The Sharks had the opportunity in Game 4 of their Stanley Cup playoff second-round series with the Colorado Avalanche to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
But things just didn't click for San Jose on Thursday night, as Nathan MacKinnon and the speedy Avalanche shut the Sharks out 3-0 en route to tying the series at two games apiece.
Here are three takeaways from the Sharks' Game 4 loss.
Special teams made a huge difference
The Sharks' power play has been pretty bad through the playoffs -- with the exception of the historic third period in Game 7 of their first-round series against the Vegas Golden Knights, of course. But you also have to give Colorado's penalty kill credit for their work in Game 4, as the Avalanche managed to take away the Sharks' time and space and prevent San Jose from creating any momentum.
Conversely, Avalanche were able to gain speed and create more chances on the man advantage. That lead to Colin Wilson's power-play goal at the start of the third period that gave Colorado a 2-0 lead. The Sharks' kill has kept them in a couple of games so far this postseason, but they couldn't withstand the Avalanche's push as the game continued.
Despite the score, Martin Jones was strong
It's no secret Jones has turned a corner since Game 5 of the first round, but Game 4 of the second round Thursday night might have provided one of his best performances yet.
The Sharks netminder turned away 25 of the 27 shots he faced. He didn't get the win, but the Sharks surely would have trailed by more than a goal headed into the third period had Jones not had another strong outing.
With the Avalanche controlling play in the second period, Jones strung together a few highlight reel-worthy saves to keep Team Teal in the fight. Jones made a magnificent toe save on MacKinnon later in the stanza, sprawled out like a snow angel to freeze Carl Soderberg and made an especially big stop on Matt Nieto during a dicey Sharks power play.
Had Jones not been so strong, Colorado could have buried way more chances in Game 4 -- especially late in the game when San Jose showed more frustration and got into penalty trouble.
Things to work on for Game 5?
With the series tied 2-2, the Sharks clearly have a couple things they need to work on if they're going to take the next two of the next three games. Perhaps the biggest thing they need to do -- well, besides making something happen on the power play -- is find a way to keep their energy level up through a full 60 minutes.
In their two losses and even during a win in Game 3, the Sharks came out with great energy but let the Avalanche assert pressure in the second periods to creep back into each game. San Jose was neck-and-neck with Colorado on the shot clock for the majority of Game 4, but the Sharks' let-up kept them from creating more dangerous chances.
San Jose's mid-game sag has proven to be particularly detrimental against Colorado's speed. Allowing MacKinnon and co. to build up speed and make their way up the center of the ice visibly wore the Sharks down, which was made even worse when they got caught out on the ice for longer-than-ideal shifts. If the Sharks are going to bounce back in Game 5 back home in San Jose, they'll have to find a way to keep the pressure up all game.