SAN JOSE – The Sharks had an opportunity to extend their winning streak, and clinch a playoff berth with a victory over the Florida Panthers. But San Jose fell flat against Florida, and a six-game winning streak was snapped with a 4-2 loss.
Here are three takeaways from Thursday's game at SAP Center:
Did the schedule catch up to the Sharks?
We've seen this before when San Jose has returned from a strong, albeit emotional, road trip. The first home game back after a successful roadie can sometimes be challenging. Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said as much when the team returned from sweeping their four-gamer through western Canada, but got stung with a 5-1 loss to the Washington Capitals on Valentine's Day.
While playing their fifth game in eight days isn't an excuse for a lack of energy – and nobody on the Sharks is ever going to make excuses for that – it really is understandable they didn't have their usual oomph on Thursday. Even though San Jose found an extra shot of adrenaline in the final four minutes of the third period, it just wasn't quite enough.
Too much time on the kill didn't help
Something we've talked about over the Sharks' last stretch of games is that they need to be better about staying out of the penalty box. With the Florida Panthers having the second-best power play in the entire NHL, this was imperative Thursday.
San Jose's kill did some really good work, but that couldn't completely keep Florida off the board.
The Sharks penalty kill units had to put in a lot of work on Thursday evening, particularly in the second period when Logan Couture went to the box for a high-sticking double-minor. While they killed off the long penalty, they also looked visibly gassed. San Jose then couldn't repeat that success when called for too many men on the ice, and surrendered a power-play goal to Florida winger (and brief former Shark) Mike Hoffman.
On a positive note …
Joakim Ryan had a nice showing in his return to the ice
Thursday was a very important game for Ryan, who hadn't seen any game action since before the All-Star break. DeBoer was adamant with the press after Thursday's morning skate that Ryan needed to get up to speed and fast. At this time of the season, whoever pencils into the lineup has to be on their A-game.
Ryan answered the call filling into Radim Simek's spot alongside Brent Burns. While he didn't get on the scoreboard – and he did try, getting a good look in the third period – he did his part on the defensive side of the puck. While the team as a whole didn't have one of its best games, the defenseman had some punch in his first game back in the lineup.