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WASHINGTON — The Sharks picked up a point off of the best team in the NHL. Their power play struck for two goals as their top scorer has started to find a rhythm. They’re still enjoying their best road trip of the season.
Those were the positives from the Sharks’ 5-4 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals on Sunday at Capital One Arena. But in a season filled with disappointing results, especially in the first half, this one may have stung the most.
The Sharks blew a two-goal lead late in the final minute of the third period, and lost in overtime as Lars Eller beat Martin Jones at the 2:01 mark of the extra session.
The Sharks, who got a hat trick from Evander Kane in the second period, had a 4-2 lead after Logan Couture scored on an empty net goal with 1:00 left in the third period. But Jakub Vrana scored with 46.9 seconds remaining in regulation time, and T.J. Oshie tied the game 4-4 with 14.2 seconds left.
The Sharks are now 3-1-2 since the Christmas break and 2-1-1 on their five-game road trip that winds up Tuesday in St. Louis.
“It sure feels like we lost every single way you can possibly lose a game in sport this year. Blowouts, close games like this,” Couture said. “Now that we’ve got this one done, hopefully we never have to do this again.
“You’ve got to take positives from a night like this, even though it’s tough right now to sit here and only get one point. But we got one in a tough building and against a team that’s pretty good. So, get ready for St. Louis.”
Takeaways from Sunday.
1. The late collapse: Playing their third game in less than 96 hours, some mental and physical fatigue caught up to the Sharks in the last minute of regulation time.
Vrana got open in the slot as he took a pass from Eller and fired a shot past goalie Martin Jones.
After the ensuing faceoff, the Sharks iced the puck, keeping Couture on with Timo Meier and Kane with defenseman Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Tomas Hertl probably would have come on the ice if the Sharks had been able to get a fresh body out there.
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After the Capitals won the faceoff in the Sharks’ zone, Kane has a brief chance to clear the puck but couldn’t get all of it. The puck went to the point and a couple seconds later, was sent to the corner for Evgeny Kuznetsov, who backhanded a pass past Vlasic to an open Oshie, who one-timed it past Jones.
“Maybe in the 6-on-5, it caught up to us a little bit,” Sharks interim coach Bob Boughner said of the final minute when the Capitals pulled goalie Braden Holtby for the extra attacker. “There were a few plays, 50-50 pucks that we lost, especially on the half-wall.
“Those are the things when you’re playing a lot of hockey and you’re in an intense game, sometimes those are some of the battles you lose.”
After all that, the Sharks still had a chance to pick up two points. But after Kane and Burns couldn’t connect on a 2 on 1, or Burns couldn’t beat Holtby on a breakaway, it opened the door for Eller’s goal.
“All of that’s forgotten if you score in overtime,” Boughner said. “A post, a 2-on-1 and a breakaway. So, that’s the way the game goes. I think we have to concentrate on getting a day of rest (Monday) and really taking the positives out of this for the St. Louis game.”
2. Jones’ overall play: Few Sharks players were as disappointed after the game as Jones, who had a pretty solid game for 59 minutes, stopping 24 of the first 26 shots he faced. Three of his saves came as the Sharks killed two penalties to Kane.
“Thought it was OK,” he said of his overall performance. “Just need a save at the end there.”
“I’m not going to put Jonesy on the spot,” Boughner said. “There were some breakdowns around him. We win and lose as a team. We’ll just watch the game again and take the positives out of it.”
Jones had allowed just one goal in each of his last two starts before Sunday, stopping 26 shots in the Sharks’ 6-1 win over Philadelphia on Dec. 28 and 21 in a 2-0 loss to Detroit on Dec. 31.
Still, in all likelihood, Boughner will now opt to play Dell on Tuesday in St. Louis.
“These are valuable points,” Boughner said. “We got one valuable point and we gave up one. But I think the guys feel good about our game, just a little disappointed now.”
3. Kane, power play get going: Boughner has wanted the Sharks’ power play — which had gone 2 for 49 from Nov. 19 to Dec. 31 — to move the quicker, get shots off faster.
The message has started to hit home, as two of Kane’s three second period goals came on the man advantage.
“That was probably the biggest positive of the night, was getting off the schneid on the power play and scoring a couple,” Kane said. “Carry that over to St. Louis, play through the 60 minutes instead of just through the 58 minute mark, and we like our chances to win the game.”