SAN JOSE, Calif. – If the San Jose Sharks don’t start doing a better job converting their scoring chances soon, they may not have an opportunity to make another playoff run this spring.
Sam Gagner scored the only goal in the shootout to help the Edmonton Oilers snap a three-game losing streak by beating the sliding San Jose Sharks 3-2 on Tuesday night.
The loss was the ninth in 11 games for the Sharks, who managed just four goals during a 1-3 homestand that has dropped them into a three-way tie for eighth place in the Western Conference.
“Our mettle’s being tested, there’s no doubt about it,” said coach Todd McLellan, who returned after missing three games with a concussion. “We’ve been tested for a month now, since we’ve been on the road trip and it didn’t go the way we wanted it to. We had some real stinkers. We had some good games we played in and didn’t win. … We’ll dig out of it and eventually find a way. You’ve got to really work your way through this before you’re going to win. I think we’re getting close and we’ve got to keep going.”
The Sharks were unable to do that against an Edmonton team that was one of just three in the NHL that is more than 10 points out of a playoff spot and was coming off a loss in Anaheim the previous night.
Jordan Eberle and Ryan Smyth scored in regulation for the Oilers. Gagner beat Antti Niemi with a forehand shot in the second round of the shootout.
Devan Dubnyk ended it when he stopped Brent Burns. Dubnyk made 28 saves and stopped all three San Jose attempts in the shootout.
“To have a good battle from start to finish and to get a win out of it is a great experience and very satisfying,” Dubnyk said.
The Sharks had their chances in the third period, getting a 42-second two-man advantage when Ryan Jones was sent off for high-sticking with Shawn Horcoff already in the box. But San Jose was unable to generate any good scoring chances against Dubnyk with Patrick Marleau’s point shot getting blocked by Smyth.
“We have to make the smart play and get a shot on the net and not get it blocked or whatever it might be,” defenceman Dan Boyle said. “I think we could have been much smarter on the 5-on-3. I didn’t particularly like what we accomplished out there.”
Dubnyk later got help when Joe Pavelski’s deflection hit the post and then made a tough pad save to stop Marleau with less than 4 minutes to play.
“That’s how it tends to go,” captain Joe Thornton said. “You definitely have to work your way out of slumps like this. We did a good job tonight. We worked hard. That’s all we can do is keep working and hopefully the hockey gods will be kind to us the next few games.”
The teams traded goals in a span of less than a minute late in the second period to head into the third tied at 2. Ryane Clowe, who had just one goal in his previous 15 contests, gave the Sharks the brief lead when Dubnyk misplayed a dump-in off the end boards and Logan Couture fed Clowe for the tap-in goal.
Just 54 seconds later, Jeff Petry’s blast from the point deflected off Smyth and went past Niemi to tie the game at 2-2.
The good feeling from McLellan’s return lasted all of 10 seconds as the Oilers took advantage of a misplay by Dan Boyle to score the fastest goal ever against the Sharks. Boyle could not control Ryan Whitney’s dump-in in front of the net and an opportunistic Eberle batted the puck out of the air for the goal.
“I think we caught them a little off guard there,” Eberle said. “I got a bounce and found a way to get it into the net. We got the two points and that’s all we really needed. Coming off a game last night we needed to get a good start.”
The Sharks tied it about three minutes later after a miscue by Edmonton. Boyle intercepted a poor clearing attempt by Gagner and fed Jim Vandermeer, who beat Dubnyk with a slap shot from the top of the circle for his first goal since March 1, 2011, for Edmonton against Nashville.
NOTES: The previous fastest goal against the Sharks came when Vancouver’s Martin Gelinas scored 16 seconds into a game on Nov. 25, 1995. … The fastest goal ever by an Oilers player came When Wayne Gretzky scored eight seconds into a game against the Rangers on Dec. 14, 1983. … Pavelski missed most of the first period after being hit in the face by a puck and crashing into the end boards.