COVID protocol players return, but mistakes doom Sharks in loss to Avalanche

Multiple penalties, several examples of poor puck management, and a bad change thrown in for good measure.

Put it all together and the Sharks simply didn’t give themselves much of a chance Saturday night against the Colorado Avalanche.

In their first game after their COVID issues officially came to an end, the Sharks scored the first goal but then gave up four unanswered in an unsightly 6-2 loss to the Avalanche at Ball Arena.

Logan Couture scored the first goal at the 3:17 mark of the first period, but the Avalanche responded with goals by Devon Toews, Nazem Kadri, Alex Newhook, and Logan O’Connor to help hand the Sharks their fourth loss in the last five games.

Alexander Barabanov scored a power-play goal for the Sharks in the third period. Goaltender Adin Hill stopped 17 of 21 shots in the first two periods.

Before Newhook’s goal at the 12:38 mark of the second period that gave the Avalanche a 3-1 lead, the Sharks had at least three chances to clear the puck, including one by Barabanov. His failed clear quickly turned into an Avs chance that was buried by Newhook, who scored the first goal of his NHL career.

Couture scored his sixth goal of the season at the 3:17 mark, as he took a pass from Mario Ferraro and one-timed a shot from a sharp angle past Avalanche goalie Darcy Kuemper for a 1-0 Sharks lead.

But with Kevin Labanc serving a tripping penalty, a Toews slap shot from the point got past Hill to tie the game at the 10:10 mark of the first, breaking a streak of 17 straight kills by the Sharks that dated back to Nov. 2 game with the Buffalo Sabres.

Kadri then got behind the Sharks defense after a bad line change by the visitors. He took a pass from Valeri Nichushkin and was able to stickhandle around Hill and beat him with a backhand shot at the 13:55 mark of the first period for a 2-1 Colorado lead.

The Sharks took four minor penalties in the first period.

The first two Colorado goals came after the Sharks outshot the home team 8-0 in the five minutes of the game.

The Sharks got back coach Bob Boughner and seven players from the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol for Saturday’s game — defensemen Jake Middleton, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Radim Simek, Erik Karlsson, and forwards Labanc, Matt Nieto, and Timo Meier. The Sharks went 3-2-1 since the team’s COVID outbreak began Oct. 30 to hold serve in the Pacific Division over the last two weeks.

“I’m not going to be hesitant to jump right in,” Vlasic said. “I’ve skated since Monday, so I feel good.”

The Sharks’ road trip continues Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild, and ends Thursday in St. Louis.

NOTE: Forward Lane Pederson has a lower-body injury and could miss the next two weeks, Boughner said. Pederson was hurt by a check from Winnipeg Jets defenseman Logan Stanley on Tuesday. Nick Merkley played in his place on the fourth line.

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