The San Jose Sharks started the season in blistering fashion, but things have gone downhill in a hurry.
They’ll try to avoid a seventh loss in nine games Thursday night when they host the Florida Panthers, who have dominated the series of late.
San Jose (6-6-0) opened its season by outscoring opponents 14-2 during a 4-0-0 start, but has since been outscored 31-19. Its special teams have been a disaster, with two power-play goals on 21 chances in that span, while opponents have scored nine times on 24 opportunities on the man advantage.
The Sharks were somewhat snakebit Tuesday, having 41 shots turned aside by Sergei Bobrovsky in a 5-2 home loss to Columbus. That dropped them to 2-3-0 at home, where they’re yet to score on 13 power plays.
Joe Pavelski scored both goals against the Blue Jackets, who own the league’s worst winning percentage.
"We were sitting on our heels a little bit," he said. "We have to break that mold. We have to start winning games."
Pavelski has scored in a career-high five straight games and leads the team with eight goals, while Joel Ward, with seven, is the only other San Jose player with more than three.
Goalie Martin Jones’ recent struggles have mirrored the Sharks’ larger issues. He’s given up 19 goals in his last six starts after allowing only two while winning each of the first four games. He was pulled Tuesday in favor of Alex Stalock after surrendering four goals on 21 shots through 40 minutes.
Jones has never faced Florida.
Tough losses are piling up for the Panthers (5-4-3), who opened their three-game West Coast trip Tuesday with a 3-2 shootout loss at Anaheim. They looked poised for a regulation win before surrendering a power-play goal to Corey Perry with 5.1 seconds left. Brian Campbell was called for high sticking with 40 seconds remaining to set up the goal, and coach Gerard Gallant was livid with the penalty call.
"It was very frustrating, obviously," he said. "I’m not too happy. You all saw what happened the last five minutes, so what do you do?"
Florida was four days removed from a 2-1 overtime loss to Washington, and three other defeats have been by one goal. None have come by a margin of more than two.
Jaromir Jagr, who leads the club with six goals, returned to action after missing two games with an upper-body injury, but recorded only one shot. He has only one goal in his last 10 meetings with San Jose.
The Panthers have enjoyed a significant recent edge in this series, winning seven of the last eight meetings despite being outshot 294-226.
Al Montoya, who owns a 1.63 goals-against average, is expected to start in net. He won both previous starts against the Sharks while yielding four goals on 71 shots.
Florida wraps up its trip Saturday in Los Angeles before playing seven of its next eight at home.