It had all the makings of a neck-and-neck tilt on Thursday evening, your stereotypical Sharks-Kings matchup. That is, until Tyler Toffoli managed to wrap the puck around Martin Jones’ hyper-extended right leg to give L.A. a 1-0 lead in the first frame.
After that the wind visibly left the Sharks’ sails. Woes on special teams and turnover trouble early in the second period didn’t help against a well-rested Kings team. The result was the visitors avenging their home opener loss by handing the Sharks a 4-1 defeat in San Jose. It was San Jose’s third loss in a row.
“The hockey gods are really up against us right now,” Joel Ward sighed. “I think (they’re) just testing us right now.”
Ward scored the Sharks’ only goal on the evening, grabbing a feed from Joe Pavelski and backhanding the puck past Kings’ backup goaltender Jhonas Enroth. That marker put the home team on the board 3-1 in the second period, and was the first goal they had scored since last Saturday’s game against the Islanders. Despite providing a nice jolt of energy, but San Jose couldn’t find the back of the net again. Even with the benefit of multiple power play attempts.
“We gave up four goals. As a group, that’s tough to win,” Joe Pavelski said deadpan. “That’s always a difference maker.”
It’s a hard pill to swallow, given that about a week ago, the Sharks were 3-0-0 and special teams — the penalty kill, at least — had been rolling since the preseason. On Thursday against Los Angeles, San Jose was 2-4 on the kill and went 0-5 on the man advantage.
“Our (special teams) have gone a little cold here the last week or so,” coach Peter DeBoer admitted. “You either get a big kill or a power play goal and maybe change the momentum of the game. We didn’t. We had that working for us when we were winning games … and it’s not right now.”
“We definitely had our chances,” Pavelski insisted. “We had some looks, and tips … and (the puck) didn’t find its way in tonight.”
The lack of scoring also hurt Jones, who wasn’t his usual bang-up self on Thursday. The Kings’ fourth goal in particular was a doozy, bouncing off the backboards then popping up and bouncing off the goaltender’s back and into the net.
“It was an unfortunate goal for sure,” Ward said. “I can’t even explain it.”
Of course, with all the little factors of the Sharks’ game breaking down, the questions arose: Are the injuries that plague San Jose’s roster as of late to blame? Is the loss of so many players affecting the team’s mentality?
“Everyone deals with injuries. We have our fair share of guys out,” DeBoer said. “We’re not getting breaks, and we’ve got to work harder for some more breaks.”
Joe Thornton was slow to get up after sustaining a hit from Kings’ defenseman Jake Muzzin in the first period of Thursday’s game, and went to the locker room with what appeared to be a head injury.
Although he wasn’t on the Sharks’ bench at the start of the second stanza, he did eventually return to finish the game. Peter DeBoer assured the media after the game that Thornton had cleared concussion protocol before reentering the game.
“We wouldn’t have put him back in if he wasn’t fully cleared,” the coach said. “I didn’t see any issues with him after. He looked like he jumped right back in there.”
“Any time someone goes down, you’re just excited when they come back,” Joe Pavelski said of Thornton’s return. “He’s a big piece of our team.”