Sharks regrouping as power play goes from lacklustre to liability versus Oilers

Sharks stay course on faltering power play

EDMONTON — San Jose Sharks coach Peter DeBoer says he won’t be taking a wrecking ball to a power play that has gone from lacklustre to downright liability in the NHL playoffs.

Through two games, the Sharks are 1 for 12 with the man advantage while allowing two short-handed goals in a Game 2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers Friday night.

“We’ve got to just get back at it,” DeBoer said Saturday in a conference call.

“We had a power-play goal in the first game. We didn’t in the second game. You can’t over-react to that.

“Our power play in our second game mimicked our 5-on-5 play: we weren’t hungry enough (and) we got outworked in a lot of areas.”

The two short-handed goals — one by Zack Kassian and the other by Connor McDavid — were all the Oilers needed in a 2-0 victory to even the Western Conference quarter-final series at one game apiece.

Game 3 goes Sunday night in San Jose.

The Sharks power play was no great shakes in the regular season, ranked 25th at 16.7 per cent.

But things went from bad to worse when dominant centre Joe Thornton got tangled up along the boards against Vancouver two weeks ago and injured his left knee. Thornton hasn’t played since, but is skating and remains day-to-day.

“Joe Thornton would help us in a lot of different areas, including (the power play) but we don’t have him,” said DeBoer.

“We’ve got to find a way with the group we do have. We did in Game 1, and we didn’t in Game 2, so we’ll get back to it in Game 3.”

The Sharks also need their top two-way forward, Logan Couture, to find his game again. Couture damaged his mouth and required some massive dental work after he took a redirected slapshot to the mouth three weeks ago.

He returned to the lineup for the playoffs wearing a cage, but by his own admission has been rusty.

The Oilers showed no mercy in Game 2, hammering Couture repeatedly, including one where Kassian left his feet to level him.

“That’s playoff hockey,” said DeBoer. “This isn’t the first team that’s tried to be physical on key guys.”

Ironically, Edmonton’s repeated trips to the penalty box have opened the door for their primary offensive weapon, McDavid.

The Sharks have done a good job containing the Edmonton captain at even strength, but lose containment on him when otherwise occupied in special teams situations.

McDavid, the NHL’s regular season points champ, got one assist on a power play in Game 1. On Friday, he broke free killing a penalty midway through the third, racing down the left side to fire a low shortside wrist shot past Sharks goalie Martin Jones to seal the win.

“I like playing on the kill, especially in these games when we keep taking a lot (of penalties). It keeps me in the game for sure,” said McDavid.

“But it’s definitely not the recipe we’re looking for, though, to have success, taking six penalties a game.”

Oilers head coach Todd McLellan agreed that taking six penalties a night, some involving rough stuff after the whistle, is playing with fire.

“We want to continue â€” and we will continue to — play physical,” said McLellan.

“(But) you’re not going to win killing 12 minutes a night no matter how good your penalty kill is. Eventually they’re going to strike and they’ll strike often.

“Obviously it’s an area we need to clean up.”

McLellan said he’ll continue to send McDavid over the boards if they’re down a man.

“At this time of the year you just throw him out and you use him,” said McLellan.

“He can skate. He’s got great instincts. His stamina is second to none. Those are all pretty good qualities for a penalty killer.”

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press