What we learned in Sharks' series-tying loss in Game 4

 nbcsports.com  05/18/2019 05:43:34 

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After a widely discussed Game 3 victory, the Sharks had the opportunity to make a statement and take a commanding three-games-to-one series lead over the Blues on Friday night. But after finding themselves in an early two-goal hole, San Jose couldn't find the magic a second game in a row, and dropped Game 4 to St. Louis 2-1.

Here are three takeaways from Game 4:

Not as lucky as some may think

You really can't blame those two first-period goals on Martin Jones, since they both deflected off of his teammates and he was clearly the reason the Blues weren't up by three or four goals by the end of the first frame. Then, when San Jose turned up the heat in the second period, their offense couldn't cash in -- Timo Meier's backhanded attempt was denied with help from Carl Gunnarsson, and Brent Burns rung the puck off of the post.

San Jose deserves credit for responding in the second stanza and putting pressure on St. Louis, hemming the Blues in their own zone and forcing the play. Unfortunately, the lack of goal support kept them from completely swinging the momentum back into their favor.

Power play converts -- but still needs some work 

Long story short: Before the third period of Game 4, the Sharks hadn't scored a 5-on-4 power-play goal since the second round. That's not good.

Nearly every game, the Sharks are leaving scoring opportunities on the table because they can't find the back of the net on the man advantage. To make matters worse, the Blues tallied a power-play goal for a second straight game -- not a good sign considering St. Louis'
power play has been struggling just as much as San Jose's. After finally converting midway through the third frame, the Sharks got yet another opportunity on the man advantage, but couldn't generate any good chances.

One of the things that worked for the Sharks on their third-period power-play goal was that they were finally getting in front of the net instead of staying up high and passing the puck back and forth. If the Sharks can get a little bit of confidence from Friday's power-play goal, they will be in better shape.

No love in Game 4s 

It's true. The Sharks were almost shut out in their third straight Game 4 through these playoffs, ending Friday evening being outscored 10-1 through three Game 4s.

Now, this doesn't guarantee the win-loss trend will continue or that the Sharks will respond with a dominant Game 5 when the series returns to San Jose on Sunday afternoon. However, Team Teal has certainly shown it has the ability to respond nicely after a not-so-stellar game.

The Sharks have played their best hockey this postseason when they're bouncing back after a loss. Game 5 will be a good time for them to bounce back and make a statement.

With the St. Louis Blues winning Game 4 over the San Jose Sharks on Friday night, the NHL now knows the Western Conference final will go at least six games.

After the game, the league was able to announce that the Stanley Cup Final will begin on Monday, May 27 in Boston.

The Bruins, who swept the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference final, will host either the Sharks or the Blues.

With the Western Conference final now tied at two games apiece, the series shifts back to San Jose for Game 5 on Sunday at 12 p.m. PT.

All Stanley Cup Final games will be broadcast on either NBC or NBCSN. Should the Sharks advance, you can watch Sharks Playoff Live starting one hour before puck drop and immediately after the final horn sounds on NBC Sports California and streaming on the MyTeams app.

Here's the full Stanley Cup Final schedule:

Game 1 -- Monday, May 27 at 5 p.m. PT in Boston
Game 2 -- Wednesday, May 29 at 5 p.m. PT in Boston
Game 3 -- Saturday, June 1 at 5 p.m. PT in San Jose or St. Louis
Game 4 -- Monday, June 3 at 5 p.m. PT in San Jose or St. Louis
Game 5 -- Thursday, June 6 at 5 p.m. PT in Boston (If necessary)
Game 6 -- Sunday, June 9 at 5 p.m. PT in San Jose or St. Louis (If necessary)
Game 7 -- Wednesday, June 12 at 5 p.m. PT in Boston (If necessary)

While the Sharks were making a big push late in an effort to at least tie Game 4 up and force overtime for a second straight contest, there was one glaring detail that caught everyone's attention: Erik Karlsson spent an awful lot of time on the bench.

Karlsson played just one shift in the latter half of the third period at Enterprise Center on Friday evening, taking the ice right at the end of the frame when Martin Jones was pulled for an extra skater. He spent the rest of the period posted up on the bench, frequently opening up the door for his teammates as they exited the ice, and his long absence was noticed. Taking into consideration the long stretch of time he missed in the regular season with a groin injury, his long stint on the bench understandably raised a few eyebrows. When asked about Karlsson's status after the game, head coach Peter DeBoer simply said he didn't have an update to provide.

Karlsson has been a staple of the Sharks' success throughout their current playoff run. When healthy, he's been a big difference-maker. If something is ailing him, it could have a severe impact on how the Sharks play in their upcoming games.

As Sharks analyst Jamie Baker pointed out on NBC Sports California's post-game show, Karlsson didn't appear to play with as much jump in Game 4 as he had in the previous game. Sure, fatigue is a factor, as he's played significant minutes through 18 playoff games. But sitting out for nearly half a period could be a sign that he aggravated his previous injury. Given that the Blues have tried to rough him up at every opportunity throughout the series, there's a number of instances where he could have potentially gotten a little extra banged up. 

San Jose is no doubt hoping Karlsson isn't suffering from something major. In addition to logging big minutes on the blue line -- his 25:09 minutes of ice time were second-most among all Sharks in Game 4 -- he is responsible for setting up big plays for San Jose, as evidenced by the fact that he currently leads all playoff participants in assists (14). If something keeps him from using his speed to break out against St. Louis, San Jose could be short a weapon on both offense and defense. 

Plus, if Karlsson isn't able to skate those big minutes, that time ends up getting put on Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who are already carrying a lot of responsibility defending against a heavy Blues offense. The absence of a healthy Erik Karlsson on the blue line could potentially give St. Louis' offense room to muscle down the ice with more ease.

[RELATED: What we learned in Sharks' series-tying loss in Game 4]

Before anyone gets too worried, there's a chance Karlsson is perfectly fine and will get right back to helping the Sharks when the series returns to San Jose on Sunday afternoon for Game 5. The Sharks have shown in the past they can rally when one of their big guns is hurt, but there's no denying that Karlsson's long stint on the bench at the tail end of Game 4 raises serious concerns.

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