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Takeaways: Jones breathes new life in goalie controversy as Sharks lose to Devils

SAN JOSE — Mirco Mueller got his revenge.
The Sharks 2013 first-round draft pick earned the primary assist on the goal that propelled his New Jersey Devils to a 3-2 win over the team that traded him away in June 2017.
“It feels pretty good,” Mueller said with a chuckle after he visited with his former-teammates outside of the Sharks dressing room. “I’m not going lie.”
The Sharks (2-3-1) sent the 23-year-old defenseman to the Devils for a pair of draft picks after confidence issues caused him to free fall on the team’s depth chart a few years ago. Mueller is now skating on the Devils top-defensive pairing alongside Sami Vatanen.
Here’s what we learned as the Sharks completed their five-game road trip with a 2-2-1 record Sunday afternoon.
1. Martin Jones breathes new life into goalie controversy.
Head coach Pete DeBoer called Jones his “undisputed No. 1” goalie after he elected to give Aaron Dell back-to-back starts in Philadelphia and New York last week.
He spoke about Jones in a less-generous tone after the netminder allowed a soft game-winning goal to trickle past him in the third period.
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For 40 minutes, Jones appeared to be on the verge of putting any question about who should be the Sharks No.1 goalie to rest. He stopped 20 of the first 21 shots he faced, making a string of sensational saves.
Jones thwarted Nico Hischier with a glove save on a 2-on-1 in the first. Then, he got the best of the 2017 first-overall pick again in the second, stopping him with his left pad after he streaked in all alone. He also denied reigning-Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall on a pair of open looks in the first two periods.
But after Kyle Palmieri scored his second of the afternoon to tie the game just 37 seconds into the third, Jones allowed Mueller’s shot from the left circle to squeak through his right arm, giving Jean-Sebastien Dea an easy tap-in goal from the doorstep.
At the other end of the rink, Keith Kinkaid played as if he was guarding the nuclear code, making 37 saves on 39 shots.
“This is a game where your goalie’s got to be as good or better than the other guy,” DeBoer said. “Does that mean the guy’s playing poorly? No. But the guys at the other end have been really good.”
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This is starting to become a trend, though.  Jones also coughed up a marshmallow that decided the game on opening night when John Gibson was spectacular in the Anaheim Ducks goal crease. He’s carrying an .880 save percentage in four starts after surrendering 13 goals on 80 shots in the preseason.
Now, with Jones’ track record, it isn’t like he’s going to be stapled to the bench in favor of Dell because of one bad month of hockey. But he’s definitely leaving the door open for Dell, who’s stopped 55 of 60 shots, to get an increased workload. And who knows where Dell takes that opportunity.
At this point, here’s what’s clear: the longer that Jones’ struggles continue, the more life he’s going to breathe into the debate that’s beginning to stir the Sharks fan base. This isn’t Alex Smith vs. Colin Kaepernick yet, but it will be interesting to see if DeBoer gives the net to Dell in one of the team’s starts at home next week. He’s certainly earned it.
2. The loss is a microcosm of the Sharks early-season struggles. 
Here’s a few things that went wrong Sunday afternoon: a soft goal, too many penalties, a poor performance from the power play, a third period collapse and an inability to finish.
Sound familiar?
The loss looked eerily similar to opening night, Monday’s blowout in Brooklyn and the Sharks third period meltdown at Madison Square Garden Thursday.
Discipline issues plagued the Sharks again as they gave up eight power plays. Among the infractions were two delay of game calls and eight minutes of high sticking penalties, including a double minor to Erik Karlsson as the Sharks were trying to mount a comeback in the game’s final 10 minutes.
The Sharks produced 39 shots, reaching the 33-shot mark for a sixth-consecutive game. Though they lead the league in shot differential (plus-126), they’re ranked 18th in goals per game (2.83). They need to find a way to finish.
Similar to their losses against the Ducks and Rangers, the Sharks fell apart in the third period again, getting outshot 18-10.
“We’re not scoring enough. We’re not creating enough good grade-A looks. The power play hasn’t been good,” Logan Couture said. “There’s lot reasons (we’re losing).”
3. Conflicting sentiments about the power play.
In regards to the power play, it’s generally a good idea to avoid drawing conclusions about special teams just six games into the season. But right now, it’s clear that the power play is costing the Sharks wins.
The power play went 0 for 3 Sunday, putting it at 9.5 percent on the season (26th). What hurt even more is that the Sharks received two looks with the man advantage in the final 4:08, including 1:50 of 6-on-4 time to end the game and it failed to convert.
“It could be a little bit cleaner,” Joe Pavelski said. “The rhythm is close. It does feel close.”
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Couture’s take: “we’re six games in we have (two) goals on the power play. I don’t think it’s close.”
You be the judge.
— Joe Pavelski recorded his 700th-career point by scoring the opening goal at 3:51 of the second. In doing so, he became just the fifth player in NHL history drafted later than No. 200 to earn 700 points.
 
 
 

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