chance to pull to within three points of the Cal­gary Flames for first place in the Pa­cific Divi­sion. In­stead, they now trail the Flames, the Ana­heim Ducks and the Ve­gas Golden Knights in the Pa­cific, cling­ing to a one­point lead over the Min­nesota Wild for the last play­off spot in the West­ern Con­fer­ence.

In one cor­ner, is the glasshalf full fac­tion that be­lieves the mar­gin be­tween suc­cess and fail­ure is ra­zor thin right now. Things will turn around quickly. The glass-half empty group isn’t tak­ing any morale vic­to­ries from Fri­day’s loss. They’re con­cerned that the same prob­lems keep re­peat­ing them­selves through 30 games.

“We lost the game,” said Lo­gan Cou­ture, who scored the Sharks’ sec­ond goal. “We did some good things, but we didn’t do enough good things to win, and what mat­ters in this league is wins and losses.”

Evan­der Kane said the Sharks are play­ing “too re­laxed” with leads.

“We’re not fin­ish­ing them off. We need to start play­ing for each other a lit­tle bit more,” said Kane, who scored just his sec­ond goal in 12 games in the first. “Ob­vi­ously, there’s some costly mis­takes.”

But coach Pete DeBoer seems de­ter­mined to keep his team’s heads high af­ter he ad­mit­ted last week that its strug­gling with con­fi­dence is­sues. With that in mind, it makes sense that he’s push­ing a pos­i­tive sto­ry­line at a time when the Sharks are at risk of fall­ing out of a play­off spot.

“It’s a small mar­gin right

now,” the Sharks coach said. “I don’t think they worked harder than us. We played a pretty good road game. We’re just find­ing the wrong side of that line right now.” 2. DEBOER COMES CLEAN

ON MARC-EDOUARD VLA­SIC’S STRUG­GLES >> No one can pin any sin­gle goal on Vla­sic.

He wasn’t re­spon­si­ble for the bad change on Mat­tias Jan­mark’s break­away goal. Miro Heiska­nen’s goal would have found day­light through the heav­i­est traf­fic on I-280 and an un­for­tu­nate col­li­sion caused him to fall on Brett Ritchie’s game win­ner.

But it’s hard to ig­nore the fact that the guy who gets named to Team Canada on the strength of his de­fense alone posted a mi­nus-3 to take the lead in the race for the Sharks’ green jacket at mi­nus-14.

For a player whose ge­nius is in his an­gles, stick play, po­si­tion­ing and hockey IQ, it’s dif­fi­cult to fun­nel his strug­gles into a sin­gle prob­lem or a sim­ple nar­ra­tive. The best way to char­ac­ter­ize his sea­son is to say he’s just off. It started with his failed part­ner­ship with Erik Karls­son and con­tin­ued af­ter he was re­united with Justin Braun af­ter nine games.

It’s clearly get­ting to him. Af­ter he was re­quested for postgame in­ter­views Fri­day, he blew past re­porters on his way to the bus, in­sist­ing that no one in­formed him that he was sup­posed to talk even though his num­ber was on the board.

What­ever the is­sue is, DeBoer is con­vinced that Vla­sic’s close to turn­ing the cor­ner. The Sharks should hope so be­cause he’s been ar­guably the team’s most valu­able player over the past five years.

“He’s prob­a­bly a mir­ror im­age of our team right now. It seems like ev­ery time he makes a mis­take it’s com­pounded be­cause it ends up cost­ing us. I don’t think his game’s that far off,” DeBoer said. “He’s a great player in this league. We know that. He has been the en­tire time I’ve been here and the decade be­fore that. I’m not wor­ried about him.”

COOPER NEILL — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

San Jose right wing Timo Meier (28) con­trols the puck against the Dal­las Stars dur­ing the sec­ond pe­riod of Fri­day’s game in Dal­las.

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