The Sharks called on goalie Zach Sawchenko to take over in net Tuesday night after James Reimer left the game with the Vegas Golden Knights before the start of the second period with a lower-body injury.
Unfortunately for Sawchenko, he received about as much support — offensively and otherwise — from the skaters in front of him as Reimer did for much of the last month.
The Sharks allowed two goals to Reilly Smith and one to Keegan Kolesar in a 3-1 loss to the Golden Knights, their 11th straight defeat at the hands of their once-fierce rival.
Noah Gregor scored the lone goal for the Sharks (24-24-6), who still haven’t won consecutive games since the second week of January and are back to being nine points out of a playoff spot. The Sharks beat the Seattle Kraken 3-1 on Sunday.
“Not good enough, obviously,” Sharks winger Andrew Cogliano said. “Not nearly good enough.”
Playing for the sixth time in 10 days, the Sharks were outshot 31-17 by the Golden Knights.
“All these guys looked really tired tonight, to be honest,” Sharks coach Bob Boughner said. “It’s no excuse. You’ve got to find ways this time of year. The game was within reach even though we weren’t playing well for 40-something minutes.”
Boughner didn’t have a health update on Reimer, who will be reexamined by Sharks doctors Wednesday when the team has the day off.
Reimer was making his 13th straight start Tuesday as Adin Hill had been bothered by his own lower-body injury since late January. In February, Reimer played nearly every minute of all eight Sharks games and finished with a 2-3-3 record despite getting just 17 goals in support.
Reimer entered Tuesday with a 15-12-5 record, a 2.84 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage.
Boughner said Hill, who hasn’t played since Jan. 22, is slated to be a full participant in practice on Thursday. The Sharks’ next game is Saturday at home against the Nashville Predators.
“That’s the plan and obviously we need him back,” Boughner said. “Reims has played a ton and now he’s hurt. So it’s time for Hiller to step up if physically he’s able to.”
The Sharks have not beaten the Golden Knights since Nov. 21, 2019 when Pete DeBoer was San Jose’s coach and Aaron Dell was the starting goaltender. Since, the Sharks are 0-9-2 against the Golden Knights, including a 4-1 loss on Feb. 20 at SAP Center.
With Vegas’ win, DeBoer earned his 500th career victory as an NHL head coach. DeBoer had 198 wins with the Sharks from 2015 to 2019.
“We didn’t take away the game plan that they’ve been doing for years here, which is off the rush,” Cogliano said. “We were letting guys get behind us, letting them make stretch passes to guys that were wide open and not being above them and not being on top of them. That’s on us.”
The Sharks trailed 1-0 after the first period at T-Mobile Arena as they gave up the first goal for the ninth time in 10 games.
With the puck in the Golden Knights’ zone, defenseman Jake Middleton attempted a pinch to help the Sharks maintain possession. Instead, Vegas created a 2-on-1 the other way, with Keegan Kolesar one-timing a pass from Brett Howden past Reimer for an early Golden Knights lead.
Otherwise, Reimer kept the Sharks in the game. He stopped a point chance and a Zach Whitecloud and a breakaway try by Jonathan Marchessault, both coming off defensive breakdowns.
Gregor tied the game for the Sharks, burying a pass from Nick Bonino at the 1:53 mark of the second period for his third goal of the season.
Sawchenko stopped nine of 10 shots in the second period, as Smith scored his 15th of the season at the 13:56 mark for a 2-1 Golden Knights lead. Smith also scored at the 4:45 mark of the third, as he was left alone beside the Sharks’ net when he took a pass from William Karlsson and beat Sawchenko.
Sawchenko’s two other appearances came on Jan. 2 against Pittsburgh and Feb. 14 against Edmonton. In the two games, he made 22 of 23 saves in 48:43 of ice time. He finished with 18 saves on 20 shots.
“Obviously it’s my first game action in a while, but I felt good,” Sawchenko said. “I tried to keep it simple. There’s a few things I’d like to clean up but for not playing in such a long time, it’s something that I’m proud of and it’s something that we’re going to build off of.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism