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Sharks lament missed opportunities against Golden Knights in playoffs

Unable to capitalize on chances in second round, eliminated in six games

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / NHL.com Staff Writer

SAN JOSE -- The pain of losing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs doesn't change from season to season, no matter how it unfolds, at least not for San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture.

He was standing in the locker room not long after the Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Sharks 3-0 in Game 6 of the Western Conference Second Round at SAP Center on Sunday to advance to the Western Conference Final.

 

[RELATED: Complete Golden Knights vs. Sharks series coverage]

 

You could hear the raw emotion in his voice. The Sharks lost an elimination game at home for the third straight season. Two years ago, it was to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. Last year, it was against the Edmonton Oilers in six games in the first round.

"It's all the same," Couture said. "You lose. 

"There's one team at the end that is happy, that ends their season with a win. I haven't done it my career and it [stinks]. It's not going to change unless we go out and win our last game of the season."

The Golden Knights were opportunistic, and that was on full display in Game 6. The Sharks had their chances and will probably be seeing the puck bounce off the crossbar and posts in their sleep all summer.

Couture had a prime scoring opportunity with 10:44 remaining in the first period but fanned on his attempt in front. He said the puck was "rolling a ton."

"They capitalized on their chances more than us," center Chris Tierney said. "From my perspective, our line didn't get the job done. We've got to be able to go out there and score goals and be the difference out there.

"You know, the top line guys were doing it, the fourth line was doing it," said Tierney, who combined with linemates Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc for six points (two goals, four assists) in the series. "The third line's got to be a difference and score 5-on-5 and I don't think we were on for 5-on-5 goals since the first game of the playoffs. It's disappointing and you want to be the difference. We were the difference the opposite way."

Video: VGK@SJS, Gm6: Sharks and Golden Knights shake hands

For the Sharks, there will be time to reflect and assess a season with many promising developments. Once top-heavy offensively, San Jose managed to get past its reliance on a small group of forwards. In the regular season, it had 12 players score 30 or more points, and eight of its 12 forwards scored three or more points in a first-round sweep of the Anaheim Ducks.

The Sharks never did get Joe Thornton back in the lineup. The 38-year-old center didn't play after injuring his right knee Jan. 23 against the Winnipeg Jets. 

Additionally, two-thirds of their No. 1 line was impacted by injury in the second round: Forward Joonas Donskoi missed Game 3 because of a lower-body injury, and Evander Kane told The Athletic after Game 6 that he had been playing with a separated shoulder.

"Despite the adversity and the injuries and [Thornton] being out, I think this group really felt that we could keep winning and moving on," San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said. "There was a confidence about them. Credit to Vegas. ... We knew their game was for real and there was some swing moments like there always is when you win and when you lose.

"But the bottom line for me is that we were just chasing the game every game in the series other than the 4-0 win here at home (in Game 4). I thought we had some good starts, quality chances early in a lot of those games. [Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre] Fleury was great early in a lot of those games, allowed them to get their feet under them."

The Sharks' No. 1 line of Kane, Donskoi and Joe Pavelski was held without a point in the final two games and struggled at even strength.

"I'm not dissecting it," DeBoer said. "I can tell you this. You've got a guy (Pavelski) who is playing center who hasn't played center in years and steps up and plays as a No. 1 center.

"So if you're going to negatively dissect their play, then you're talking to the wrong guy. You can do that. These guys jumped in and filled roles and didn't complain and battled their [butts] off right to the buzzer in every single game.

"That's my story. You write whatever you want."

***

 

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