The San Jose Sharks are reeling at a bad time heading into their game against the visiting Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.
The Sharks lost for the third time in the past four games on Monday against the Ducks, getting shut out 4-0 on 46 saves by career backup Anthony Stolarz, who was making just histhird start of the season and 20th spread out over four NHL seasons.
It was the most saves in a shutout in team history.
"It's a funny game," Sharks coach Bob Boughner said. "You could be on top of the world a couple of weeks ago and playing the best hockey of the year. All of a sudden, you hit a couple games like this, and you start gripping the stick tight, you start maybe overthinking things."
The Sharks had won a season-high four in a row from March 29 to April 3 to pull within one point of fourth place in the West Division. The top four teams in each of the four divisions advance to the postseason.
With their latest setback, the Sharks remain four points back of the final playoff spot with 15 games left.
"We have to scrap (Monday's) game and get back at them on Wednesday," Sharks veteran Patrick Marleau said. "We don't like the results we're getting, but it starts with us playing our game."
The Ducks have been reduced to playing spoiler down the stretch.
In addition to its final game against San Jose this season, Anaheim has three games remaining against the Vegas Golden Knights, and two each against the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues. Vegas, Minnesota and St. Louis are all in the top four in the West.
Anaheim coach Dallas Eakins isn't as much concerned with ruining other team's playoff chances as using the time to evaluate many of his younger players and a few of the newcomers.
In addition to the standout performance by Stolarz, the Ducks also received two goals on Monday from Alexander Volkov, who was acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 24.
"It's great to get the two goals," Volkov said. "I feel much more comfortable with the team and I'm getting better. That's a good feeling."
The Ducks also traded two of their top-six defensemen on Monday, Ben Hutton and Jani Hakanpaa, which should open up more playing time for Jacob Larsson and Andy Welinski down the stretch.
Anaheim also acquired defenseman Haydn Fleury, but he likely won't be available by Wednesday.
The Sharks aren't concerned with who's on the ice for the Ducks. They're looking in the mirror during this final stretch run.
"We've got to get back to our structure," Boughner said. "We outwork teams, and we are physical, and we dominate the possession game, and that's not happening in long enough spurts right now."
Boughner singled out his bottom two defensemen, Radim Simek and Christian Jaros, for their poor play on Monday. They each finished minus-3.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic isn't expected to return from an upper-body injury until San Jose begins a four-game road trip on Friday at the Minnesota Wild, so Boughner may have to stick with Simek and Jaros for at least another game.
The Sharks also want to be more assertive on offense.
"We're trying to make plays when they aren't there," Logan Couture said. "We're a north-south team. We have to win playing smart hockey, and (Monday night) we didn't do that."
--Field Level Media