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Second Round

Sharks focus on better puck management against Avalanche in Game 5

Believe getting it deep, being physical will be keys to success

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks say they are done giving away the puck.

As they prepare for Game 5 of the Western Conference Second Round against the Colorado Avalanche at SAP Center on Saturday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS), they have a simple goal.

"Not give them anything free," defenseman Erik Karlsson said after a 3-0 loss in Game 4 on Thursday. "Everything they get they're going to work for."

 

[RELATED: Complete Sharks vs. Avalanche series coverage]

 

That hasn't been the case in the first four games of the series, especially in Game 4 when the Sharks, while bringing the puck forward, too often ran into checks, ran out of room and chipped or flipped the puck to open areas, allowing the Avalanche to regroup or counterattack easily. Colorado had 10 takeaways.

"We were turning the puck over in the first [period] and turning it over even more in the second," center Logan Couture said. "You can't turn it over to that speed."

The result was the Avalanche evening the best-of-7 series 2-2.

With Avalanche forwards Nathan MacKinnon (six goals, seven assists) and Mikko Rantanen (five goals, eight assists) tied for the NHL playoff scoring lead with 13 points each, the Sharks know they need to take better care of the puck.

Video: MacKinnon keeps his playoff point streak going in win

"They're good players, they're a good team," Karlsson said. "Sometimes you can do everything right and they're still going to find ways to create scoring chances. You just try to keep it to that limit and not give them anything that feeds the rush and feeds them anything free."

What the Sharks would prefer to do is make more plays and get the puck deep into the Avalanche zone more often, much like Colorado did to them Thursday.

"They dumped it a little bit more," Couture said. "They weren't happy with the amount of times they turned it over last game (in the Sharks' 4-2 win in Game 3), and instead of turning it over they dumped it. Made smarter decisions with the puck. We didn't do a good enough job responding to that.

"I don't think we did enough in their zone. I don't think we generated enough off the forecheck. I don't think we forechecked as lines. Maybe there was one guy in, second and third guys weren't there for support. Next thing you know they're out of their end and they're coming back on our [defensemen]."

For all their admitted flaws in the series, the Sharks do have a few things going for them.

They have home-ice advantage with Game 5 and, if needed, Game 7 at SAP Center.

Video: SJS@COL, Gm4: Jones shuts down Kerfoot in the slot

Another positive is that goalie Martin Jones has been sharp in the series. He took the loss in Game 4 but made several remarkable saves among his 25, including a quick left-pad stop on what looked like a tap-in for MacKinnon in the second period. In four games, he has a 2.28 goals-against average and .920 save percentage.

"It's 2-2 and we've got home [ice] advantage, and we have to just step it up and play a little bit better at home because we can't leave [Jones] like that," forward Tomas Hertl said. "We need more forwards to step it up. We had a couple of good chances last couple of games, breakaways, and we have to put them in because [Jones] can't do everything."

Hertl also said the Sharks have to be physical against the Avalanche when they can and not be timid because of the speed they're facing.

"We have to be the heavier team but they've been a little bit faster and did a pretty good job on us," he said. "But it's about us, not them."

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