SAN JOSE – Special teams and goaltending came through for the Sharks to at least help the team get a point to finish a five-game homestand.
But that’s what the Sharks would have to settle for Saturday at SAP Center.
The New Jersey Devils scored twice in the shootout, including Damon Severson’s game-winner in the third round as the Sharks suffered a 3-2 loss to close out their homestand with a 2-2-1 record.
Jonathan Dahlen scored a power-play goal at the 4:21 mark of the third period to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead and James Reimer had 23 saves in regulation time to continue his impressive start to the season.
Rudolfs Balcers also scored and Brent Burns had two assists as all five of the team’s points on the homestand came with coach Bob Boughner and several experienced players in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.
Dahlen’s goal came after the Sharks’ killed a tripping penalty to Balcers. The Sharks also killed a tripping penalty on Andrew Cogliano with less than six minutes left in regulation, but Janne Kuokkanen scored with 2:56 to go in the third period to tie the game 1-1.
After a goal-less first period, the Sharks and Devils traded second-period goals.
Mario Ferraro took a pass from Burns, carried the puck deep into the Devils’ zone, and found an open Balcers, who got behind the defense and tapped the pass past goalie Jonathan Bernier at the 4:48 mark for his second goal of the season. The assist extended Ferraro’s point streak to a career-ling three games.
The Devils got that goal back at the 16:45 mark.
After the Sharks’ turned the puck over at the New Jersey blue line, the Devils carried it into the Sharks’ end and Nico Hischier found an open Ryan Graves, who fired it past Reimer to tie the game 1-1.
Reimer, who stopped 16 of 17 shots in the first two periods, has been exceptional so far this season.
Entering Saturday, among the 38 goalies who have appeared in at least five games, Reimer was first with a .950 save percentage and a 1.54 goals-against average.
Reimer could be leaned on heavily in the coming days as the Sharks begin a daunting five-game road trip, four of which are against teams that are currently in a playoff position.
San Jose plays Calgary (second in the Pacific) on Tuesday and Winnipeg (third in the Central) on Thursday and finishes the trip with games against Minnesota (second in the Central) on Nov. 16 and St. Louis (first in the Central) on Nov. 18.
Oh, and smack dab in the middle is a Nov. 14 game against the Colorado Avalanche, the defending President’s Trophy champion. The Avs enter Sunday sixth in the Central.
On top of what is already a challenging trip, the Sharks will continue to have to get by, at least for the first two games, without seven lineup regulars.
Due to Canadian travel regulations, members of the Sharks organization now in protocol will not be able to join the team for upcoming games in Calgary and Winnipeg next week.
Canadian travel directives indicate that individuals coming into the country who have tested positive for COVID and are symptom-free can provide proof of a positive test for entry. However, the first positive test must have been conducted at least 14 days ahead of their international travel.
Boughner, forward Matt Nieto, and defensemen Erik Karlsson, Jake Middleton, Radim Simek and Marc-Edouard Vlasic first appeared on the league’s COVID protocol list on Oct. 30, just prior to the Sharks’ game with the Winnipeg Jets. Forward Kevin Labanc was added on Nov. 1 and Timo Meier, head athletic trainer Ray Tufts and equipment manager Mike Aldrich were added on Nov. 2.
The first day any team member on the COVID list can return would appear to be Nov. 12 when the Sharks come back to the U.S. for a scheduled practice in Denver. The Sharks play the Colorado Avalanche on Nov. 13, then finish the road trip with games in Minnesota on Nov. 16 and St. Louis on Nov. 18.
The Sharks right now have eight rookies on their roster, and seven played Saturday — forwards Lane Pederson, Jasper Weatherby, Jonah Gadjovich and Dahlen, and defensemen Ryan Merkley, Santeri Hatakka, and Nicolas Meloche.
Saturday’s game was the first since the Sharks reassigned William Eklund back to Djurgardens of the Swedish Hockey League. Eklund, 19, had played nine NHL games and if he had played a 10th, the first year of his entry level contract would have officially started.