Dany Heatley, Ryane Clowe, Joe Pavelski

Sharks hope for more from Dany Heatley, Ryane Clowe and Joe Pavelski

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The San Jose Sharks lost Game 1 against the Vancouver Canucks, but that doesn’t mean they need to panic. Sure, it’s a bit discouraging that they gave up another third period lead, but it’s not like they were up 3-0 and fell apart. Vancouver produced two quick strikes after consistently taking the game to the Sharks, to the point that a lead change almost seemed inevitable.

While the Sharks shouldn’t be overly worried, they do need better contributions from some of their top players. NHL.com’s Dan Rosen targeted three players, in particular: Dany Heatley, Ryane Clowe and Joe Pavelski.

Here are our observations about each players’ chances of working out of their funks.

Heatley:

When it comes down to it, Heatley has one mission: to create goals, whether that means a nice pass or a ruthless snipe. He’s a two-time 50-goal scorer and already has 325 regular season goals at the age of 30, so he’s an expert at doing just that.

He’s not particularly adept at doing much else, though. Heatley received a (somewhat dubious) elbowing call on Raffi Torres, a penalty that gave the Canucks an opportunity to take a 3-2 lead. Which, of course, they did.

Heatley has eight points in 14 playoff games, his worst postseason output aside from the 2008 series in which the Ottawa Senators were smothered by the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games. The Sharks would love more from him, but it’s almost as if opportunities will need to come to him.

Clowe:

It doesn’t seem totally fair to criticize Clowe when it’s quite likely that he is playing injured.

Unfortunately, he’s been a catalyst for the Sharks offense in the playoffs, so they could really use more from him. Clowe is tied with Joe Thornton for the team lead with 13 playoff points and he played in one less game than Big Bird.

Losing his physical edge is a problem because that’s a more consistent part of his game than the offensive production that probably wasn’t sustainable anyway. Here’s what Clowe told NHL.com about the team’s game.

“Let’s call a spade a spade, we were awful (Sunday) night,” Clowe said. “We’ve got to be a lot better than that. We had the puck a lot of times on our stick and just turned it over. That hasn’t been in our game. Our line has been successful in grinding teams down and scoring goals, but we weren’t very good. I think you can expect a lot more from us next game”

Pavelski

Rosen critiques Pavelski for “only” having seven points in 14 games after producing an astounding 17 in 15 contests last playoff year, but I think the real Pavelski lies somewhere between those two results. He still scored some big goals so far and is a nice weapon for San Jose, overall.

That being said, the Canucks’ third line clearly outplayed Pavelski-Kyle Wellwood-Torrey Mitchell in Game 1. Pavelski’s solid complimentary line feasted on easier matchups in previous rounds, but they’re up for a tougher test in the Western Conference finals. Here’s what Todd McLellan said about Pavelski’s Sunday night.

“Pav has had some better nights,” McLellan said. “The good news is we had a 2-1 lead in the third period. We lost it, but we definitely had our ‘B’ game on display. We’d like to find that ‘A’ game again.”

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Overall, I’d say that Pavelski has the best chance to willfully make a bigger impact on Game 2. Heatley might produce more, but that might have as much to do with circumstance as it does with attitude. Clowe would be another type who could put his hard hat down and make a bigger difference, but I worry that injury issues are slowing him too much.

That being said, all three players have the talent to be difference makers for what could be a long and enthralling series. We’ll see if they can make that happen, starting Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on Versus.

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.