SAN JOSE – The Sharks enjoyed their most memorable win of the season over the weekend, rallying in the final minutes in a playoff-type atmosphere to hand the rival Vegas Golden Knights a loss that helped dim their already slim playoff hopes.
The trick for the Sharks will be to try and replicate that kind of emotion in their mostly meaningless final two games.
Tuesday, the Sharks created enough chances to win in their final home game of the season. But as has been the case throughout much of the year, couldn’t find the extra goal they needed in what became a 5-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks before an announced crowd of 13,378 at SAP Center.
Brent Burns and Scott Reedy both scored and goalie Kaapo Kahkonen finished with 25 saves as San Jose, which fell behind by three goals early in the second period, finished the year with a record of 18-18-5 at home
“We played pretty well,” Sharks coach Bob Boughner said. “We don’t have anything to show for it and it’s sort of (the) story of our year maybe.”
The Sharks end the season with road games against Edmonton and Seattle on Thursday and Friday, respectively. The Oilers are locked into second place in the Pacific Division and the expansion Kraken will finish eighth and last.
“I know it doesn’t really mean anything, technically, but we have a lot to play for still and a lot of pride in that room,” Sharks winger Matt Nieto said.
The Sharks, prior to Tuesday, were 3-2-1 in their last six games, including a dramatic 5-4 shootout win over the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday.
San Jose erased a 4-2 Vegas lead in the final three minutes of regulation time, with Timo Meier scoring with 0.9 seconds left in the third period to send the game into overtime. In the shootout, rookie center Thomas Bordeleau was the only player for either team to score as the Sharks snapped an 11-game losing streak to the Golden Knights.
Vegas lost 3-2 in a shootout to Dallas on Tuesday to fall four points behind the Stars with two games to play. The Golden Knights must win their final two games and hope Dallas loses its final two in regulation,
“Sunday was awesome,” Sharks winger Rudolfs Balcers said. “It was a big game for (Vegas) and obviously, we wanted to come out and kind of mess it up for them. So it was a fun game.
“Today it was a frustrating one. We played pretty well and ended up losing on a couple of mistakes there. But we’ve got two more games left to finish off strong. We’ve got to go there and be motivated and just play hard.”
Kahkonen has split time in the Sharks’ net with James Reimer in recent weeks as Boughner has mostly gone back and forth this month between his two goalies.
It’s an arrangement that’s worked out well for Kahkonen, as he’s had some time to absorb the Sharks’ system and get to know his teammates as he works with goalie coach Evgeni Nabokov.
“For now, it’s been good,” Kahkonen said Tuesday morning. “We play so many games in such a short period of time, so it almost feels like you are the starter even though you play every other night.”
Kahkonen, though, is entering the stage of his pro career where he feels he’s capable of being a No. 1 NHL goalie.
As a fourth-round draft choice by the Minnesota Wild in 2014, Kahkonen spent most of the 2018-19 and 2019-2020 seasons with the team’s AHL affiliate in Iowa. He then backed up Cam Talbot with the big club the past 1½ seasons, going 31-17-4 with a .907 save percentage.
The next step for Kahkonen is to be a No. 1 with the Sharks, or at least a 1A or 1B in conjunction with Reimer or Adin Hill, who are both under contract for next season. Kahkonen is a pending restricted free agent.
Kahkonen entered Tuesday with a 2-4-1 record and a .920 save percentage in nine games with the Sharks.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Kahkonen said about being a No. 1. “That’s the goal and that’s what I want to want to accomplish here in the near future.”