Photo: Josie Lepe / Associated Press
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The Sharks were on the right track for a fast finish to the pre-holiday schedule with five straight wins. But their past three games — including back-to-back outing at home — might suggest they dipped into the eggnog a tad early.
Alex Galchenyuk was the only skater to score in the shootout after snapping a 16-game goal-less drought with two in regulation as the Coyotes beat San Jose 4-3 at SAP Center on Sunday.
“The break is coming at the right time,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said. “It’s been a tough month for us with travel and I feel our team is running on fumes a little bit. The tank is a little empty.”
The Sharks (19-12-7) sit second in the Pacific Division, two points behind Calgary and one ahead of Vegas with slightly more than half the regular-season schedule remaining. The frustration is not so much where San Jose stands, but in failing to meet the higher expectations set for this team.
The Sharks continue to struggle with consistency in all areas of their game, and thus can’t find traction to pull away in a division that’s there for the taking.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a step backward — we just weren’t at our best,” Sharks forward Logan Couture said of the weekend results, which included a loss to Los Angeles a night earlier. “We did some things well. Special teams we weren’t sharp, penalty kill against L.A. wasn’t good. They scored and it wasn’t very good tonight and that may have cost us the extra point.”
San Jose followed a lackluster matinee in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Kings with an equally energy-drained effort against Arizona — two division foes who don’t figure to make any kind of second-half push toward the playoffs.
“The margin of error is very small, the parity is very good regardless of the records and, if you’re off a little bit, you’re going to have tough nights,” DeBoer said. “I thought our will to stay in games — scratch and claw to find ways to get points — was the good part.”
The Sharks can thank Tomas Hertl for getting them a point on Sunday. His two third-period goals rallied the hosts from two one-goal deficits. Hertl was moved from right wing on the second line to centering a third group. He scored both tying goals — at 4:17 and 13:53 at even strength in the third — with power moves around the net.
“It is big because it creates mismatches, and that’s what it did tonight especially in the third period,” DeBoer said of Hertl’s versatility. “He, Timo (Meier) and Logan have been a dominant line for long stretches. But, again, I think tonight his ability to give us a little boost down in the lineup was a big factor.”
Playing without defenseman Erik Karlsson, who was suspended two games for his unpenalized hit on Kings rookie Austin Wagner on Saturday, San Jose squandered an early 1-0 lead provided on the power play by Karlsson’s replacement, Tim Heed.
Galchenyuk scored late in the first period and midway through the second period before Hertl tied it early in the third. Arizona went back in front on rookie Conor Garland’s second career goal at 6:06 of the third on the second of consecutive Coyote breakaways on the same shift.
The mental lapse suffered by Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic was baffling and uncharacteristic.
“Just mistakes. Letting a guy get behind us two times on the same shift — two breakaways — is not the way we play,” Couture said. “And we know that.”
Hertl’s second of the game and 12th of the season preceded an overtime in which the Sharks outshot the Coyotes 9-1, but failed to convert a power play or earn the extra point. That instead went to the visitors when Galchenyuk beat San Jose goalie Aaron Dell.
“We have to get some rest and play a little bit better against these teams who are a little bit lower than us,” Hertl said.
Ross McKeon is a freelance writer. Twitter: @rossmckeon
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sharks/article/Sharks-third-consecutive-loss-comes-in-shootout-13488068.php.