SAN JOSE — The Sharks felt good about where their game was at — or at least how it was trending — after beating playoff-caliber teams like the Vegas Golden Knights, New York Islanders and Arizona Coyotes last month.
Tuesday, the Sharks played a legitimate Stanley Cup contender in the Washington Capitals, and got a big time reality check just before the start of a challenging four-game road trip.
The Sharks committed a handful of errors in their own end in the latter half of the first period and didn’t have much of a response in the second period as the Capitals skated away with a 5-2 win at SAP Center.
Goals by Melker Karlsson and Evander Kane sandwiched the five goals by the Capitals, as Garnet Hathaway and Jakub Vrana both scored twice and John Carlson added one to go with two assists.
All five Capitals goals — on their first 22 shots — came at even strength. Starting goalie Martin Jones was pulled for just the second time this season, as he was replaced by Aaron Dell for the third period.
“They’re such a good team that when you don’t play well, they’re going to make you pay and they certainly did,” Sharks captain Logan Couture said. “They scored five there and they probably could have had seven or eight. Joner made saves and we left him hanging out to dry like we’ve done multiple times at the start of the year.
“We need to get back to defending a little bit harder.”
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The Sharks begin a four-game road trip Thursday in Carolina against the Hurricanes. The trip continues with stops in Tampa Bay, Florida and Nashville.
Takeaways from Tuesday night.
1. Will Evander Kane face supplemental discipline? An ugly game for the Sharks ended with some ugliness in the third period.
With Kane and defenseman Radko Gudas chasing after a loose puck in front the Capitals bench. As Gudas approached the puck, Kane lifted his right hand and caught him in the face. Gudas went down and landed awkwardly in front of the boards.
Whether Kane caught him with the butt end of his stick on the play is unknown.
Evander Kane gets a game misconduct for elbowing Radko Gudas in the head pic.twitter.com/OrBuBZR9a8
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) December 4, 2019
Kane was then approached by Capitals forward Tom Wilson before Alex Ovechkin came over. Kane was then sent to the penalty box and after a review, was given a five-minute major for elbowing and a game misconduct with 5:01 left in regulation time.
Gudas left the game and did not return.
“The refs made the correct call,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “It’s a high hit, it’s a review-able penalty and the league will deal with it from there. But that’s the type of stuff we’re working to remove from the game.”
“Definitely a penalty. I don’t think it’s more than that,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said. “That’s my opinion, but that’s not my department.”
Kane has been suspended once already this season, as he received a three-game ban for abuse of officials in a Sharks Sept. 29 preseason game against the Vegas Golden Knights. Kane missed the first three games of the regular season, and the Sharks started the year 0-3-0.
Kane’s goal Tuesday was his team-leading 13th of the season. Coming into the game, he averaged 20 minutes and 17 seconds of ice time per game, most among all Sharks forwards.
“To be honest, I didn’t really see it. I was kind of concerned with the aftermath, what was going on,” Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon said. “Hopefully, we (don’t) lose him for any games. He’s been an important piece for us. So, hopefully it’s just the five and a game and he’ll be OK.”
2. Capitals’ depth forwards wreak havoc: DeBoer was asked Tuesday morning whether the Sharks have to defend John Carlson like other teams try to game plan for Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson.
“He’s playing at a really high level,” DeBoer said. “This is they have so many other weapons it’s hard to concentrate on one guy, but he’s definitely a guy we’ve been talking about.”
Naturally, one would those other weapons would include Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov. But the Capitals got big games from fourth line forwards Hathaway and Nic Dowd, whose work inside the Sharks’ zone led to Washington’s first and fourth goals.
On the first goal, the Caps won battles for pucks down low and won a race to the net. On the fourth goal, Dowd stole the puck from Radim Simek and got it over to Hathaway, who tucked it past Jones on a second effort.
“They play the right way,” Dillon said about the Caps’ depth forwards. “There’s a few teams that have that mindset. Vegas has that mindset, too, of, they’re not trying to be fancy, they’re trying to get the puck in, trying to get some grind time. When that line chips in with two goals, that’s a difference maker.”
“I thought our commitment to defend in our own zone was poor tonight,” DeBoer said. “The other night in Phoenix, we were turning the pucks over and giving them breakaways. I don’t think it was that type of game (tonight). I think we were just soft in our coverage.”