SAN JOSE – San Jose coach Todd McLellan returned to the bench Tuesday night after missing three games with a concussion, but the Edmonton Oilers spoiled his rink-side view.
Sam Gagner beat Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi to his glove side in the second round for the only goal in the tiebreaker as the Oilers earned a 3-2 victory at HP Pavilion. Edmonton sealed it when goaltender Devan Dubnyk rejected Sharks defenseman Brent Burns.
The Sharks lost their third straight game but earned a point and remained in eighth place in the Western Conference playoff race with 74 points; they are even with Los Angeles and Colorado but have played 65 games to 66 for Los Angeles and 68 for Colorado. San Jose went 1-2-1 on a four-game homestand and begins a four-game trip Thursday night in Dallas.
"It would have felt better if we would have come out on the winning end, but it was nice to be back there again and feel like you're part of the team," said McLellan, who had been out since being hit hard in the head by a stick during the Sharks' 4-3 loss at Minnesota on Feb. 26. "(It) wasn't an easy night. I probably wasn't sharp enough in some areas, but I do feel better and excited about going on the road trip with the team."
Edmonton was coming off a 4-2 loss Monday night at Anaheim and entered the game with a League-low 20 points on the road despite winning three of its past four road games. Make it four out of five road wins now, this one against a Sharks team that's fighting desperately to get out of its funk.
"They come hard," Gagner said of the Sharks. "They don't really give you much. I think that's the biggest thing you notice out there is the speed of the game. We just wanted to continue to play the right way. We felt like we did some good things in Anaheim and we wanted to continue to work on those principles, and we were able to come out with the win, which feels pretty good."
The outcome came down to two shots in the shootout. Gagner beat Niemi, and Dubnyk, who is familiar with Burns, denied the Sharks' skilled defenseman.
"I've played a couple world championships with him," Dubnyk said of Burns. "I know he used to be a forward, but he's a pretty high skilled defenseman. He's got an absolute cannon of a shot and some pretty good hands on him, too. I think he fumbled the puck a little bit. I certainly wasn't surprised to see him out there."
San Jose and Edmonton had split the first two games of their series, with the Sharks winning 3-2 in San Jose then the Oilers winning 2-1 in a shootout at Edmonton.
The Sharks have now lost nine of their past 11 games, seven of those losses in regulation.
"You definitely have to work your way out of slumps like this," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "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."
Sharks forward Joe Pavelski nearly won it with under 15 seconds left in regulation on a breakaway, but Dubnyk stopped his blast from the left circle.
The Sharks and Oilers battled to a 2-2 through two periods. Both teams had chances to break the tie midway through the third when Edmonton went on its only power play and San Jose its only two of the game – including a 41-second stint with a 5-on-3 advantage – but neither team could cash in.
Burns hit the left post with a blast with eight minutes left to play. With under four minutes left, the Sharks had a 3-on-2 rush, but Dubnyk stopped Patrick Marleau's shot from point-blank range. Marleau appeared in his 1,100th NHL game Tuesday night -- all with San Jose.
"I thought tonight we generated enough (good scoring chances) to win but didn't finish on some of the glorious opportunities," McLellan said. "Patty's entry late in the third, pass from Jumbo, those have to be goals, and they will be goals eventually.
"Our mettle's being tested, there's no doubt about it. 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. Look at the Detroit game, and even the Carolina game … we weren't bad. (We) come back home and we tried to gain some traction and struggled to do that. 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 had stressed the importance of getting off to a fast start Tuesday, but that plan blew up just 10 seconds after the puck dropped, when Eberle scored his team-leading 30th goal of the season. Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle – all alone in front of his goal -- misplayed a puck that Edmonton had dumped in San Jose's end. The puck squirted away to Boyle's left, which allowed Eberle to swoop in and knock it out of the air and past Niemi inside the right post.
"I'm exactly where I need to be and it's a bounce. It's a bad bounce," Boyle said. "That's all there is to it. He made a great play. He picks it out of the air and bats it out of the air. It's just a bad bounce. Everybody was very supportive. It's a bad bounce. That's it."
Eberle's goal was the quickest against the Sharks to start a game in franchise history. It wasn't, however, the fastest goal in Oilers history; Wayne Gretzky still owns that mark of 8 seconds set in 1983 against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
But Vandermeer tied it at 3:17 with his first goal of the season and first as a Shark. He took a pass from Boyle in the high slot and launched a shot that skipped over Dubnyk's glove.
San Jose grabbed a 2-1 lead at 15:19 of the middle period when Clowe scored just his second goal in 16 games. Dubnyk tried to control the puck after it bounced off the boards behind him, to the right of the crease, but it deflected off his stick. Logan Couture took it away and flipped the puck past Oilers defenseman Theo Peckham to a hard-charging Clowe, who rammed it past Dubnyk.
The Sharks' lead didn't last long. Fifty-four seconds later, Smyth scored when defenseman Jeff Petry banked a shot off his body and past Niemi, knotting the score at 2-2.
"Of course it takes a little bit of momentum out of you, but it shouldn't be deflating for probably as long as we let it go in the second," Clowe said of Edmonton's tying goal. "There were five minutes where we kind of got hemmed in a bit. We responded really well when Jimmy scored after that tough break on Boyler. That was a good sign. It was one of those things, you almost call it a bump-up shift, the shift after a goal or getting scored against has got to be a big one."
The Sharks entered the game mired in an offensive slump. They had scored a combined two goals in their previous two games and had averaged 1.8 goals in their past nine games.
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